Davante Adams Is Having a Historically Bad Season
Every little league team had that kid. The chubby, never-hits-the-ball-but-the-parents-and-team-love-him kid.
That kid was on my little league team back in the day. He was up to bat with the bases loaded and two outs, the team down by a run. Batting at the bottom of the order, the outfielders didn't respect him much, so they all moved in a bit. Not that it mattered, because he hadn't made contact all year anyway.
Until that day. That day, the never-gets-a-hit chunky kid blooped the ball into right field. Everyone stood up to cheer -- the guy on third scored, and the game looked to be tied.
Except the unimaginable happened.
He was thrown out at first.
The game was over.
Joy turned to misery in an instant.
Those same emotions have been felt by Davante Adams' fantasy owners -- and Packer fans alike -- this season. A young receiver with all the opportunity in the world, one who was beloved by many, stepped up to the plate. And instead of hitting a game-winning single, he's been thrown out at first from right field. Over and over and over again.
Could we have seen this coming? Perhaps. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which you can read more about in our glossary, Adams was actually really inefficient a season ago. His Reception NEP per target average was just 0.58, which ranked 62nd of the 90 wide receivers last year with 30 or more receptions. More importantly, that per-target rate was by far the worst among Packer wideouts -- Jordy Nelson's Reception NEP per target was 0.93, and Randall Cobb's was 0.94. Those were two top-10 averages.
So in the same situation as other Packer wide receivers, Adams was seeing just 62% of the efficiency as the other stud wideouts on the team.
Was it because he was a rookie? That's was certainly a possibility, and it was also a reason for some optimism entering 2015. But things have gotten even worse this year.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has targeted Adams 64 times this year, and Adams has caught just 32 of those passes. We've seen worse catch rates than that among higher-volume receivers, to be clear, but most of the wideouts who see that low of catch rates also have accumulated high yards per reception averages. In other words, they're deep ball threats -- their catch rates are lower because they're seeing lower percentage throws.
Adams isn't one of those deep ball guys, as he has a 10.1 yards per reception average right now. Since targets started being recorded back in 1992, per Pro Football Reference, only 17 wide receivers have averaged 11 or fewer yards per reception with a 50% (or worse) catch rate while seeing 60 or more targets in a season.
Davante Adams is one of those players.
And among this group of 17 -- remember, these are guys who have caught 50% or fewer of their targets while seeing 60 or more targets -- Adams' 10.1 yards per reception rate is fifth worst.
Predictably, this has translated to our advanced analytics. Since the turn of the century, 1,198 wide receivers have caught 30 or more passes, excluding this season. In terms of Reception NEP per target -- our per-target efficiency metric -- Davante Adams' current campaign would rank 1,186th within the group.
But you could actually argue that Adams is having -- pretty easily, too -- the worst season our database has ever seen. Because, as you know, poor wide receiver play often has a lot to do with quarterback performance, too.
And when you look at the wide receiver situations among the guys ranked below Adams, it's very clear -- and I mean very clear -- that Adams is in the best situation of them all. Take a look at the chart below which depicts each of these wide receivers, as well as the individual wideout's team schedule-adjusted Passing NEP per drop back average that season.
|Year||Receiver||Team Passing NEP per Drop Back|
If you've followed our Net Expected Points metric in the past and understand it, then you're probably on the floor either laughing or crying right now.
This is sincerely ridiculous.
Adams is playing with a quarterback who's averaged, when adjusted for strength of opponent, 0.16 Passing Net Expected Points per drop back. As it stands, that's 12th best in football. The guys on this list didn't have close to that kind of efficiency from their signal-callers, as you can see -- especially David Terrell, who caught passes from the Chris Chandler-Kordell Stewart-Rex Grossman triumvirate back in 2003.
I think Aaron Rodgers is just a little better than those guys. Just a little.
Of course, there's time for Adams to right the ship. But as it stands, it's pretty safe to say that he's having one of the worst seasons we've ever seen from a wide receiver.