Brent Jones. John Frank. Russ Francis. Ted Kwalick.
The 49ers have been fortunate to have had a few good tight ends, but none of the aforementioned former stars reached the level Vernon Davis is currently on.
In fact, there may not be a better tight end in the game today.
With injuries to wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, and the team's younger receivers unable to play consistently well, imagine where the 49ers would be without Davis.
He already has one more touchdown reception (six) than he had in 2012, and his 404 receiving yards are 144 shy of his total last season.
Since the loss to the Colts in which the 49ers scored just seven points – a game Davis missed – the 49ers are 3-0 while averaging 33.6 points per game. In those three games, Davis had 286 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions.
But what has made Davis stand out this season – and most of last year – is his ability to make plays. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has learned that all he needs to do is give Davis a chance to make a play on a ball – which he usually turns into a big gain if not a touchdown.
Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin (29 catches, 421 yards, two touchdowns) has been a key performer in the 49ers' offense this season, and running back Frank Gore (477 rushing yards, three touchdowns) has been spectacular as usual.
With Patrick Willis battling injuries, linebacker NaVorro Bowman has been a mainstay on defense.
But without Davis in the lineup, would the 49ers be 4-2?
What to watch
Baseball playoffs, NLCS (1 p.m., TBS), ALCS (5 p.m., FOX40): The Dodgers host the Cardinals in a crucial Game 5 while Boston visits Detroit for Game 4.
Who has been the 49ers' MVP thus far?
Vote above; or, go to www.sacbee.com/sports
Tuesday's poll results
Which fan act was most deplorable?
Candlestick wave: 46%
Reliant cheer: 54%
Total votes: 130