The Buffalo Bills finished the 2020 season with one of the best wide receiver rooms in the league. Stefon Diggs established himself as one of the NFL’s greatest talents, Cole Beasley was fantastic out of the slot, and Gabriel Davis came out of nowhere to be a complementary part of the Buffalo Bills passing attack. Davis, a fourth-round selection out of Central Florida, impressed as a rookie, but can he build on his excellent debut in 2021?
Buffalo Bills Roster Preview: Can Gabriel Davis Do It Again?
Initially the fourth receiver on the depth chart, Gabriel Davis had relatively low expectations as a rookie. However, with John Brown injured, the Central Florida product stepped up and turned into a reliable depth option. Appearing in all 16 games, Davis recorded 35 receptions for 599 yards and an impressive seven touchdowns.
This production wasn’t a complete surprise, as Davis actually put up some pretty solid numbers in college. According to PlayerProfiler, Davis had a 67th percentile college dominator, 93rd percentile target share, and a 79th percentile breakout age. College production isn’t everything, but it can be an indicator of future NFL success.
Davis was effective when targeted, as his 9.7 yards per target were the 18th-best mark in the league. However, he didn’t see many targets, as his 1.32 yards per route ranked just 84th among qualifying receivers. Some of this can be attributed to sharing a field with Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, but it’s still a lower number than you’d like to see. Additionally, Pro Football Focus had Davis as the NFL’s 77th-best receiver last year, which obviously isn’t anything special.
Davis returns to largely the same situation as last year. Just like in his rookie season, Davis will be third on the pecking order behind Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, with Emmanuel Sanders effectively replacing John Brown as the veteran presence.
Sanders isn’t the great player he once was, but he can still be a reliable part of a passing game. Last year, the veteran hauled in 61 receptions for 726 yards and five touchdowns from the withered corpse of Drew Brees and Taysom Hill. He outproduced Davis is yards per route (2.23) and PFF grade (74.4 – 45th overall) despite working with lesser quarterbacks. Unless Davis makes a massive Year 2 leap, Sanders will probably be the third option in this passing attack.
Most of Davis’ hype stems from his ability to find the endzone. Seven touchdowns on 62 targets is pretty good, especially when four of those touchdowns came on 15 red zone targets. At 6’-2” and 216 pounds, Davis has the build to turn into something of a big-play specialist. However, you shouldn’t count on that same level of efficiency heading into Year 2.
2020 Deep ball receiving efficiency for players with at least 15 deep targets (20+ air yards)
— Max Wroblewski (@MafiaNumbers) May 18, 2021
Touchdown production is naturally unstable, and any player basing their game around a highly volatile statistic is bound to have an unpredictable career. Additionally, Josh Allen’s fantastic play heavily influenced Davis’ success. Allen will still be a good quarterback, but he probably won’t be THAT good for a second consecutive season. This will affect Davis, which means he probably won’t be anything more than a really good fourth-string option in a deep passing attack.
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