Heading into the draft, Vernon Davis’ name was on the tip of many observers’ tongues. At 6-foot-4 and 257 pounds, he cut an imposing figure; with a 40-yard dash timed at 4.37 seconds at the National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, he matched his physique with freakish speed.
He understandably became a hot commodity, and the first tight end picked in this year’s draft when the San Francisco 49ers claimed him with the sixth overall pick. But Davis’ rookie year has seen some bouts of frustration, from a fractured leg that kept him out for six games to a three-game stretch upon his return in which he managed just two receptions for 32 yards.
In some ways, Davis’ season has paralleled that of Denver’s Tony Scheffler, who sat out three games as a healthy scratch from the Broncos’ 45-man active roster. Both were opening-day starters who saw their numbers slump in the months that followed. Davis has 17 more yards and two more receptions, but Scheffler has 0.9 more yards per catch so far this season. Both have three touchdowns.
Oh, and both have been significant components of their team’s offensive attack this month.
Scheffler has nine grabs for 165 yards — an 18.3-yard average — and three touchdowns in the past four weeks. Davis has 11 catches for 201 yards — also good for an 18.3-yard average — and two scores of his own.
While the two have had similar gestations — which in a way favors the Broncos and Scheffler, since he was selected 56 picks after Davis in April — their ascensions have different origins. For Davis, it was simply about getting healthy. For Scheffler, it was the insertion of Jay Cutler into the starting lineup; the two training-camp roommates clicked in the preseason and found a similar groove four months later.
“Trust is a big thing out there on the field,” Scheffler said. “If you’ve got trust in one another — especially a quarterback to a receiver or a tight end combination or that sort of thing — it’s huge on the field.”
Meanwhile, here’s how all the tight ends taken in the first two rounds stack up. Even though Scheffler was the last one of this quartet to be taken, his numbers stack up favorably with other members of his class.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco (fourth round, sixth pick overall): 17 catches for 249 yards and three touchdowns … Nine games played; seven starts.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville (first round, 28th pick overall): 11 catches for 113 yards and one touchdown … 14 games played; two starts.
Joe Klopfenstein, St. Louis (second round, 46th pick overall): 20 catches for 226 yards and one touchdown … 15 games played; 15 starts.
Anthony Fasano, Dallas (second round, 53rd pick overall): 14 catches for 126 yards and no touchdowns … 15 games played; five starts.
Tony Scheffler, Denver (first round, 61st pick overall): 15 catches for 232 yards and three touchdowns … 12 games played; four starts.
However, the leader in receptions, yardage and touchdowns among rookie tight ends this year is Houston’s Owen Daniels, the first pick of the draft’s second day. He’s nabbed 34 passes for 352 yards and five scores so far this season.