Fantasy Football: Robert Davis Is Stash-Worthy in Washington
The term “physical freak” is a bit of a misnomer when used to describe prospect athletes.
“Freak” conjures up images of the horror of Frankenstein’s Monster, the demonic possession of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or even monstrosity of the Incredible Hulk. I prefer to think of players more as physical marvels: this invokes Olympians like Jesse Owens, the glory of Greek gods, or -- you know -- the Incredible Hulk (Marvel, wink wink).
There are some football prospects who just have such an impressive athletic upside, however, that “freaky marvelous” is the only appropriate adjective clause to describe them. Georgia State's Robert Davis -- picked by Washington in the sixth round of this year's NFL Draft -- is one such player. Davis is a late-round long-shot in the NFL, but his statistical and athletic profiles are absurd, and even head coach Jay Gruden says we should keep an eye on this young man.
Can we expect monster production from Davis in D.C.?
Make Mine Marvel
Davis weighed in at the NFL Combine at 6’3” and 219 pounds, prototypical size for a true number-one wide receiver. At that kind of size, it’s reasonable for a player to be a little bit slower than a smaller player; there’s just more mass to move. Davis took no excuses -- or prisoners -- at Indianapolis, however, and dashed his way to a sparkling 4.44 40-yard time.
That wasn’t the only impressive output, though. The spider-graph below is provided by MockDraftable.com, and it highlights his Combine measurements and speeds, showing their percentiles versus other players’ results at his position (99th percentile means he performed in the top one percent at that position).
How impressive of an athlete is Davis?
When compared to other wideouts since 2000, Davis’ measurables are all solid to great. He graded in the 75th percentile or higher in explosion drills (40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump) but his change-of-direction was a bit lacking, with just a 4.28 short shuttle and 6.82 three-cone drill.
But adjusted by his height and weight, his production looks absolutely ridiculous. By Speed Score (weight-adjusted 40-yard dash) among receivers above six feet tall, his straight-line speed is on par with Cordarrelle Patterson, Jeff Janis, and Robert Meachem -- near top 20 since 2000. His Agility Score (weight-adjusted short shuttle and three-cone) is nearly identical to Demaryius Thomas, Mike Evans, and Brandon Marshall. His Explosion Score (weight-adjusted vertical and broad jumps) is better than Julio Jones, and bested by only Jonathan Baldwin and Chris Conley.
Not coincidentally, this range of players is about where the numberFire comparables tool puts his athletic range of outcomes: Julio Jones on the high end, the undrafted Mark Harrison on the low. With a nearly identical athletic profile to Baldwin, but nowhere near the first-round price tag, Davis can be a big-time value for Washington in the sixth round if he pans out.
But measurements are never the full story of a player. Can Davis produce if given the chance?
Le Freak, C’est Chic
Before we dig into Davis’ production, there comes a big-time caveat: playing at Georgia State, he was in one of the least-prolific offenses in the country last year.
It’s not that there weren’t a fair amount of passes in the offense proportionally; Georgia State’s 1.20 pass-to-run play call ratio was actually sixth highest among 126 FBS schools over the last five years. It’s also not as if they weren’t effective with their passing plays: the 7.65 passing yards per attempt was the 39th most among these programs.
Simply put, Georgia State has been so bad (10-39 record since joining the FBS in 2013) that they have run the fewest offensive plays per season by a wide margin. The average FBS plays run each season per team over the last half-decade is 910.1, but GSU has mustered just 788.9 per year.
With how little actual volume of offense there is, Davis’ college numbers look a bit low: 1,948 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns over the past two seasons don’t blow anyone away when Trent Taylor of Louisiana Tech nearly beat those numbers in 2016 alone. In order for Davis to impress us, we have to see some evidence that he’s producing as the true main contributor in this offense.
That’s where we get to the concept of “Market Share”, the percent of a team’s production attributable to one player. For instance, Davis put up 711 receiving yards in 2013, which was 23.42 percent of Georgia State’s entire receiving production that year. When we look for a truly dominant receiver, 30 percent Market Share or more is ideal.
The table below depicts Davis’ production and Market Shares (MS) in receptions, yards, and touchdowns over his four years.
While his Market Shares in each category stayed fairly flat through his first three years, they blossomed in his final year when he generated nearly 30 percent rates in every area. When looking for a big-time receiver prospect, we want target hogs, and Robert Davis can be depended on as a true target hog if given the chance.
As for his near-term fantasy chances, he’s more of a stash play for deep leagues, both in redraft and dynasty. Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, and Jamison Crowder will have the top three starting spots locked down for 2017, plus fellow physical upside play Brian Quick and staff favorite Ryan Grant both reside above Davis on the depth chart. Pryor is signed on only a one-year deal, however, and Davis could have been selected as his direct replacement in 2018 -- a player Washington can groom and teach before he steps into the limelight.
Perhaps this is the perfect physical marvel range of outcomes for Davis, right on his own team: he could be the never-delivered upside of Quick or he could be 2016 Pryor, lightning in a bottle with unrivaled size and speed. His cost for Washington -- and fantasy owners -- makes that a palatable gamble, though.