The run up to the 2015 trade deadline started with a muffled bang as the 49ers traded tight end Vernon Davis to the Broncos for two sixth round picks; continuing their implosion and potentially giving new life to the former Pro Bowler. Davis was one of many who were frustrated with the state of the offense and the quarterback play. Here we break it down from a dynasty angle.
Seldom having a good game in recent memory, Davis has only reached the end zone in one game and has not recorded more than six catches in a game over the last two years (though he ironically achieved that mark last week). This was after posting 13 scores and over 50 receptions during the previous season. Nor has he been entirely healthy during this time, often times playing while banged up. The two time Pro Bowler lost whatever connection he had with Colin Kaepernick, which had lead him to having his most recent Pro Bowl year in 2013. With Kaepernick’s recent benching for long time mediocre player Blaine Gabbert, it’s clear he never progressed after his first year and has been a major contributor to the recent demise of Davis. Vernon has now been given a breath of new life before he rides out into the sunset.
Just how much, though?
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Davis now gets to work with the aging, but still very capable Peyton Manning. Davis also should bunny hop current starters Owen Daniels and Virgil Green for the starting gig rather quickly. Manning has no aversion to the tight end position at the same time. During his four years in Denver, Manning has targeted the tight end position at an 18.7% clip and tight ends score an average of nine touchdowns a year, with two years of over 12 touchdowns – this was with the likes of Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen at the position. Clearly, Davis will be one of the most talented of the tight ends who Manning will have worked with in Denver. The other boon for Davis will be working with well-known tight end lover Gary Kubiak as his new coach. This is a major improvement for the team and should begin to reflect in their push for the playoffs in Manning’s twilight season.
So, what should we really expect?
Let’s temper expectations a bit from a dynasty perspective. While this is possible huge step forward for Davis, he will be turning 32 at the start of 2016. Yes, there are some tight ends who play well into their 30’s but it’s incredibly hard to predict who that will be and if they will continue to produce. All signs are also pointing to this being the final year for Manning as he approaches the age of 40. Combining these factors, it screams to me that Davis likely won’t be more than a one to two year rental for a contender. I wouldn’t be spending a ton of capital to acquire him and unless I’m needy at the tight end position, Davis is a sell as soon as he posts a decent line. He will be a TE2 going forward unless things really click and the Broncos offense hasn’t looked the same this season.
One side note, Vance McDonald might be a very nice add for a savvy owner in a deeper league. He was pretty good at his time at Rice University, posted a 4.6 forty time, and is now working with a backup who targeted the tight ends the most during his time in Jacksonville on a team that will be playing from behind often. With the landscape of tight end, taking a deep flyer could pay dividends. Garrett Celek could also be in line for a nice bump in playing time as the probably starter, though McDonald arguably is more talented.
In Denver, the already shaky value of Owen Daniels and Virgil Green is going to get sapped pretty quickly. Daniels has looked a step off this year and Green is going to be used as a blocker even more. The chances of them contributing to a dynasty squad this year are all but destroyed now.
In the end, the Broncos are going all in and the way John Elway is talking, they didn’t acquire Davis to have him watch from the sidelines. It may be a short-term burst of fantasy value, but that’s more hope than Davis’ owners have had in quite some time.
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