Buster Davis and Legedu Naanee have a lot in common. They were both selected in the 2007 NFL Draft; they have both run hot and cold over the last two seasons; and they are the only veteran receivers the Chargers have under contract beyond 2009.
Before GM A.J. Smith decides what to do with Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers, Malcom Floyd and Kassim Osgood -- each of whom is scheduled for unrestricted free agency next offseason -- he must evaluate what he has in Davis and Naanee.
Davis has failed to live up to the hype after being picked in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He showed some flashes as a rookie, hauling in a respectable 20 receptions, but hit the sophomore slump last season before landing on injured-reserve with a groin injury after Week 11.
WR Buster Davis
It's difficult to assess Davis' true value. Was it seen last season in Week 3 against the New York Jets, when he caught three passes on third-and-long and moved the chains every time? Or is it revealed through the fact that in 18 career games, he's been held without a catch a third of the time?
Davis feels that, given the opportunity, he can develop into a dominant slot receiver.
"A lot of teams are keying on Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers, so that leaves me free underneath against a lot of nickel backs and second- or third-string guys," Davis said.
Naanee has been slightly less productive than Davis, catching just eight passes in each of his first two seasons, but he's earned a reputation for making big plays in big moments.
In the Divisional Round of the 2007 playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts, Naanee caught a 27-yard screen pass that set up the go-ahead score. In last year's playoffs, also against the Colts, he added a clutch 15-yard grab to move the Chargers into field goal range in the second half.
The Chargers know Naanee can make plays. The question is whether he can make them consistently.
The Chargers realize this is the year they must answer the questions about Davis and Naanee. The challenge will be finding enough opportunities for both of them.
Jackson and Chambers are locked into the starting positions. Floyd appears destined to stay in the top-three, as well, after catching 27 passes for 465 yards and four touchdowns during a nine-week stretch towards the end of the season.
Davis may have an easier time getting on the field, presuming he can stay healthy, because of his proficiency out of the slot. Jackson, Chambers and Floyd all prefer to be split wide.
Naanee may have to lean on his versatility to get extra touches, as he'll line up as a tight end or a fullback in certain packages to create mismatches.
No matter how the Chargers manufacture touches for these two players, it has to get done this season. Because if Davis and Naanee want to prove they are San Diego's future at wide receiver, they must produce in the here and now.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.