The hype around the NFL's incoming wide receiver class is warranted, thanks to the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. But the 2020 NFL wide receiver draft class was one for the ages: Justin Jefferson set the record for most receiving yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era, while CeeDee Lamb, Chase Claypool, Tee Higgins and Brandon Aiyuk all emerged as legitimate fantasy contributors in Year 1.
Still, the 2020 wide receiver class goes far beyond just the top tier. A plethora of talent is waiting to bust out in Year 2. It will be crucial to fantasy football success in 2021 to hit on these talented second-year receivers.
The next group we'll examine includes more sleepers and breakout candidates — some of whom exceeded expectations as Day 3 rookies. Others are looking to make the leap after so-so rookie campaigns.
10. WR GABRIEL DAVIS, BUFFALO BILLS
Gabriel Davis stans weren’t thrilled when the Buffalo Bills opted to sign veteran free agent Emmanuel Sanders to a one-year deal for 2021. It looked like it was wheels up for Davis as a breakout candidate after the team released John Brown, but the Sanders signing has people pumping the brakes.
The addition of Sanders, however, will not hold Davis back.
His downfield archetype — 17.3 aDOT, seventh-highest in the NFL — is the complete opposite of Sanders’ recent usage. The veteran hasn't posted an aDOT higher than 13.0 since 2016.
Davis still has second-year breakout written all over him. He was PFF’s second-highest-graded rookie WR on targets 20-plus yards downfield (98.8), and his overall volume of high-value targets was utterly impressive as a rookie.
The former UCF standout finished with just two fewer deep targets than Stefon Diggs and posted an identical 25% end-zone target share. His air yards share (19%) was better than established veterans John Brown and Cole Beasley.
Gabriel Davis was used more downfield than Stefon Diggs during the regular season.
On targets 20-plus yards downfield:
Davis: 20 tgts, 10 recs, 338 yards, 5 TDs
Diggs: 16 tgts, six recs, 215 yards, 1 TD pic.twitter.com/K1zYZsB8Vn
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) June 23, 2021
The rookie put up at least 68 receiving yards or scored a touchdown in nine games. He ended the season strong — in his last two games before injury he amassed 192 receiving yards on only six receptions. That netted a 90.7 PFF receiving grade.
Josh Allen proved last season that he can support multiple fantasy wide receivers — Bills WRs scored more fantasy points than any other team's group. Savvy fantasy managers should be all about trying to acquire the team’s big-play wideout — it won't be surprising if he hauls in double-digit touchdowns (he scored seven last year) in the Bills’ high-powered offense.