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The case for Buffalo’s Gabriel Davis as a Top 25 fantasy wide receiver


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There’s a hot debate on fantasy Twitter over Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis. Everyone needs to pick a side. On one side, the January playoff explosion vs. the Chiefs was a harbinger for a WR2 campaign in 2022. On the other side: he finished as the overall WR50-ish and WR50-ish his first two years, so ranking him inside the Top 25 WRs is utter madness.

Where should we land on this question? I’m very bullish on Davis. My reasons help in projecting all receivers. So let’s discuss.

A common criticism has been: “Are we drafting Davis inside the Top 30 WRs because Josh Allen is his QB?” Well, yeah. I’ve long advocated QB-centric WR rankings. We have six teams with multiple Top 25 WRs every year. The best passing teams are most likely to do this. Everyone thinks Josh Allen/Buffalo is a Top 6 passing team. So we should EXPECT the Bills to have two Top 25 fantasy WRs.

Also, Allen has a consensus projection of 35 TD passes. He’s been there two straight years, so this is not aggressive. Who’s going to lead the team in touchdowns? Consensus projections say Davis. Since 2017, 10 of the 14 QBs who threw 35-to-40 TD passes had a double-digit TD scorer. And there’s an extra game now. The over/under for Davis’ touchdowns should be 10.5, not 9.5. (But even 9.5 is probably getting him inside the top 25 fantasy WRs.)

What about Davis’ depressed scoring his first two years? My counter is he has not had snaps. A starting job now is guaranteed. So his snap rate as a starting wide receiver should be about 80 percent. Stefon Diggs was just over that. Davis had five games last year with 80%+ snaps. His stats: 42 targets, 24 catches for 401 yards and seven touchdowns.

That’s a pace for 142 targets with 82 catches, 1,363 yards and 24 touchdowns. Even 80/1,100/8 is 238 PPR points, easily above the WR20. Don’t you think Davis is getting 80% snaps per game?

Suppose we prorate his 2021 snaps for the same snap rate as Diggs with no performance improvement in Davis, who is now playing his Age 23 season: 102 targets, 60 catches, 940 yards, 10 TDs. That’s 214 PPR points which the last three years clocks in at WR23 at the end of the season.

I didn’t want to start with his playoff explosion. “IT’S ONE GAME!” the naysayers scream at us. A pretty big game, we can all agree. But is it predictive? I looked at this a couple of years ago.

From the article: “(Looking at) top-scoring receivers and running backs in the postseason this century, meaning they needed a game of at least 30+ PPR points. They had to be marginal fantasy performers in that year’s regular season — none of the receivers/tight ends were higher than 29th at their position (standard scoring, according to Pro-Football-Reference). None of the qualifying running backs were higher than 17th.”

Non-Pro Bowl wide receivers with a 30+ point game in the playoffs typically get a boost in the next-year rank of about 25 spots to WR26 as a median. There were 11 in the sample. So it’s reasonable that Davis’ PPR WR51 last year (according to Pro-Football-Reference) should be forecasted to rise to about WR26 this year. That makes sense, right? A guy shines in a huge game, and the team expands his role. He wouldn’t be in a position to explode in a playoff game if the team didn’t think he was good to start with. It is a validation of the team’s view of the player at the end of the prior season.

Finally, have we been underrating Davis all along? I was surprised to discover he was 21 in his rookie season — very young by rookie standards. He had seven touchdowns and 136.9 PPR points. That’s more for a 21-year-old rookie than Allen Robinson and Robert Woods and about the same as Brandin Cooks and DeAndre Hopkins. Based on that alone, we should have EXPECTED Davis to be a Top 24 WR by now. In other words, if you don’t want to focus on the playoff outburst, his rookie year performance gets him here by Year 3.

So snap rate gets Davis inside the WR25. Josh Allen/expected team passing stats gets Davis here. So does the playoff outburst consider his overall 2021 performance during the regular season? And his performance as a rookie WR as a 21-year-old gets him inside the Top 25 by Year 3, too, not even knowing anything else — meaning it should have been his projection for 2022 after the 2020 season.

There is no reasonable doubt here. Davis is a Top 25 fantasy receiver. This is not his ceiling. This is a median projection. Draft him accordingly.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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70 catches 900 yards 8 TDs on 110 targets would be a great season. I think that is achievable considering how many targets there are to go around now. Beasley's 112 and Sanders' 72 target share leaves 184 targets that have to go somewhere. It would require Davis going from 3.9 targets per game (career) to 6.5 targets per game. I don't think that's a crazy jump. I can see his YPC going down, but more targets and yards.

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