Ray Davis is Going to Find the End Zone Often With the Buffalo Bills in 2024

May 10, 2024
Ray Davis is Going to Find the End Zone Often With the Buffalo Bills in 2024

With the 128th selection of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills spent their fourth-round pick on running back Ray Davis. The former Kentucky Wildcat should compete for a rotational role behind James Cook right away and offers upside over aging veterans (Latavius Murray, Leonard Fournette, Deonte Hardy) who have filled the hole over the last year and a half. Davis boasts plenty of college production and had a firm handle on pass-catching duties out of the backfield.

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Ray Davis’ Prospect Profile

Ray Davis had a very interesting path to college and put up some huge numbers as a three-star recruit and the No. 116 running back in the 2019 recruiting class. Starting off in Temple as a true freshman, Davis led the Owls in rushing, earning 21.9% of the team’s total yards and 19.2% of the team’s total touchdowns. After two seasons with Temple and two more seasons in Vanderbilt —including an injury-shortened 2021 (toe)— he would play his final year at Kentucky, where he torched SEC defenses for 1,452 total yards and 21 touchdowns.

With his 2023 performance, he became the first college player to rush for 1,000+ yards at three different FBS programs.

Ray Davis Collegiate Career, 2019-2023
Year Attempts Rushing Yards YPA Yards Created After Contact Targets Receptions Total TDs
2019 192 941 4.9 3.39 23 15 10
2020 75 313 4.2 3.01 14 12 1
2021 44 211 4.8 3.39 5 5 1
2022 233 1,044 4.5 3.16 37 29 8
2023 197 1,131 5.7 3.81 39 32 21

Davis won in many different ways on the football field, and profiles as one of the best all-around backs in this draft class. He already looks the part of a professional RB, showing patience and good footwork to allow things to develop before hitting the hole.

He also exhibited very good power and contact balance, ranking sixth among qualifying draft-eligible running backs with 3.81 yards created after contact. At 5’8”, he’s built compactly and runs aggressively through contact as if he were in a bigger man’s body. This was on full display in Week 5 against Florida last year, when Davis touched the ball 27 times for 289 yards and four total touchdowns.

While Davis was a consistent runner, his speed doesn’t show on film, and his 4.52 40-yard dash and 1.62 10-yard split were just mediocre. He’s not a home run hitter like other options in this draft class (Trey Benson, Jaylen Wright, Issac Guerendo), but he will make a great complementary back who will shine in short-yardage situations and flash some receiving ability. That is exactly what the Buffalo Bills have been looking for, with James Cook entering his third year in the NFL.

How Ray Davis Fits With the Bills

Ever since the Bills allowed Devin Singletary to walk in free agency, they’ve been picking from quite the list of available cast-offs, including Damien Harris, Leonard Fournette, and 34-year-old Latavius Murray. The goal has been to give James Cook a breather, particularly around the goal line, where those three combined for 16 attempts last season. There was actually a stretch between Weeks 5-16 from ‘23 in which Cook didn’t garner a single goal-line carry, finishing with five total on the year.

The explosive running back has also had issues getting up to speed in pass protection, where PFF had him ranked 54th out of 57 qualifying running backs last year. This could very well be an area where Ray Davis can expand his role in Year 1, as he outweighs his new teammate by nearly 25 pounds despite the three-inch height difference.

It’s possible that former Lions sixth-round selection Ty Johnson (2019 NFL Draft) could step in Davis’ way, but he was only active for seven games last season and had nearly as many snaps on special teams (65) as he had in the backfield (71). Per The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia,

“The Bills hope Davis, their fourth-round pick, brings what they’ve wanted to add to the group for years — power and short-yardage ability. It’s unclear how significant Davis’ role will be, but there’s a world where he jumps Johnson on the depth chart before the season begins.”

Projecting the Bills Backfield in Fantasy Football

James Cook is the Bills' clear RB1, and the team made that clear when he earned 290 opportunities (attempts-plus-targets) last season, even with his nearly non-existent goal-line role. The addition of Ray Davis looks to be an attempt to consolidate their RB rotation into more of a two-headed monster, with Ty Johnson retaining his special teams role.

This makes Cook a fantasy RB2, with the rookie staying hungry behind him. Davis should be more efficient with his touches than the veteran hodge-podge over the years, though. He still has pretty good touchdown equity, even with Josh Allen taking more than his fair share of scores. We are certain to have some scoring droughts, but Ray Davis should be in RB4/5 consideration and would take far more of the workload than Johnson if Cook has any injury hiccups throughout the year.

Bottom Line

  • Ray Davis is a perfect fit for James Cook and the Bills offense and offers far more upside than their 2023 RB rotation.
  • It’s fair to question the current offensive environment with the recent turnover in pass-catchers, but they have ranked no lower than No. 6 in scoring offense over the last four years.
  • Davis will have a difficult time usurping a large workload from Cook as long as they’re both healthy, but the rookie should have a lot of the short-yardage work already, with the possibility of a larger third-down role as 2024 rolls along.
  • According to current Underdog best ball drafts, Davis is coming off the board as the RB50 (161.4). I would prefer to get my exposure in best ball, as it will be easier to capture spike weeks that are likely to come along the goal line, and I believe that upside is captured at his current price. Cook has stayed around the RB12 range, and while I’m not concerned about the rookie taking a ton of work from him, I’d like to grab him as a solidified RB2 when he falls to that range.
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