2022 Bills Fantasy Football Preview: Can Gabriel Davis, James Cook be the next Buffalo breakouts?

Josh Allen wasn’t quite as good in 2021 as his breakout the prior season, but he was still an MVP-caliber performer. That was no fluke. The Bills have been bounced in consecutive seasons by the Chiefs in the playoffs, but this is still one of the best bets in the league to win it all as long as Allen is playing at his current level, and they continue to build around him to make sure this remains one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.

2021 Review

Record: 11 – 6 (7)
PPG: 28.4 (3)
YPG: 381.9 (5)
YPG Pass: 252.0 (9)
Rush YPG: 129.9 (6)
PAPG: 38.5 (5)
RAPG: 27.1 (13)

2020 Fantasy finishes

QB: Josh Allen QB1
RB: Devin Singletary RB20, Zack Moss RB51
WR: Stefon Diggs WR7, Cole Beasley WR40, Emmanuel Sanders WR54, Gabriel Davis WR58,
HAS: Dawson Knox TE11
* No longer with team

Number to know: 23rd

If you add up every NFL team’s Fantasy points by running backs, the Bills ranked 23rd last season, which is pretty bad. Unless you’re talking relative to the rest of the time Josh Allen has been the team’s starter, in which case it’s by far the best finish they’ve had – they had ranked 31st, 30th, and 31st in the previous three seasons.

There is a perception among a lot of Fantasy players and analysts that, because this is such a good offense, led by one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, this can be a great offense for running back production. However, the truth of the matter is, that Allen is actually the reason it isn’t a great situation for running backs – he rarely throws to his backs because he’s so prone to scramble, and his dominance as a runner is especially evidence near the goal line, creating another mouth to feed there.

Devin Singletary proved late last season that, if one back dominates touches and snaps, they can be a viable Fantasy option, averaging 21.1 PPR points per game over his final seven, including two playoff games. However, he played at least 68% of the snaps in each game, and he isn’t likely to see a similar share with the addition of second-round pick James Cook. However, Cook isn’t likely to make Singletary irrelevant either. This means this is probably back to being a crowded backfield with no must-start Fantasy running back.

2021 Offseason

Draft Picks

1. (23) Kaiir Elam, CB
2. (63) James Cook, RB
3. (89) Terrel Bernard, LB
5. (148) Khalil Shakir, WR
6. (180) Matt Araiza, P
6. (185) Christian Benford, DB
6. (209) Luke Tenuta, OL
7. (231) Baylon Spector, LB

Additions

OL Rodger Saffold, LB Von Miller, TE OJ Howard, WR Jamison Crowder, DL Jordan Phillips, DL Shaq Lawson, RB Duke Johnson, OL DaQuan Jones

Key Departures

QB Mitch Trubisky, WR Cole Beasley, RB Matt Breida, WR Emmanuel Sanders

Available Opportunity

26 carries, 9 RB targets, 216 WR targets, 0 TE targets

2022 Preview

Rankings

Chris Towers’ screenings

QB Josh Allen PA: 631, YD: 4734, TD: 35, INT: 13; RUSH – ATT: 106, YD: 580, TD: 7
RB Become Singletary CAR: 183, YD: 807, TD: 6, TAR: 32, REC: 26, YD: 180, TD: 1
RB James Cook CAR: 101, YD: 424, TD: 3, TAR: 63, REC: 51, YD: 404, TD: 2
WR Stefon Diggs TAR: 142, REC: 94, YD: 1221, TD: 9
WR Gabriel Davis TAR: 94, REC: 63, YD: 787, TD: 7
WR Jamison Crowder TAR: 90, REC: 60, YD: 700, TD: 4
HAS Dawson Knox TAR: 63, REC: 45, YD: 537, TD: 3

Biggest Question

Who else is ready to break out?

Stefon Diggs has established himself as a high-end WR1, but the Bills haven’t really had another must-start player emerge among the rest of the skill positions. Devin Singletary was one down the stretch last season, but the decision to draft James Cook in the second round clouds both players’ outlooks; the Bills have been below average in Fantasy points for running backs every season of Josh Allen’s career, so there probably isn’t room for both. Gabriel Davis has flashed in a big way in limited opportunities – including five touchdowns in two playoff games last season – but hasn’t locked down a consistent role. If you’re betting on anyone, he’s the guy.

One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

Crowder has consistently earned targets, averaging 7.1 per game over the past three seasons, and he figures to step into Cole Beasley’s role as a more effective version of one of Allen’s favorite targets. Beasley caught 82 passes in each of the past two seasons, and it’s not unrealistic that Crowder could see similar numbers – preferably with more like 2020’s 11.8 yards per catch than 2021’s 8.5. Crowder isn’t the exciting secondary receiver here, but he may just end up being the most effective one.

Davis is the obvious choice for both breakout and bust candidate for the Bills. The breakout case is obvious – he’s big and athletic and has shown massive flashes, most notably with five touchdowns on 10 catches for 242 yards in two playoff games last season. The case for him busting is equally obvious: He’s been a non-factor for Fantasy across his two regular seasons, and hasn’t shown a consistent ability to earn targets yet, failing to top 600 yards or 35 catches in either professional season.

Davis currently has a sixth-round ADP as the No. 32 WR off the board, just ahead of guys like Courtland Sutton, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Devonta Smith, all of whom are tied to good offenses and are more proven. Does Davis really have significantly more upside than those three, or the likes of Adam Thielen, Tyler Lockett, or Rashod Bateman, to name just a few others he is going ahead of? He looks the part and has shown the upside, but it’s easy to overreact to one big playoff game, given the stakes and attention paid to it.

Davis could emerge as the No. 2 option in this offense, in which case he’s like to be a WR2 at least. Or he could fill the Emmanuel Sanders role – Sanders was the team’s primary deep threat early on but ended up with 72 targets in 14 games, as he couldn’t produce consistently enough. The bet, if you’re high on Davis, is that he’s just a better player than late-era Sanders, but I’m not sure I’m willing to pay the premium.

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