Why Bills WR Gabriel Davis is primed for an explosive 2022 season

07/14/2022
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The Buffalo Bills’ offense was one of the best in the NFL last season, finishing third in points per game at 28.4, fifth in total yards with 6,493, and ninth in passing yards at 4,284. With Josh Allen under center, there is no reason we can’t safely assume Buffalo will reach that status quo in the 2022 NFL season. It’s fair to bet they will improve.

That improvement should most benefit wide receiver Gabriel Davis. The former fourth-round pick enters his third season in the offense and has ample opportunity to be this year’s breakout superstar. Over the next 700+ words, let’s dissect why I’m confident the UCF product crushes his role as Robin in one of the NFL’s best receiving tandems.

First, I want to dispel the myth that 2021 was Davis’ breakout campaign. That’s quick to accomplish, as his rookie year saw him put up 35 receptions for 599 yards and seven touchdowns. Last year, his numbers basically stayed the same with 35 catches, 549 yards, and six touchdowns. No change doesn’t compute as a breakout in my book. However, for fun, remember those total numbers: 1,149 yards with 13 touchdowns on 70 receptions (we call this foreshadowing).

There are two main reasons Davis is ready to erupt, with both pointing to opportunity. The departures of Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders boost Davis to second on the depth chart at wide receiver behind Stefon Diggs. Their removal from the roster also opens up 184 targets. What share of those passes could or should Davis see? Let’s dig into that.

He had 63 targets in 2021, or just under 10% of the teams’ attempts went his way. Even if GD13 receives just 10% of the passes left behind by Beasley/Sanders, he would see 18 more opportunities, but remember he is now the clear number two option, making 10% the carpet on the floor of estimations. A better-educated guess would be to say that Davis and the combo of Jamison Crowder/Isaiah McKenzie/James Cook/others divide those target shares close to thirds; that puts Gabriel at 61 plus his 63, giving breakout Davis 124 chances in 2022.

The next question is: what would Davis do with more opportunities? Well, due to injuries and trust from Josh Allen, we started to see that as 2021 ended. Over the Bills’ final six games in 2021, Davis ran routes on 88% of dropbacks with an aDot (average depth of target) of over 10 in five of those six games. Davis also only dropped one pass during that span, and Allen’s passer rating when targeting #13 during that time was 114 or higher in four of six games. GD13 also hauled in four of his six touchdowns during this stretch. YOOO! That’s pure breakout fuel!

If you’re still a skeptic, I’m guessing you’re asking “Greg, weren’t three of those games against the bottom-feeding Panthers, Falcons, and Jets?” Well, per usual, I have a response. In Davis’ last two highest of leverage games, the playoffs, he was even nastier! During the 2021 playoffs, Gabriel racked up 10 catches for 241 yards and five touchdowns, including the historic performance versus Kansas City where he had eight receptions for 201 yards and four scores. For fun, if you extrapolate that over a full season it’s 42.5 touchdowns with 2,048.5 yards on 85 catches. Ok, we know that won’t happen, but you’re starting to see a 70/1,000/10 season might not be insane.

If you continue to give this article a side-eye, it’s because there is no way both Diggs and Davis could eat like this, right? Again, I have a response in the chamber. Last season alone, 11 teams had multiple players haul in 70 or more passes. One of those teams was, drumroll please, the Bills with Diggs and Beasley. The Chargers took it a step further with a trio of guys bringing in 70+ receptions. The last bone you may have to pick with me is the notion that a duo will both go over 1,000 yards. To that I say, five teams had a pair of guys hit quadruple digits. To put a bow on this point, 34% of teams had a tandem bring in 70+ catches each and 16% of teams had a duo haul in 1,000+ yards each. I, for one, stand behind Allen being able to support an offense in the top five or 16% of both.

Now that I’ve drowned you in numbers, let me throw you a life preserver with my final prediction for Gabriel Davis’ breakout in 2022. With GB13’s elevation on the depth chart added to his new target opportunities, those landmarks of 70 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 10 touchdowns aren’t impossible and should be expected. So, back to his total from 2020 and 2021 of 13 touchdowns with 1,149 yards on 70 receptions is a very fair and fun guess for 2022’s most improved player, Gabriel Davis.

 

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