Buffalo Bills' Day 3 pick, Year 1 starter: RB Ray Davis

Buffalo Bills rookie running back Ray Davis has overcome a lot to be a possible NFL starter.
Kentucky running back Ray Davis duns for a touchdown against Clemson.
Kentucky running back Ray Davis duns for a touchdown against Clemson. / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills rookie running back Ray Davis may not have to do much in the NFL before the NFL Network decides to do "A Football Life" on him. Because there are few players who can match what he's overcome.

Davis, one of 11 siblings, grew up in the foster care system in the Bay Area as both of his parents were in and out of incarceration. Davis faced possible homelessness until a woman named Lora Banks became Davis' educational rights holder and essentially his adoptive guardian. Davis' athletic gifts carried him from Temple to Vanderbilt to Kentucky in his five-year college career, and the Bills took him in the fourth round of the 2024 draft.

It's quite an amazing journey.

“I know how it feels to be that kid on the outside looking in, to not be wanted, to not be with your real family, to have others look out for you and to live that double life where you go to school every day and act like things are normal but when you get home it’s back to reality,” Davis said in 2021. “Those were rough times for me.

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“I don’t think I’d be the man I am today without those experiences. It just made me look at the bigger picture of life. There’s always a lot of people going through way worse things than me.”

Now, Davis has the opportunity to show everything he can do with a team in need of a power runner. Davis has that on lock. Last season for the Wildcats, he gained 1,131 yards and scored 14 touchdowns on just 197 carries. Per Pro Football Focus, his yards after contact average of 3.81 ranked 12th in the nation. 751 of his rushing yards came after contact, and he forced 51 missed tackles last season -- including 11 against Florida.

The Bills do have James Cook atop their running back depth chart, but they don't have a headbanger who can consistently grind out those crucial yards in short-yardage situations. Davis adds a lot in that regard. But he isn't just a power guy -- his tape is littered with outside runs and inside jump cuts which speak to his effective agility. Davis also had 16 runs of 15-plus yards last season.

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But that isn't what caught the eye of Bills general manager Brandon Beane -- what did for Beane was one specific blocking rep.

"I'll never forget a play every time I see him, I think it was versus Vandy [Vanderbilt]. There's a backer or a safety coming off the edge, and he's in pass pro, and he levels this dude," said Beane at apress conference in Orchard Park. "I remember seeing it in the fall. That was always the first play I thought of this kid when I saw him."

Given all the changes in Buffalo's offense this offseason, the Bills might want to turn to a more run-centric attack. If that's the case, Ray Davis might be a major factor. He has certainly shown the talent -- and especially the heart -- to exceed expectations.

READ MORE: Bills RB Ray Davis projected to finish among Top 5 NFL rookies in rushing

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Doug Farrar