Is he ready to ascend?
Wide receiver Gabriel Davis just wrapped up his second season with the Buffalo Bills—two productive and remarkably consistent seasons at that. The big question with Davis is whether or not he’s truly ready to take on a larger role with the offense if Buffalo loses Emmanuel Sanders. Let’s take a look.
Can we have a wide receiver analysis without at least one blocking snap? Yeah, probably. We’re doing it anyway though. I think this is a good representation of Gabriel Davis as a blocker. He’s willing enough and okay at it.
Look at the top of the route on this one. For the Bills, Davis is on the large side at 6’2” and 210 lbs per pro-football-reference.com and their player stats. Davis isn’t targeted on this one, but it’s a good one to imagine if he had.
And here’s where that imagination can become reality. An added wrinkle here is the route combo that makes Gabriel Davis ludicrously open. That snap at the top of the route may have done the trick on its own. The two defenders in the box are in zone coverage and essentially swap the two receivers. As you can see Davis gets ahead of the swap by a considerable margin.
Again, Davis is 210 lbs. That’s a nice set of brakes. I focus on the legs because there’s an easy thing to miss that’s kind of incredible once you see it. Most of the time when a player is doing a stop like this there’s at least one “big” step that telegraphs the move to some degree. Davis does this without the big step and plant.
I don’t usually stick to a single game for the GIFs, but Gabriel Davis deserves to have this particular game highlighted. Is there any deep insight on this play we haven’t covered yet? Yeah, sure. Why not? There is actually. This is something that’s more characteristic of larger receivers. The contact doesn’t really impact the route and this Josh Allen to Gabriel Davis connection is on time.
The pause here is similar to Play 3. Instead of swapping coverage though, both players attack the same defender’s zone—which causes some hesitation and Gabriel Davis runs free.
Next Gen Stats route chart
This chart is from Davis’s record book playoff game. The rest of his charts can be found here. If you look at these over time, there’s a pretty good correlation between these charts and the totality of a receiver’s route tree. That’s not the case for Gabriel Davis. Part of that is the number of missing charts. I think another factor is that these only show routes where the receiver is targeted. Davis has a broader tree than these show to some degree.
As noted in today’s other article by yours truly, this one on Gabriel Davis is a companion piece with the one on Emmanuel Sanders as there are valid reasons to think the Bills may want to have Davis take over the WR3 role on the team. Since this is the Davis version, let’s discuss his advantages. Don’t let anyone tell you size doesn’t matter. Davis’s size will likely always limit his route tree to some degree, but that same size allows him to have an advantage for contested catches and withstanding press coverage/contact on routes.
That said, even if Davis is at a relative disadvantage to Sanders when it comes to his tree, Davis is still quite respectable with some highlight-reel cuts and stops on film already. Most importantly for us data nerds, Davis has now shown it for two seasons. There’s a good deal of confidence he can continue producing the same way going forward.