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2022 Breakout Candidate: Gabriel Davis Primed For Huge Year

Gabriel Davis - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Fantasy football is a game of probability so logically selecting the players with the highest probability, also known as the players who will score the most points, would be the best strategy. The other primary consideration though is the cost or investment required to draft that player, also known as their average draft position (ADP).

The true art of fantasy football is when you select a player at a lower cost that provides the same output as other players with a higher cost. This will enable you to better utilize your overall draft capital and maximize the fantasy points your team will score. Identifying these players before your draft can be league-winning, which is the premise for a breakout candidate.

Breakouts occur every year across all positions, and one player with a lot of excitement entering this season is Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis. Many became aware of Davis after his record-breaking playoff performance against the Kansas City Chiefs when he caught eight passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns! Yet, there is much more to his resume than just that one game including his opportunity (depth chart and target share), past production, red zone prowess, and talent.

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Bills' Depth Chart

Players are constantly battling before and during the season to position themselves atop their team's depth chart, increasing their involvement and opportunity for volume. This has been one of the limiting factors for Gabriel Davis in his first two seasons, as seen below:

2020 Bills Wide Receiver Depth Chart

  1. Stefon Diggs
  2. John Brown
  3. Cole Beasley
  4. Gabriel Davis

2021 Bills Wide Receiver Depth Chart

  1. Stefon Diggs
  2. Cole Beasley
  3. Emmanuel Sanders
  4. Gabriel Davis

Davis was unlucky to be drafted to the Bills the same year they acquired Stefon Diggs, who rocketed to the top of the depth chart. Diggs immediately took over, commanding a 29.0% target share in 2020 and a 26.3% target share in 2021.

Additionally, entering last season, the Bills cut John Brown, providing hope that Davis could secure the third spot. Unfortunately, they signed Emmanuel Sanders, again locking Davis in as the fourth receiver on the depth chart.

Entering 2022 though, the Bills cut both Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders, while only adding 29-year-old Jamison Crowder and fifth-round rookie Khalil Shakir. This provides Davis with his long-awaited opportunity to climb the depth chart as seen below:

2022 Bills Wide Receiver Depth Chart

  1. Stefon Diggs
  2. Gabriel Davis
  3. Jamison Crowder
  4. Isaiah McKenzie
  5. Khalil Shakir

This climb to the second spot will also simultaneously increase the target share Davis receives in 2022.

 

Target Share

Davis will enter the season behind only Diggs in an offense that threw the ball 641 times last year. Diggs has received 166 and 164 targets in his two seasons as a Bill, so even if he receives 160-170 targets again this year, there will still be a ton of volume available for Davis.

Thus, 100+ targets this year is a realistic projection, which would vastly outpace the 63 targets and 10.9% target share he received in 2021. This projection would equate to a target share of around 15-20%, meaning you can expect a substantial increase in his already noteworthy production.

 

Past Production

In his first two years, Davis produced 70 receptions for 1,149 yards and 13 touchdowns, which is pretty incredible considering he was only a starter in 15 of the 30 games he played. He was very productive despite receiving minimal targets.  

To further illustrate this point is a chart showcasing his production and fantasy points in games where he was involved, with a qualifier of 4+ targets, a very low bar.

2021 Weeks With 4+ Targets

Week  Stat Line (Rec/Yds/TDs) Fantasy Points (Half PPR)
1 2/40/1 12.0
8 4/29/1 12.9
11 2/27/0 3.7
13 2/30/1 11.0
14 5/43/1 12.8
15 5/85/2 23.0
17 3/39/0 5.4
Total 23/293/5 80.6 FP
Average 3.3/41.9/0.7 11.5 FP/Game

The 11.5 FP/G he scored when involved (4+ targets) was tied for 23rd among all qualified receivers (3+ games played), offering a glimpse of the potential waiting to be unlocked, particularly in the red zone.

 

Red Zone Prowess

As mentioned above, Davis has 70 receptions for 1,149 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two seasons. What stands out most is the touchdown total, averaging 6.5 touchdowns per season in spite of his reduced playing time. 

This was further evidenced by the stretch Davis put together at the end of the last season into the playoffs. Including the playoffs, he produced 11 total receiving touchdowns last year, tying him with Dawson Knox for the team lead, and one more than Diggs. 

Additionally, Josh Allen has an affinity for targeting Davis in the red zone, where 28.6% of his total targets occurred. Moreover, when targeted in that area he had a 57% catch rate producing six touchdowns, his entire regular-season total in 2021. This is another sign of his success in this role. 

Furthermore, despite only receiving 10.9% of the total targets, he accounted for 13.3% of the total yards and 19.2% of the total touchdowns the Bills scored, demonstrating his big-play ability and exceptional talent in the red zone.

 

Talent

Two things that hurt Davis in the 2020 draft were playing at Central Florida and a star-studded draft class, particularly at wide receiver. With names like Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Jerry Jeudy, Michael Pittman Jr., Chase Claypool, and Brandon Aiyuk drafted ahead of him, Davis fell to the fourth round at #128 overall. While he was drafted as the 16th wide receiver, he’s much more talented than the scouts gave him credit for. 

Davis has been very opportunistic and efficient, making the most of his receptions. Pro Football Focus (PFF) provides positional grades that are recognized as a reliable measure of talent. In 2021, Davis finished with a total grade of 80.0, good for 17th overall, which on its own is impressive. Where Davis shines though is on downfield targets and receptions, which are much more valuable for fantasy. In the deep range (20+ yards), Davis scored a 98.5 grade, finishing 13th overall and in the medium range (10-19 yards), Davis scored a 99.0 grade, finishing fifth overall. 

Finishing in the top-five in any range is usually reserved for the elite receivers in the NFL, which Davis has the potential to be.

 

Conclusion

Determining breakouts, especially at the wide receiver position, is very valuable for fantasy as they can be league-winning draft picks. Davis already possesses the talent as a true red-zone threat with proven production, which he’ll now pair with increased opportunity from his rise in the depth chart and larger target share. 

Since the completion of the NFL draft, Davis has been drafted as the WR28 with an ADP of 64 overall, a mark he is sure to beat and return value on. Everything is set up for Davis to breakout with higher volume and the ability to catch 10+ touchdowns, leading to a top-20 season with top-12 upside.



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