After a strong rookie year, the former UCF standout looks to take the next step
The Buffalo Bills are stacked at wide receiver. I keep trying to find more poetic ways to write the same thing when writing these pieces, but let’s keep it simple this time around: Buffalo has four wideouts who would start for almost any team in the league, and then they have a few guys who other teams would be leaning on as their third option.
For the Bills, that means they are going to release NFL-caliber talent at the receiver position this season. They’ve already done just that, as they jettisoned veteran John Brown, who limped through an injury-plagued 2020 and landed in Las Vegas with the Raiders for this season.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile the young wide receiver whose emergence as a rookie made Brown expendable.
Name: Gabriel Davis
Height/Weight: 6’2” 210 lbs
Age: 22 (23 on 4/1/2022)
Experience/Draft: 2; selected by Buffalo in the fourth round (No. 128 overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft
Acquired: Fourth-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Davis enters the second year of his contract, a four-year deal worth a total of $3,994,380. For the 2021 season, Davis will carry a salary cap hit of $954,845. If Buffalo decides to release him for some incredibly odd reason, they’ll be on the hook for a $524,535 dead-cap charge.
2020 Recap: Davis entered the season as the fourth wideout on the depth chart behind Brown, Stefon Diggs, and Cole Beasley. An early injury to Brown meant that Davis had to step in to a larger role, and he stepped up in the process. After catching just three passes for 26 yards in Buffalo’s first two games, he caught four of four targets for 81 yards against the Los Angeles Rams. Davis finished his rookie season with 35 catches for 599 yards and seven touchdowns on 62 targets. He was credited with three drops on the season. In terms of snaps played at wideout, he was second only to Diggs; in terms of targets and receptions, he was third behind Diggs and Beasley. Only Diggs had more receiving touchdowns than Davis did last season.
Positional outlook: Davis is in line to be one of the team’s top four wideouts again in 2021, with Diggs and Beasley reprising their roles and veteran Emmanuel Sanders replacing Brown. Isaiah McKenzie, Marquez Stevenson, Duke Williams, Isaiah Hodgins, Tanner Gentry, Brandon Powell, Lance Lenoir, and Jake Kumerow round out the bunch.
2021 Offseason: Davis is healthy and he participated in OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: Depending on how offensive coordinator Brian Daboll chooses to rotate his receiving corps, Davis could be in line for a slight reduction in snaps or he could sit right around the same number. Last year, Davis played 73 percent of the offensive snaps, and given the number of times the Bills use at least three receivers, it’s safe to assume he’ll approach that number again this year. However, with Sanders able to play both inside and outside, Daboll’s rotations will be worth watching. Will the team go four-wide often given that their fourth wideout is unquestionably more dangerous than their tight end? Will Sanders eat into some of Cole Beasley’s snaps, thereby allowing Davis to play with Sanders in the slot rather than Beasley? In any case, this is a good problem to have, as the Bills know that they have four legitimate threats catching passes from a young, elite quarterback on offense. Gabriel Davis was a steal in the fourth round of last year’s draft, and my best guess is that he takes another big positive step in his development this year.