Second-Year Leap: Gabriel Davis, WR BUF

In this series, I want to highlight some rookies I expect to take a massive step forward in year two. I’ll look at various players, from those who had solid rookie years to those who did almost nothing in year one. To completely break down each player, I’ll split these pieces into five sections: college career and NFL Draft profile, rookie statistics, dynasty ADP analysis, future situation, and final recommendation.

In part one, I did a deep dive into D’Andre Swift. Then, in part two, I examined Cole Kmet’s potential breakout before jumping into Chase Claypool in part three. Most recently, I looked at Harrison Bryant in part four. Now, I want to examine exciting young wide receiver Gabriel Davis.

Let’s get started!

College Career and NFL Draft Profile

Davis played his college ball at the University of Central Florida, where he served as a three-year starter at wide receiver.

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Stats courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

He was a pure role player on UCF’s 2017 13-0 team, playing behind future NFL talents like Tre’Quan Smith and Jordan Akins. However, he finished fourth on the team in receiving yards and tied for third in touchdowns. Considering he was a true freshman, it’s incredible that he produced as he did on such a stacked roster.

After 2017, Smith and Akins departed for the NFL, leaving Davis as UCF’s top weapon. His statistics led the team in all receiving categories. But he still wasn’t truly on the devy or NFL radar.

Davis had a monster junior season in 2019. He exploded for 72 receptions, 1,241 yards, and 12 touchdowns, far ahead of any of UCF’s other receivers. Even though he could have returned for his senior year, he decided to declare for the NFL Draft. He had finally made it onto the NFL’s radar during his 2019 campaign, so he likely made a wise choice in entering the NFL.

During the pre-draft process, I barely remember Davis. I ranked him as my 44th overall rookie in my final 1QB pre-draft rankings, making him a mid-fourth-round rookie pick. But he rose in value after the NFL Draft, where the Bills selected him in the fourth round. I didn’t expect the UCF star to go that early, as I believed the fifth or sixth round was his more likely draft capital.

Davis didn’t receive much respect in May 2020’s post-draft rookie ADP. He was the 47th player selected with an ADP of 46.5. I ranked him at 39th overall, primarily based on his draft capital. I didn’t particularly love his situation on the Bills, who were then a run-first offense with an entrenched starting receiver trio in Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley.

Rookie Statistics

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Davis had a solid rookie year for the Bills, with 35 receptions on 62 targets for 599 yards and seven touchdowns, finishing as the WR55. He saw significant action in all 16 regular-season games, even though he was only a fourth-round rookie. The Bills played significant 10 personnel, which is a one-RB, four-WR formation. Therefore, he managed to achieve playing time, even when Diggs, Brown, and Beasley were all healthy.

However, Davis saw far more success when Brown missed games in 2020, opening up a full starting spot on the outside.

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The DLF Player Splits App clearly shows that he performed better in all categories in seven games without Brown in the lineup. Davis scored more PPR points, had more targets, and performed better in all receiving categories. Overall, he played exceptionally well as the Bills’ WR4, and he displayed the ability to step into a starting role when necessary.

Dynasty ADP Analysis

As I mentioned above, Davis had little dynasty relevance during the pre-draft process and the off-season.

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He remained outside the top 240 through August’s ADP data, serving solely as a dynasty flier. I loved adding Davis off the waiver-wire around that time, as he was basically free in dynasty leagues. In October, his value jumped, as he saw playing time early in the season. However, his ADP stayed relatively stable in November before rising in December. His ADP likely rose in December due to Brown’s injury struggles and his three touchdown stretch from weeks 12-14.

Davis’ ADP peaked in January at 102.17 and WR50 before the 2021 rookies entered DLF’s data. But he fell almost 30 spots in February’s data, landing at a current value of 132.17 and WR63. I understand the intrigue of the 2021 rookies, but I believe that his value shouldn’t have dropped so much over the past month.

Perhaps dynasty managers remember his two straight goose eggs in the Divisional Playoffs and AFC Championship. But they may have forgotten his four catches for 85 yards in the Wild Card round. I wonder if Davis’ value will rise in March’s data as fantasy managers look back on the season or if it will remain stable around his current price.

Future Situation

Davis is in an ideal future situation. Josh Allen is now one of the top passing quarterbacks in the NFL, and I don’t see any reason why he should regress in 2021. The Bills committed massive resources to Diggs, so I doubt they add a significant wide receiver either in free agency or in the NFL Draft. They can also save almost $8 million in cap space by releasing the oft-injured Brown, which I fully expect them to do.

The Bills also played Davis more than most fourth-round rookies, and they demonstrated trust in him as a receiver. Therefore, I think that they will enter 2021 with him as their second outside receiver, opposite Diggs and complementing Beasley in the slot. They may add a tight end to supplement Dawson Knox, but that addition shouldn’t affect Davis’ growth.

He only turns 22 years old in April, making him an exciting young player in an ascending offense. Davis remains under contract on his rookie deal through 2023, giving him at least three years paired with Allen. There’s really nothing not to like about his future situation.

Final Recommendation

I’m all in on Davis at his insanely low price of WR63 and an ADP of 132.17. I value him almost 20 spots higher, with a value between the 2.04 and 2.05 rookie picks in 1QB leagues. In comparison, the DLF Trade Analyzer has him at a far lower value, between rookie picks 2.11 and 2.12.

Using the DLF Trade Finder, I wanted to examine a couple of recent trades involving Davis.

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In this deal, Davis and Damien Harris went for Jerick McKinnon and Brandin Cooks. McKinnon carries zero value, so essentially, Harris was part of upgrading from Davis to Cooks. I’d far prefer the Davis/Harris side in this deal, as I expect Davis to carry more dynasty value than Cooks by this time next year.

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Here we have a one-for-one swap: Davis for Alexander Mattison. As much as I like Mattison as Dalvin Cook’s handcuff, he’s a purely backup running back who hasn’t even excelled when he’s been the starter. I’m taking Davis over him in dynasty leagues without a second thought.

Therefore, Davis seems attainable, at least in the basic trades I could find in the trade finder. I want to buy into him right now because his price will immediately rise once the Bills formally release Brown. Go out and send a mid-to-late second-round pick or a 2022 second-rounder and add him to your dynasty squad.

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Second-Year Leap: Gabriel Davis, WR BUF