It may seem like every season, the same wide receivers are at the top of the ranks. For the most part, this is true; however, there have been 8 different WRs to finish as the #1 wideout in the past 10 seasons. Only two WRs were repeated on this list and they both went back to back (Calvin Johnson: 2011/2012 & Antonio Brown 2014/2015). You don’t have to look back too far to find the #1 fantasy WR from an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. In 2016, Jordy Nelson dominated and finished the year as the #1 WR.
After a season-ending injury in 2017, Aaron Rodgers is healthy and is without his #1 target from just 2 seasons ago. Enter Davante Adams. Adams began to take over last season as the #1 target in the Packers’ offense. 2018 presents a clean slate for both Rodgers and Adams to connect on a consistent basis from the very beginning of the season. Can Davante Adams be the #1 WR in 2018? Let’s dig into the numbers and find out!
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The last time we saw Davante Adams in an entire season with Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson was still the go-to receiver. Despite Jordy Nelson leading the team in targets and receptions, Davante Adams finished the season with very similar numbers across the board. Adams was very productive, posting a career-high in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Even as the second option in his own offense he still finished as a WR1, the 8th best fantasy WR in 2016. This is what Aaron Rodgers is capable of, producing two top 8 WRs from the same team.
2016 Red Zone
Nelson and Adams combined for 54 red zone targets in 2016. Nelson led the team with 31 of those targets. They also combined for 20 TDs in the red zone. Clearly, Aaron Rodgers leaned heavily on these two in the red zone. They combined for 48% of Rodgers’ red zone completions and represented over 60% of his red zone touchdown passes. Still, Jordy Nelson was favored in 2016, which limited Davante Adams’ opportunities in the red zone. Pretty crazy to say that about someone that finished second in the league among WRs in red zone targets that year. Obviously, this means that Jordy Nelson was #1 in the league in red zone targets. If only Nelson wasn’t in the way…
The 2017 season represented variance for the Packers wideouts. Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 6. Suddenly, his top 2 targets were faced with catching passes from backup quarterback, Brett Hundley. It quickly became a tale of two WRs. Davante Adams continued to excel while Jordy Nelson’s production fell off a cliff. This would not have been the case if Rodgers remained healthy. Both WRs should have finished the season with stronger overall stat lines.
Nelson actually finished the season as the 3rd best WR for the Packers. Randall Cobb slid past Nelson in targets, receptions, fantasy points, and had the best catch % on the team, so I’d expect an increase in production for Cobb this year as well. Davante Adams ended the season as the 14th ranked WR. He led the Packers in both targets (117) and receptions (74) despite only playing in 14 games. It’s encouraging to see that Adams can still produce in a season without Aaron Rodgers for the majority of it and finish close to a WR1.
2017 Red Zone
2017 was a different story for red zone target distribution. With Adams slowly escaping the shadow of Jordy Nelson, he finished the season with 23 red zone targets. Adams only fell behind Jarvis Landry (24) and Keenan Allen (24) for WRs. There is someone that led the league in red zone targets in 2017, that now finds himself on the Green Bay Packers and his name is Jimmy Graham. It’s clear, the red zone is where Graham did the majority of his damage last year. You may find this to be an issue for Davante Adams in 2018 but I think this could actually help him in the red zone. Yes, Jimmy Graham will get his red zone targets in 2018 but Aaron Rodgers is not known for targeting TEs on a regular basis. After Graham led the NFL in red zone targets last year, defenses should plan on double-teaming him in the red zone this year, leaving some open space for Rodgers’ trusted target, Davante Adams.
We began to see the “changing of the guard” last season between Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson. This year, Aaron Rodgers is healthy and Jordy Nelson is a Raider. Both represent good news for Davante Adams’ volume and overall production. Now, let’s dive into some 2018 projections for Davante Adams.
In seasons where Rodgers plays 16 games, his #1 target represents 23.5% of his completions on average. Rodgers averages 358.5 completions in a full regular season. If Davante Adams can average 23.5% of Rodgers average completions in 2018, he’ll end up with 84 receptions which would be a career high. Adams has an average of 12.65 yards per receptions in his past 2 seasons. If he continues on that pace, he should be projected for 1,063 yards in 2018, also a career high. Finally, let’s not forget his amazing touchdown rate of 11 per season in his past two years. Typically, this rate is unsustainable but as Aaron Rodgers’ #1 red zone target in a full season, it’s foreseeable for Davante Adams will have double-digit touchdowns yet again in 2018. In fact, Rodgers’ top receiver in the touchdown department averages 10.66 TDs per season. Remember, these are numbers based on averages and I don’t view 2018 as an average year for Adams. Adams can have a career year with better than average numbers, which will easily put him in the #1 WR conversation.
If Davante Adams can finish as the 8th best WR in a year where he was the second target on his team, imagine what his ceiling is as the #1 wide receiver in an Aaron Rodgers led offense for a complete season. Given the opportunity he has in the highly productive Packers’ offense this season, Davante Adams has a true shot to become the #1 fantasy football WR in 2018. I will be one of the few that will not be shocked to see this happen.