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Player Faceoff: Davante Adams

Two staffers go head-to-head and discuss Davante Adams

The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.

High Side: Will Grant

After a disappointing 2015 season, Davante Adams had a strong showing last year and finished as the #7 fantasy wide receiver last year posting 75 receptions for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns. Adams was also a bit part of Green Bay's deep run into the playoffs, despite battling an ankle injury sustained during the exciting win against Dallas. He comes into the 2017 season healthy and having spent a chunk of the summer focused on improving his skills and eliminating the drops that have held him back throughout his first three seasons.

Can Adams return to those lofty stats in 2017? Perhaps. It's important to take a look at what helped get Adams there in the first place.

  • Aaron Rodgers. Not much else to say. Rodgers had a staggering 40 touchdowns to 7 interceptions ratio last season and posted a career high 610 passing attempts. Over the last three years, Rodger has 12,600 yards passing with 109 passing touchdowns against just 20 interceptions. He's about as consistent as they come for a quarterback and he's showing no signs of slowing down. Adams performance in the playoffs shows that Rogers has confidence in him in key situations and should continue to look to Adams this season as well.
  • Lack of running game. Ty Montgomery took over the starting running back position in Week 4, and although he performed well for a converted wide receiver, he really isn't built to handle 250+ carries for a season. With Eddie Lacy now officially out of the way, the Packers only added Jamaal Williams (4th round pick) and Aaron Jones (5th round pick) in the draft, sending a strong indication that Montgomery will return as their #1 back. While 600 pass attempts are probably not in the cards for Rodgers again this season, there will be plenty of opportunities for Adams to continue to produce.
  • Lack of double coverage. With Jordy Nelson posting #1 wide receiver fantasy numbers on the opposite side of the field, and Randall Cobb keeping defenses honest (when he is not injured), Adams was still able to post some impressive stats last season. Nelson is entering his 10th season, but he's still the clear #1 wide receiver for the Packers and will draw the most attention from opposing defenses. Randall Cobb brings versatility and speed to the offense, and he's dangerous when he's 100%. With defenses unable to double-team him, Adams did some serious damage and defenses will face the same challenges his season. Working one-on-one against weaker opposition makes Adams a great option for Rodgers again this year.

Although it's easy to see a big upside to Adams this year, it is important to approach his upside with a bit of caution. As Jason points out, a big chunk of Adams's fantasy value came from his 12 touchdowns. With Martellus Bennett in the mix, it's going to be very hard for Adams to repeat his double-digit touchdowns performance again this year. That probably leaves him outside of the top-10 fantasy wide receivers for 2017 unless Nelson or Cobb miss extended time due to injury.

I like Adams as a strong WR2 with upside in the top 15 this season if he can produce 10+ touchdowns again.

Low Side: Jason Wood

Davante Adams was a classic third-year breakout in 2016, ending the season as the 7th ranked fantasy receiver. Adams caught 75 receptions for 997 yards (13.3 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns, and displaced Randall Cobb as the “best receiver not named Jordy Nelson.” It was a stunning reversal from two forgettable seasons that saw Adams amass 88 receptions for 929 yards (10.6 yards per catch) and four touchdowns over 29 games.

It’s entirely possible things finally clicked for Adams last year, and he’s now established himself as one of the league’s promising young wide receivers. After all, he catches passes from the best quarterback in the NFC (if not the entire league) and opposing defenses must also contend with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Martellus Bennett.

While the upside is legitimate, there are reasons for caution on draft day. Adams’ twelve touchdowns were the main reason for his fantasy ascendance, and long-time fantasy owners know touchdowns are the most variable component of productivity. The touchdown rate for any player varies from year to year, and generally, outlier seasons are ripe for mean regression.

  • 2014 – Adams caught three touchdowns on 66 targets (4.5%)
  • 2015 – One touchdown on 94 targets (1.1%)
  • 2016 – Twelve touchdowns on 121 targets (9.9%)

You can see Adams has ranged from awesome (2016) to average (2014) to awful (2015) in three seasons. Adams can’t maintain last year’s fantasy value without sustaining an unsustainable TD% or making up for regression with more targets. Is that likely? Consider:

  • Adams’ 121 targets last year were the 8th most in the Aaron Rodgers’ era
  • Jordy Nelson has been the top target in three of the last four seasons (he was on injured reserve the other year)
  • Randall Cobb was targeted 127 and 129 times in 2014 and 2015, respectively

With Cobb and Nelson healthy, and Martellus Bennett added to the mix, it seems impossible for Adams to see more targets. To put a final point on the issue of touchdown regression, consider Adams’ teammate Randall Cobb. Cobb caught 91 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014; a 9.4% touchdown rate.

  • 2012 – Cobb caught eight touchdowns on 112 targets (7.1%)
  • 2013 – Four touchdowns on 47 targets (8.5%)
  • 2014 – Twelve touchdowns on 127 targets (9.4%)
  • 2015 – Six touchdowns on 129 targets (4.7%)
  • 2016 – Four touchdowns on 84 targets (4.8%)

There are simply too many mouths to feed for Adams to improve his target share, and his touchdown rate was an outlier relative to his career mark and historical norms for the Packers and league-wide. Add that risk to the cherry of too many dropped passes, particularly in the red zone, and betting on Adams to repeat as a fantasy WR1 is a risky proposition.

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