It’s no secret that the Buccaneers lack depth at the wide receiver position. Behind their duo of 1,000-yard receivers—Mike Evans and Chris Godwin—there aren’t a lot of proven commodities waiting to take the No. 3 role that was left vacant when Breshad Perriman signed with the New York Jets last month.
Justin Watson and Scotty Miller are two potential candidates to step up, but Tampa Bay is likely to address the need for receiving depth during next week’s NFL Draft. And because this year’s class is so deep, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to find a guy who can be a legitimate contributor later on day two or even on day three.
There are a ton of possibilities out there if the Bucs are looking to select a receiver in the third round or later. Gabriel Davis—who played his college ball just a couple of hours away from Raymond James Stadium at UCF—is one of those potential targets on day two or three. Would he be a fit for this new era of Tampa Bay football?
Gabriel Davis’ Collegiate Career
As a three-star recruit out of Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida, Davis had 12 scholarship offers. He ultimately chose to stay close to home, signing on to play for Scott Frost at UCF. As a freshman in 2017, he played a nice role in the Knights’ undefeated season, catching 27 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns. He played more of a complementary role, with current Saints receiver Tre’Quan Smith, current Texans tight end Jordan Akins and Dredrick Snelson garnering a lot of targets.
With Smith and Akins gone to the NFL in 2018, Davis broke. In his sophomore season, he caught 53 passes for 815 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 15.4 yards per catch. That earned him All-AAC First Team honors and set him up for a big junior season.
In 2019, it didn’t take long for folks who follow UCF (including myself, of course) to realize that he would be playing on Sundays in 2020. He finished the season with 72 receptions for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games, posting an average of 17.2 yards per catch. For his efforts, he was once again named to the All-AAC First Team, plus he picked up third-team All-American honors from Pro Football Focus.
Davis certainly left a legacy in Orlando over his three years with the Knights and chose to skip his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. He received an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine and projects as a potential fourth-round pick next weekend.
Davis definitely has NFL size, as he is listed at 6-foot-2 in some places and 6-foot-3 in others. He fills out his frame well, too, looking the part of a pro receiver. Using his size well, he plays with physicality that helps him create separation from defenders. And while he doesn’t have the speed of a burner, he still has shown to be a strong deep ball receiver. He ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the Combine a couple of months ago, plus he has exceptional ball-tracking skills and an impressive catch radius.
As a result of those core strengths, Davis has earned a reputation in draft circles as being a sideline threat with a limited route tree. Now, having covered him closely for two years at UCF and then watching him as a junior, I’m not sure his route tree is as limited or as much of a problem as it’s being made out to be. Dane Brugler of The Athletic even notes his route-running ability as a strength. He wasn’t just running all go routes all the time during his college career. But he did show he could be effective when doing so.
Plus, his double move is pretty lethal. Just check out what he did to Stanford’s Paulson Adebo last September:
As mentioned above, one of the big knocks on Davis is his route tree. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com mentions that as a weakness in the receiver’s draft profile, as do Joe Marino and Benjamin Solak of The Draft Network. However, that’s not the only concern about the young prospect’s game. Zierlein notes that Davis has “below-average talent after the catch” and that he “doesn’t have threatening initial surge into routes.” Marino and Solak say the same, with Solak noting release as the UCF product’s worst trait.
Even with my natural UCF bias, I can agree that Davis has some developing to do. There is plenty for him to sharpen if he wants to shake off the perception that he’s just a deep threat (not that there’s always something wrong with being looked at as such, to be fair). He will absolutely benefit from the ability to learn under NFL receivers, and it’s not hard to see him working out the rough parts of his game en route to becoming a well-rounded receiver at the next level.
Why The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Gabriel Davis
While Davis isn’t considered as a fully developed prospect at this state of his career, he could be an interesting fit for what the Bucs need. Think about it: the strengths noted above were primarily related to his ability to be a deep threat. He has a deadly double move, can create separation deep and has a knack for hand fighting. Now think about what Tampa Bay needs. Losing Perriman means losing a guy who worked into the offense primarily as a deep threat. If you’re going to replace a deep threat with a deep threat, Davis could fit the bill.
Of course, the Bucs’ thoughts about Watson and Miller will also play into what they do in next week’s draft. If they think Watson can step up and contribute and/or feel like Miller will make a leap and be a reliable slot guy in year two, they may not address receiver until day three.
To say the Bucs NEED Davis would be unreasonable. But he is a guy who could fit what they’re looking for in a third receiver. Plus, with a chance to catch passes from Brady and learn from guys like Evans and Godwin, Davis could develop nicely and potentially turn into a steal.
Should It Happen?
It’s no secret that I would love to see Gabriel Davis as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. But UCF allegiances aside, it all depends how the board falls. This receiving class is extraordinarily deep, which means there are plenty of guys that could be available late on day two and throughout day three that are more well-rounded prospects and better fits for the Bucs than Davis. It all just hinges on how Tampa Bay’s front office views the different middle-round receivers.
As of now, it looks like Davis should be there in the fourth round, in which Tampa Bay has two selections (picks No. 117 and 139). In his latest seven-round mock on The Athletic (subscription required), Brugler has Davis as pick No. 111 to Houston. So, as a fourth round pick, he could be worth it for Tampa Bay. Again, we’ll just have to see how the board falls and then determine how Davis stacks up against the team’s other available options. When you get into the fourth round and beyond, things become much more unpredictable.
So, Bucs Nation, now you know how I feel about UCF’s Gabriel Davis (if you didn’t already know before). Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on Davis potentially being a fit in Tampa Bay? Be sure to vote in the poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below.
How Do You Feel About Gabriel Davis For The Buccaneers In The 2020 NFL Draft?
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Draft Him No Matter What
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