Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have a love affair going with receiver Davante Adams. It not only doesn’t matter what any of us “outsiders” think or say about Adams, it doesn’t seem to matter how he performs on the field. I envision that in 2023 Adams will be celebrating his 10th consecutive year as a Green Bay Packers’ starter.
I posted some thoughts about Adams just prior to the past regular season. These were mostly the thoughts of others who closely follow the game, and they were damning. Given the much better season Adams just had, I need to update his abilities and prospects going forward.
The numbers don’t lie: Adams, playing in all 16 regular season games, had 75 receptions out of 121 targets, for 997 yards, and 12 TDs. His yardage ranked 26th in the league, and he tied for second in TD catches. It was a huge step up for the second-round draft choice of 2014. Adams had 38 catches for 446 yards as a rookie, and 50 catches for 483 in a disappointing second year.
Adams supplanted Randall Cobb (60 of 84, 610 yards, four TDs), as Aaron Rodgers’ number two receiving option. Yardage-wise, Cobb ranked 73rd in the NFL. Jordy Nelson ranked eighth, and his 14 TDs was the league’s best. Lest we write Cobb off, however, he completely missed three games, and was on the injury report for 10 of the 16 games of the regular season.
Adams also did well in the playoffs – when healthy. Against the Giants, he had eight catches for 125 yards, and followed it with five catches for 76 yards against Dallas. McCarthy, who continues to think it’s a badge of honor for injured players to go out and play, sent Adams out with a bad ankle sprain against the Falcons, resulting in just three catches for 16 yards.
What Adams brings to the game is high energy and endless effort. I once said his only real talent was running a short slant. I must amend that, as he also has an effective stop-and-go move which often gets him open for about a 25-yard catch. His slowness (40-yard dash time of 4.56) doesn’t make him a good target for deeper throws, though they keep trying. He’s doesn’t get a lot of yards after the catch, but it’s not for lack of effort.
While Adams drops too many passes, he also outfought defenders for the ball many times during the year. This is important because: (1) Adams doesn’t generally get a lot of separation from his defenders; and (2) Rodgers will readily throw to Adams even when he’s tightly covered – something the QB seldom does with other receivers.
One major shortcoming concerns Adams’ productivity, meaning how much yardage he achieves for the amount of times he’s thrown to. In 2014, that ratio was 6.76, in 2015 it dropped to 5.19, and in 2016 it soared to 8.24. The latter number is respectable, though it is still not quite up to the career ratios of several of the team’s recent receivers: Jordy Nelson, 9.95; Greg Jennings, 8.89; Randall Cobb 8.69; and James Jones 8.57.
Adams did indeed have a breakout year in 2016. He shows the promise of being a regular 1,000-yard receiver, after just missing that mark by three yards. With his quick moves, he has steadily increased the types of routes in which he is able to gain adequate separation. If Adams can consistently have the kind of season he had in 2016, the Packers should be very happy with his performance.
One caveat, however: Adams is a classic “WR2,” in that he benefits from playing alongside a top receiver who commands the major portion of the defense’s attention and usually draws its top cornerback. He more than doubled his yardage in 2016 in large part because Jordy Nelson was back on the field. I believe this is critical to his continued success.
Davante had the opportunity to be interviewed following two nationally-broadcast Packers’ wins toward the end of last season. He’s handsome, personable, articulate, and stylish while still having a boy-next-door manner. He represents his team, and the NFL, very well – especially compared to a number of prima donna wide receivers who get a lot of TV time.
Adams is entering the final year of his contract. This might prove to be a challenging negotiation, for Adams is a confident, and even a bit cocky, player. He well knows how important he is to the team’s plans going forward. He knows how hard it is and how long it takes to get in synch and bond with Aaron Rodgers. He knows his numbers on the year were much better than Randall Cobb’s, who’s a $10 million a year man. Finally, he knows the team has no backup waiting in the wings to replace him if he should opt to go elsewhere.
When Ted Thompson meets with Adams – and I suspect they’d like to get his contract renewed early on – it’s Davante who will be holding all the trump cards.