Packers: Davante Adams has what it takes to be a No. 1 receiver

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Davante Adams
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Davante Adams /

With the departure of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams becomes the de-facto number one receiver for the Packers. Here’s why he can be a true number one in 2018.

For the past decade, Jordy Nelson has been one of the most productive receivers in the NFL. It didn’t matter who else was on the field – for the longest time, Nelson was the go-to guy when the moment was largest. From leading the league in receiving touchdowns, to playing a vital role in the community, Jordy Nelson was a No. 1 receiver both on and off the field.

As we all know by now, Nelson was released the day before free agency began. Along with leaving a considerable-sized hole in the lineup, the Green Bay Packers also lost one of their most influential team leaders – not to mention No. 12’s best friend. The heartbreaking news wasn’t easy to hear, but rest assured the Packers clearly knew what they were doing.

The move opened up much-needed cap space, allowing new general manager Brian Gutekunst to sign Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham in an essential two-for-one deal. But it wasn’t just about the cap space. Nelson’s departure also clearly signified Gutekunst’s firm confidence in Davante Adams as the lead dog going forward.

Upon being drafted in 2014, Davante Adams came on quickly as a rookie – starting 11 games and securing 38 receptions on 66 targets. This left many fans with a sense of hope for the talented wideout. Adams had a poor sophomore campaign which caused pause for concern among many fans. Nonetheless, McCarthy held strong, and Adams fell just three yards shy of 1,000 in 2016.

But it wasn’t until this past season when Adams really emerged as a star.

Davante Adams’ big moment

It was Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys – the Packers were down three with less than a minute remaining. Rodgers scrambled to his left for a sizable gain, setting up the opportunity for a strike to the end zone from the Cowboys’ 12-yard line. On the following play, Rodgers threw an incomplete pass to Adams, leaving 0:16 left on the clock.

What happened next is the exact moment we saw a figurative changing of the guard at the receiver position. When the team came back to the huddle, Adams looked at Rodgers and said, “Do it again.” Apparently, Rodgers didn’t have to think twice.

They ran the same exact play, on the same side of the field, against the same exact corner – a fade route to the pylon. Poor Jourdan Lewis never stood a chance. Adams caught the winning touchdown with 0:11 to go, while simultaneously gaining all the trust in the world from his quarterback.

But all momentum would stop there. The very next week, Rodgers went down with a season-ending collarbone injury against the Minnesota Vikings. Backup quarterback Brett Hundley trudged in, which called for Adams to step up his game for the rest of the season.

The ‘Brett Hundley Effect’

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With Hundley at the helm, Adams had 46 receptions for 543 yards and 5 TDs. For comparison, Jordy Nelson had 28 receptions for 213 yards and 0 TDs. What’s even more staggering is the target share for each: Adams had 71 targets while Nelson only had 49. This may suggest a greater affinity by Hundley to feed Adams the ball.

The Hundley Effect is an argument that attempts to show Adams can succeed with any level of QB. In 2017, Hundley was ranked the 31st-best QB by PFF.  But hey, at least he graded out higher than a list of QBs that includes Tom Savage (32nd), Brian Hoyer (33rd), Brock Osweiler (40th), and last placed Blaine Gabbert (41st).

I’ll leave you with this about Hundley: he had a passer rating of 70.6, ranking higher than only CJ Beathard and Deshone Kizer.

A rebuttal to all this could be that Jordy led the league in receiving TDs (6) before Rodgers fell injured. However, Adams wasn’t far behind (4), so it’s hard telling what the final numbers would have been had Rodgers stayed healthy.

What to expect going forward

Still not convinced of Adams’ abilities? Check out Mike Clay’s analysis below, a fantasy football analyst who uses data analytics to make predictions. Clay uses an algorithm to predict who could lead the NFL in certain categories.

At No. 1, Adams is predicted by Clay to lead the NFL with 9.7 receiving touchdowns. Next is DeAndre Hopkins (9.6), followed by Michael Thomas (8.9), Rob Gronkowski (8.8), and Mike Evans (8.6), who round out the top five. Of course, the NFL leader in touchdowns is almost always above ten, but for data and law of average’s sake, the numbers come out to be somewhat low.

Adams has the size to be a true No. 1 receiver. At 6-foot-1 and 215 lb, he has the strength to release effectively from press man coverage and thrives off plays that involve quick throws. What he lacks in long-speed, he makes up for in technique. In fact, Adams netted a perfect passer rating (158.3) for his QBs when running a crossing route.

He also has the ability to get open deep, posting a 109.9 passer rating for his QBs when running a go route – over 30 percent higher than the league average.

The only thing working against Adams is his injury history. This past season, Adams was knocked out twice (albeit on dirty plays) from games due to head injuries. Nonetheless, two documented concussions in one season isn’t what the Packers were hoping for, especially seeing what happened in the past to cornerback Sam Shields.

That didn’t seem to bother the Packers too much though, as they gave Adams a four-year, $58 million extension before the season ended. The extension affirmed the belief that the sky is the limit for a guy coming off one of his best seasons, mostly with a backup quarterback.

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In the end, Adams has the size, strength, and technique to be a top 10 receiver in the NFL. He has a proven track record of shining in the biggest moments, not to mention having Rodgers throwing him the ball. Replacing Nelson will be no easy task, but if there’s anyone fit for the job, it’s Adams.