Editor’s Note: This article is part of a continuing series from our Fantasy Footballers writing staff highlighting the possibility of potential WR1 seasons for 2017.
This series involves taking a player ranked outside The Ballers Consensus Top 15 WR rankings and projecting the results needed to finish as a WR1. In this installment of our path to WR1 series, I will examine the steps needed for the Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams to finish as a top wide out this season, and then forecast just how probable a WR1 finish is for Adams. While it seems that the consensus across the fantasy community is that regression is coming for Adams, could there be potential for him to build on last year’s success and finish as a WR1 this year?
Find out how Davante Adams graded out on film in our What’s On Tape series.
Davante Adams experienced the classic third-year breakout last year, setting career highs in all receiving categories in 2016. He entered the season with rumors swirling of being a potential roster cut as a result of inconsistent play in his first two years. (As one who watches every Packers game, trust me, that’s being kind.) Fortunately for him, his biggest advocates included head coach Mike McCarthy and QB Aaron Rodgers, and he held onto his role in the Green Bay offense. Rodgers stuck with him through the tough times and continued to target him frequently, and the chemistry formed between the two played out in a big way in 2016. Adams saw a healthy jump in targets and an improved catch rate along with an increase across the board compared to his first two seasons:
His production after the Packers Week 4 bye through Week 17 was good enough for fifth amongst WRs in fantasy scoring last year, a group that also included fellow wide out Jordy Nelson. Adams has proven capable of producing fantasy WR1 numbers as the Packers’ WR2 in a decent sample size, but can he carry last year’s performance into this season?
The Path for 2017
Adams enters the season healthy once again after spending his first couple seasons struggling with nagging injuries that clearly impacted his production. He spent time working with his former college WR coach refining his craft during the offseason, and reported to camp leaner and lighter having shed 6 pounds during the offseason. The hope is that a lighter Adams can release quicker off the line to create more separation allowing the opportunity for more targets from Rodgers, who has already been targeting Adams in tight spaces due to his ability to haul in contested passes.
Target Share– The targets for Green Bay pass-catchers continue to grow as Rodgers has increased his pass attempts in each of the last three seasons, finishing with a career high 610 last season. Adams was targeted on 19.8% of those throws and should continue to be a top target again this season. However, it is difficult to project him seeing much of an increase in target percentage this season with the TE position revamped and ready to contribute in a greater way along with Randall Cobb returning to full health after hobbling through the season last year. With the benchmark for WR1 production usually around a 22% target share, Adams is likely to fall short of that mark in among a group of crowded pass catchers.
Catch Rate– After two seasons with a catch rate hovering just over 50%, last season saw some improvement as Adams hauled in 62% of his targets. More impressively was his 75% contested catch conversion rate, as pointed out in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception featured in the Ultimate Draft Kit, a skill that comes in handy when dealing with the pinpoint precision of Rodgers who is able to thread the ball into tiny windows. It’s clear that Adams has the complete trust of Rodgers and that their growing bond on the field allows Adams to see steady targets even without getting great separation against CBs. He is able to capitalize on those opportunities with his high contested catch rate, which is a big reason why he was able to reach a total of 12 TDs last year.
Receptions– With a similar share of targets as last season looking likely, he’ll likely post similar receptions as well. In fact, looking at the Ballers projections, the combined average of their three projections have him slated for another 75 catch season. The Packers spread the ball around to many capable weapons across the field which can result in Adams disappearing at times, as evidenced last season when he tallied three receptions or less in seven games. On the flipside, he had back-to-back games of over 12 receptions in Weeks 6-7. Counting on steady production is a gamble, Adams is more of a boom-or-bust player with obvious TD dependency.
Yards– Adams posted a pedestrian 8.24 yards per target last year, but that number is slightly weighted down by his usage in the red zone, where he saw 20 targets. His average distance of target (aDOT) was 11.9, not spectacular but again when factoring in red zone targets causing a dip it hides the fact that he is capable of the big play, maintaining a 13.3 yards-per-catch average. He likely finishes in the same range as last year with the Ballers predicting a slight regression with 934 yards as the combined average total.
TDs– Adams scored 12 TDs last season as a heavily utilized option in the red zone. The addition of Martellus Bennett could shake things up in the red zone and see Adams featured a little less frequently. However, with Aaron Rodgers averaging over 38 TDs over his last five healthy seasons there will be plenty of scoring opportunities for Adams. The general consensus across the fantasy industry is for a TD regression here, but finishing with 10 TDs is still a legitimate possibility. Adams is a force to contend with near the goal line with instinctual box-out skills paired with tremendous leaping ability.
WR1 Possibility: Longshot (8.8%)
The percentage is based upon the combined average of the Fantasy Footballers writing staff. The consensus throughout the fantasy industry is that a TD regression is coming and that Adams will see a dip in fantasy production. A line of 75/935/9 seems to be a pretty standard projection, which would have him falling short of WR1 status. It’s too risky to double down on TD production and his capped target potential limits upside and likely keeps him from producing at a WR1 level this season. But keep in mind, Hail Mary passes are the ultimate longshot and they’ve become just another routine play in Green Bay, so maybe falling into the longshot category isn’t such a bad thing for Adams on his path to becoming a WR1 this season.
Davante Adams has a current draft position of 4.08 as the 21st WR off the board according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. That appears to be a pretty fair value for securing one of Aaron Rodgers’ top weapons. His path to WR1 status relies on avoiding TD regression and increasing target share in a loaded offense, with a more likely scenario of producing as a WR2.