It can be tough to transition to the NFL as a mid-round pick. Your position on the team isn’t guaranteed, and you have to wait your turn and take fewer reps (probably for the first time in your life). Key to establishing a successful career is making the most of every opportunity you can claim. It worked out that way for low picks like Matt Milano and Stevie Johnson. The next player on our top 25-and-under countdown certainly managed to do that in year one. It looks like the Buffalo Bills drafted another overperforming player on the third day of the draft.
The list so far
Honorable mentions: A.J. Epenesa, Zack Moss, Spencer Brown, Dawson Knox
Number 10: K Tyler Bass
Number 9: DE Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr.
Number 8: OG Cody Ford
Number 7: DE Greg “Groot” Rousseau
Number 6: RB Devin Singletary
Number 5: WR Gabriel Davis (turned 22 on April 1)
Gabriel Davis wasn’t just overlooked among the NFL’s rookie wide receivers, he may have been overlooked by Bills fans looking at their own team. Coming out of the 2020 NFL Draft, the rookie receiver on everyone’s minds was Oregon State’s 6’4” 210-lb wideout Isaiah Hodgins, not Davis. The 6’2” 215-lb Davis quickly became the star of training camp, however. Although the newly formed Allen-Diggs combination was top of mind, Davis still showed up with at least one highlight in every day of practice.
As a rookie, Davis earned his roster spot as the backup “X” receiver behind Diggs, but cross-trained as a flanker and in the slot, too. He was slowly worked into the rotation during the season, with a 4-81-0 day in Week 3 being his early sign of comfort. Then John Brown suffered the first of several injuries, which promoted Davis into a starting role for the remainder of the season. He held his own, with 27 catches for 470 yards and five touchdowns in the remaining 12 games of the season. It wasn’t a Pro Bowl season, but Davis finished the year ranked second among rookies in touchdown receptions, ninth in receiving yards, and sixth in yards per target (min. 20 targets).
Davis has shown major potential as a big-play receiver, leading the Bills with an Average Depth of Target of 15.2 yards downfield. He’s very skilled tracking the ball in the air, and has excellent toe-tapping talent at the sidelines. A goal for his sophomore season is to develop his all-purpose route running, learning from the masters of the craft like Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders. Thanks to Sanders joining the team, Davis isn’t guaranteed to start in Week 1, though he has a chance. Even if it takes a little longer, it seems like he could become a cornerstone of the Bills’ offense in the long term. Davis is also the third-youngest player on the Bills, and has several years to continue climbing this list as his career develops.