Why Davante Adams Could Have an Immediate Impact in 2014
Sometimes, too much of a good thing can end up being a bad thing. But when that good thing is so good, sometimes it just doesn't matter.
That pretty much summates the Green Bay Packers offense this year. Our math projects the Packers to have the second-best offense in 2014. It also predicts Aaron Rodgers will throw for 4,678.68 yards and 37.65 touchdowns, both of which rank third. With so much production, there has to be some beneficiaries.
But those two guys can't combine for those totals from Rodgers, so there has to be another man to step up. Jarrett Boykin is the current front-runner for the third receiver spot, opposite Nelson while Cobb plays the slot, but there are many reasons to believe that Davante Adams, the standout rookie from Fresno State, could emerge as the right option in Green Bay this year.
Before digging fully into Adams, it's only fair to look at just how good Rodgers truly is so that it can be understood how viable a third receiver in his offense can be.
Despite playing in just nine regular season games last year and attempting only 311 drop backs, Rodgers ranked fifth in the NFL in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP). His Passing NEP of 98.12 indicates that Rodgers added nearly 100 points to the Packers total from his drop backs.
On a per play basis, Rodgers was even better. His Passing NEP per play was 0.32, third only to Peyton Manning (0.41) and Josh McCown (0.35). He was on pace for approximately 553 drop backs, which would have given him a total Passing NEP of, roughly, 176.92, which would have just eked out Drew Brees (175.57) for second place.
Since 2009, he's never finished lower than seventh in Passing NEP.
Rodgers has been able to produce steadily because he has the ability to spread the ball to multiple receivers and make all of them legitimate threats.
In 2012, the Packers had three top-40 receivers in terms of Reception NEP.
|2012||Rec||Rec NEP||Targets||Target NEP||Rec NEP/Target||Catch Rate|
Cobb finished 19th in Reception NEP, James Jones was 25th, and Nelson was 37th.
The 2011 season was more of the same, as the Packers boasted three top-46 receivers. Nelson (117.33) ranked 6th, Greg Jennings (86.87) was 19th, and Jones (57.50) was 46th.
If you want this production in fantasy terms, it's fairly similar. The 2012 trio of Cobb, Jones, and Nelson ranked 18th, 16th, and 29th, respectively, at receiver. The 2011 version of Nelson, Jennings, and Jones ranked 2nd, 17th, and 38th, respectively.
Nelson and Cobb are locked into secure roles in the offense, but with the departure of Jones and Jermichael Finley, there is a role to fill in the high-powered Green Bay offense.
Who's the Guy?
The question in this instance is less whether or not somebody will fill the void, but rather who it will be. Adams could answer the call, but Boykin currently is in line for the job after filling in last year when the Packers were struggling with injuries. We also can't neglect the oncoming Jeff Janis, who is the biggest body in the trio. He's also the most athletic.
It would stand to reason that Boykin will keep his spot now that he's had a year to learn the offense and get comfortable, but he hasn't shown much improvement from last season to this season. However, Adams is struggling to put away passes that could help him leapfrog into the starting line-up.
Could Adams, then, be the one to emerge as the main benefactor as a guy getting consistent targets from one of the best quarterbacks in the league? There's a very good reason to think so.
Adams' Collegiate Production
Adams was a monster for Fresno State in 2013. He led the NCAA in receptions (131), touchdowns (24), and was second in yards (1,719). He scored eight more touchdowns than the second-leading touchdown-getter, Brandin Cooks.
Playing in the new-look Mountain West Conference (MWC), Adams wasn't facing uber-tier talent, but he did produce quite evenly in splits against winning teams and losing teams, for what it's worth, per CFBstats.com.
|vs. FBS Winning||5||50||660||13.20||9||10.0||132.0||1.8|
|vs. FBS Non-Winning||7||76||1028||13.53||14||10.9||146.9||2.0|
Adams was consistent in his sophomore year. He recorded at least eight receptions in 11 of his 13 games (including a bowl game). He failed to catch a touchdown just once, and it was one of the games he was held to five receptions.
Projecting a player's success from the MWC to the NFL doesn't quite cut it, but Adams scored touchdowns like a professional last year, mirroring the pace set by one of Rodgers' old teammates.
James Jones 2.0
Rodgers was able to turn Jones, a 6'1'', 208-pound receiver into a double-digit touchdown scorer. In 2012, Jones racked up a league-leading 14 touchdowns on 64 catches. The good new for Adams is that he is bit heavier than and quite comparable to Jones in athleticism.
Jones performed better than did Adams in the 40- and 10-yard dashes as well as the 20-yard shuttle, but Adams posted better results in every other drill, including a significantly higher vertical leap and a sizable gap on the broad jump.
Both of them were successful touchdown scorers in college in their final seasons. So was Janis, who played at Saginaw Valley State, a Division II school. Boykin, a Virginia Tech Hokie, had the fewest shares of production but did play on the most talented team of the quartet.
Here's the breakdown of how much these receivers accounted for their collegiate teams in the players' final seasons in school.
Again, Boykin played in an offense that wasn't dominated by one receiver, and he wasn't even the leading receiver on the Hokies. But he's the only one of the three guys fighting for the third spot without a proven history of producing touchdowns. Boykin never scored more than six touchdowns in college despite playing four years, and he racked up just three last year even in an abbreviated season from Cobb.
I'm not implying that he can't emerge as an elite touchdown scorer, but I am pointing out that he has the least impressive touchdown-scoring pedigree of the Adams-Boykin-Janis trio in addition to being, based on combine results, the least athletic of the group.
Can Adams Take Control?
All signs indicate that it's Boykin's job to lose, but his combine results indicate he's less athletic than either Adams or Janis. And he has never really been a touchdown scorer in college or in the NFL to date.
If Adams is able to steady his hands and if Rodgers is reminded of James Jones, then he could be the third option in the offense sooner rather than later. Our READ algorithm isn't very high on Adams to say the least (comparing him to Greg Little), but Adams did score four times as many touchdowns (24) in his sophomore year as Little had in his three years at North Carolina (6).
Nobody is a lock for that third receiver spot in Green Bay, but whoever it is should be in for a pretty big season -- especially if it's a touchdown scorer like Adams or Janis.