- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

When Vernon Davis decided in January to forgo his final season at Maryland to enter the NFL Draft, he was given two scenarios.

Possible: Middle of the first round.

Likely: Bottom half of the first round.

But then he had a workout at the Scouting Combine that was described as magnificent and freaky and included a 4.38-second time in the 40-yard dash. That sprint, combined with tape of him man-handling defensive ends and running past safeties, has created revised scenarios for Davis heading into Saturday’s draft:

Possible: San Francisco takes him with the sixth pick.

Likely: He doesn’t slip past Arizona at No. 10.

“I can’t wait,” Davis said last week. “I’ve thought about it a lot, but I don’t really know what it’s going to feel like when I hear my name called. I’m anxious, excited — a lot of adjectives.”

Davis will be one of six players at Radio City Music Hall, joining quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Vince Young, running back Reggie Bush, defensive end Mario Williams and offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

Traditionally, tight ends haven’t gone in the first round or the top 10. Davis would be only the 11th tight end drafted in the top 10 since 1967. Only 44 tight ends have been drafted in the first round during that span.

“You don’t see that many athletes with his physical traits playing this position,” Washington Redskins tight ends coach Rennie Simmons said. “He’s 254 pounds, and usually you see those types of athletes playing linebacker.”

Said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock: “I look at Vernon and say, ‘Here’s a guy that is ridiculous.’ That’s why I think San Francisco is going to take him because they’ve got average receivers and he can help Alex Smith. He can be a difference maker in the NFL.”

Davis will have more than 100 family and friends in New York on Saturday.

“It’s not that surprising, but a lot of it has come out of the blue,” he said of his dramatic rise in his stock. “I turn on the television now and see my face and name all over the place.”

Davis had 51 catches for 871 yards and six touchdowns at Maryland last season, up from 27 catches, 441 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore.

“He’s so explosive — he can score from anywhere on the field, and not a lot of people can do that,” Simmons said. “He’s really strong after the catch, makes people miss and can break tackles. He’s an exceptional athlete.”

When the league’s advisory committee told Davis he would be a mid-to-late first-round pick, he elected to leave school.

“I felt I had accomplished all I could at Maryland,” he said. “Throughout the course of the season, I had a friend of mine let me know what everybody was saying and that told me where I stood.”

Davis relocated to Arizona to work out at Athletes Performance. Leading up to the combine, he began taking EAS — an approved supplement — for the first time.

“I think it factored into how I ran — it really helped my body relax after each workout,” he said.

Days after the combine, Davis signed an endorsement deal with EAS. Carlos Rogers, Ronnie Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Matt Hasselbeck also represent EAS.

Davis’ 40 time was believed to be the fastest for a tight end in combine history and was .16 seconds faster than that of the next tight end. His 42-inch vertical leap was 41/2 inches higher than that of Georgia’s Leonard Pope, and his 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump was the best by 13 inches.

In the weeks that followed, Davis visited the New York Jets, New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, Oakland and St. Louis.

“I saw him here for his workout [March 15], and he was pretty impressive even to me, and I’ve been around him a lot,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I’ve got guys calling me and say they’re trying to make trades to get him. I would think that’s a good sign.”

Tight ends drafted in the top 10 have a checkered history. The previous 10 have played an average of 7.5 seasons in the NFL, but only Charle Young (drafted in 1973), Riley Odoms (1972) and Ted Kwalick (1969) made the Pro Bowl.

Kellen Winslow Jr., drafted sixth by Cleveland two years ago, has been limited to two games and five catches because of injuries.

But Davis’ ability to catch and block might separate him from the crowd.

“There are two types of tight ends in the league,” Friedgen said. “They’ve got the big, blocking tight end, and they’ve got the pass-catching tight end. It’s very rare that you can find a guy who can do both. [Jeremy] Shockey’s a guy that can do both. A guy like [Davis] doesn’t come around but every now and then.”

Mayock said Davis could have an impact similar to Kansas City’s Tony Gonzalez and San Diego’s Antonio Gates.

“I’m a big believer that if you can get a tight end that can stretch a defense vertically and give you some blocking on top of it, it can change your whole offense,” Mayock said. “Look at Kansas City and San Diego. They have no wide receivers to speak of that are perennial All-Pros, yet they continue to lead the league in total offense because they’ve got great tight ends and great tailbacks.”

Said San Francisco coach Mike Nolan: “The league has shown how valuable a good tight end is. Tony Gonzalez is so critical to the success of Kansas City’s offense, but they use him correctly. I believe Vernon would do a lot of the same things. If they don’t, it’s a misuse of funds so to speak.”

Davis attended Dunbar High School in the District and played special teams as a freshman for Maryland before starting for two years, when Friedgen took advantage of his skills.

“The first year was kind of tough,” Davis said. “I came in with the attitude of wanting to play right away, but it took time to learn the different roles. … Pretty much during my sophomore year, I knew I had the talent to play at the next level. And I made more plays later, and I felt I dominated.”

It’s that can-do attitude, Maryland tight ends coach Ray Rychleski said, that will help Davis in the NFL.

“He just has a confidence, but not an arrogance, about him,” Rychleski said. “Whoever gets him, it’s a win-win for them. If I was [Houston owner Bob McNair], I’d take him No.1.”

Staff writer Patrick Stevens contributed to this article.

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