Davante Adams Won't Live Up to the Hype in Fantasy Football

Adams is a negative touchdown regression candidate, and he should have a tough time paying off his current draft cost.

You know the feeling? When you have a few good, lucky days in a row? Maybe you finally get that big promotion at work or maybe you just find a $100 bill on the sidewalk as you walk your dog.

But in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about how things are going way too well right now -- and how this can’t last forever.

Davante Adams is doing pretty well for himself right now.

After scoring 12 touchdowns in 2016, Adams is beloved by the analytics guys who believe he is both skilled at getting open and a monster at contested catches.

After finishing as the WR7 in standard-scoring leagues and with another year of experience in the Green Bay Packers offense, fantasy owners must think they’re getting a steal at his average draft position (ADP) WR21. But what they’re failing to recognize is that Adams is just a player who had 16 good -- but also lucky -- Sundays in a row.

Recency Bias Is a Thing

After 2015, Adams was considered a horrible player and barely worth taking in drafts. He didn't even have an ADP on FantasyFootballCalculator last offseason. Yet after a 2016 propped by monster touchdown numbers, his average draft position has creeped into the fourth round.

Is Adams really that much better than his disappointing 2015 indicated?

Last year, Adams managed an impressive feat that no one seems to be talking about: he managed to receive more than 120 targets from Aaron Rodgers yet record fewer than 1,000 receiving yards.

Other than the disaster that was the 2015 Packers' offense, this was the first time anybody has received 120 targets from Rodgers and posted fewer than 1,000 receiving yards -- ever. In fact, you have to go back to 2000 to find the last time any Packer, be it with Rodgers or Brett Favre at quarterback, accomplished this feat.

Clearly, Adams is still largely a historically inefficient player merely propped up by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He’s still the same player who had a historically bad 2015 season. He’s still the same player who, in July last year, we were talking about being a prime cut candidate.

Even in his 2016 season, drops continued to plague him, as he had nine on the season.

Where’s the Volume?

As we know, volume is king with fantasy football. And even though Adams only saw 121 targets last year, he has a severe volume crunch coming in 2017.

The first reason for that is that the Packers' overall passing volume should decline. Due to injuries to the top two running backs on the depth chart Eddie Lacy and James Starks, the Packers were forced to go more pass-heavy in 2016.

After averaging 546 pass attempts the previous two years, Rodgers’ pass attempts spiked to 610 in 2016. With a converted receiver now a seasoned running back and two additional running backs taken in the draft, Packers can be expected to run the ball more in 2017.

Adams' overall share of the shrinking passing pie will decrease as well. Randall Cobb is healthy after an injury plagued 2016 and head coach Mike McCarthy has already publicly stated he wants Cobb to get more touches in 2017. The addition of Martellus Bennett only siphons even more targets from Adams.

Touchdown Regression

Adams also scored on an unsustainable 9.9% of his total targets.

According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) model, he should have scored closer to 6.6 touchdowns in 2016.

Further, Mike Clay's Opportunity-Adjusted Touchdown Metric says Adams should have scored about four fewer touchdowns, and 4for4’s TJ Hernandez also identified Adams as a negative touchdown regression candidate based on red zone expected value.

While anyone catching passes from Rodgers has the upside for an inflated touchdown rate, this is not a sustainable way to produce fantasy points.

Just take Cobb for example. He posted a 9.5% touchdown rate in 2014 (similar to Adams' 9.9% 2016 touchdown rate) on his way to a 12-touchdown season. In the two years since, Cobb has recorded just 10 touchdowns on 213 targets, good for a 4.7% touchdown rate. While this is certainly an extreme example, it demonstrates how low Adams' touchdown floor could become if Cobb or Bennett take over that secondary role after Nelson.


Adams was a league-winner in 2016.

However, don’t forget that there was a reason his ADP was basically nonexistent last offseason, and his situation has only gotten worse in this offseason.

While Adams may have had a string of good fortune in 2016, especially in the touchdown department, every signal points towards that reversing in 2017. Don’t expect Adams' good fortune in a small sample size of 16 games to carry forward to 2017.