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Second chances? I'd still take Davis sixth

1/25/2012

Drafting a tight end sixth overall bucked convention when the San Francisco 49ers tried it with Vernon Davis in 2006.

The move worked out. Davis' four scoring receptions in two recent playoff games matched the combined regular-season scoring production for tight ends in Arizona (four), Seattle (zero) and St. Louis (zero).

With 26 touchdown receptions over the last three regular seasons, Davis has fared well enough to remain a top-10 pick in the 2006 re-draftInsider Mel Kiper Jr. put together for Insider subscribers. The other NFC West first-rounders that year -- Matt Leinart, Tye Hill, Manny Lawson and Kelly Jennings -- did not project among the top 32 choices in the do-over version.

Lawson did become a starter, giving the 49ers easily the best first-round haul among division teams that year. Kiper wound up giving the 49ers guard Jahri Evans at No. 6, two spots before he sent Davis to Buffalo, where the Bills actually took current 49ers safety Donte Whitner.

A look back at what Scouts Inc. saidInsider about the NFC West teams' choices on draft day in 2006, edited down to a couple snippets per player:

  • On Davis at No. 6: "Davis is a rare specimen. He has the speed to stretch the field, the burst to consistently separate from man coverage and the athletic ability to produce after the catch. His big-play ability will make teams think twice about stacking the line of scrimmage in an effort to slow down the 49ers' running game, and he should develop into QB Alex Smith's go-to-guy. That's important, because there isn't great depth or talent at receiver."

  • On Leinart at No. 10: "Few experts thought Leinart would slip this far, and although Arizona has more urgent needs, incumbent QB Kurt Warner has had problems staying healthy and isn't getting any younger. Improving the depth behind Warner and drafting an heir apparent makes sense. Leinart doesn't have elite arm strength or mobility, but he has the poise, smarts and accuracy to develop into an excellent starter."

  • On Hill at No. 15: "Jerametrius Butler missed the entire 2005 season with a knee injury, 2005 second-round pick Ronald Bartell hasn't developed as quickly as hoped, and Travis Fisher can't stay healthy, so it comes as no surprise the Rams took a cornerback with their first pick."

  • On Lawson at No. 22: "San Francisco needed to have a strong draft, and with a second excellent first-round choice is off to an incredible start. Lawson will move to outside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme and should be an excellent fit."

  • On Jennings at No. 31: "Once the Seahawks made Andre Dyson a salary cap casualty, they knew they needed a corner who can start opposite Marcus Trufant. With that in mind, this is a great pick for the Seahawks."

Davis did become Smith's go-to target. The 49ers still have depth issues a wide receiver, then as now. The Cardinals still are not sure whether they've found Warner's replacement. The Rams still have major injury concerns at corner. And the 49ers have finally found the first-round outside linebacker they wanted -- 2011 pick Aldon Smith, not Lawson. The Seahawks did fix their cornerback issues, but only this season.