Davante Adams Is Ready for the Top Spot - Footballguys

A look at why Davante Adams has earned his spot as a top NFL - and fantasy - receiver in 2018.

Next Man Up

With the departure of Jordy Nelson for Oakland, the Green Bay Packers are in need of a new top receiver, and Davante Adams has ascended to that role. That also makes him the man for fantasy general managers as well, as he will see plenty of targets from Aaron Rodgers.

Nelson -- as the team's top receiver -- saw an average of 130 targets a season over the last three years, though it was higher before a disastrous 2017 with injuries for both Nelson and Rodgers. This season with Rodgers healthy and Nelson gone, Adams should approach the 150 target level Nelson saw in 2015 and 2016.

It’s no secret, either, as Adams’ early ADP would indicate. As of press time, Adams is the 8th receiver off the board and 19th player overall. That means you’re going to have to pay to play, as most players will have Adams on their radar.

He’s 100 percent worth it, however. The top option in a Packers offense usually is, and while he’s not the same type of receiver Nelson was—possession vs. vertical threat, which means a possible lower yards per catch average—he showed us he can more than make up the difference.

Leading Receiver
Jordy Nelson
Jordy Nelson
Randall Cobb
Jordy Nelson


First and foremost, we should expand on the opportunity—or indeed opportunities—Adams is going to have in this offense.

Adams led the team with 118 targets. Randall Cobb was not far behind with 92. It’s a good sign that Adams was already ahead of the pack (so to speak) last year, especially when we consider Brett Hundley was throwing the ball most of the time. If we move even a quarter of Nelson’s targets to Adams that puts him close to what the top targeted receiver each year had.

In the chart above, we see Nelson dominated that stat three out of the previous four years and the only year he didn’t was in 2015, which he missed due to injury. Cobbs led the team in 2015, followed closely by James Jones (99) with Adams right behind in the No. 3 slot (94).

The Packers like to throw— we all know this. In the span of time covered by the graph above, Green Bay averaged 575 attempts a year. Add in last season’s 561 attempts and it’s still a fantastic 572.

Moreover, the primary receiver, when Rodgers is under center, is catching between 22 and 28 percent of the targets. Even last season, when we had a Frankenstein’s Monster at quarterback between Rodgers and Hundley, Adams, the leading target, accounted for 21% of team targets in spite of missing the final two games.

Now the question is: can he convert those into yards, touchdowns and, more importantly, fantasy points?

Grabby Hands

Adams has come a long way since his early days in the NFL. His first two years—2014 and 2015—Adams caught just 57 and 55 percent of the passes thrown his way and at times, looked lost. There were several moments where observers wondered if he would be another of missed opportunity, another Jarrett Boykin—a guy who looked good on paper but never fulfilled his promise.

However, 2016 was a massive improvement for Adams. He broke the 60 percent barrier, catching 91 of 146 targets, or 62 percent. There were doubters heading into 2017, though, and the question was whether the previous year was an aberration. After all, there were two seasons of support that he was a sub-50 percent receiver.

Happily, Adams held at 62 percent.

Adams seems to have worked the bugs out, and even better, was able to keep it up even when he was the ostensible No. 1 receiver on his team as Nelson faded. There were still some drops, but he's catching enough of his targets that he still puts up good yardage.

Double Trouble

Adams is the only wide receiver in the league to have double-digit touchdowns in 2016 (12) and 2017 (10).

It's reasonable to expect Adams to continue the feat for a third consecutive season.

One of the reasons is because of his success in the red zone. Adams scored seven of his 10 scores last year in the red zone. He was second on the team in red zone touches, not counting quarterbacks. His 23 touches only trailed Jamaal Williams' 24.

Some might worry that his red zone touches might drop with Jimmy Graham at tight end, but it’s worth noting two things. First, Adams scored 12 touchdowns in 2016 when Nelson managed 14. Adams has earned Aaron Rodgers' trust. Why would that change in 2018?

Second, how many times have fantasy analysts gotten excited about a tight end emerging in Green Bay, only to have it fail to materialize? Graham may be better than the others, but he’s still had an inconsistent career, and at 31 years old (32 by the end of the season), he’s on the back end of his time in the NFL.

There’s also the fact that the Packers, despite the hype every year, don’t use the tight ends in the red zone all that much, at least not since Jermichael Finley, when tight ends were targeted 27 (2007) and 23 (2011) times.

And even then, Finley himself saw less than 20 targets. The position did total 23 the year after Finley left, with Andrew Quarless getting 15, but that was also a year that Cobb and Nelson had 28 and 29 respectively, so it didn’t impact anything.

There’s no worry about Graham eating into Adams’ red zone targets.


David Dodds
Bob Henry
Jason Wood
Maurile Tremblay
Andrew Garda

Final Thoughts

While there are concerns—health and drops among them—Adams' situation and ability overwhelm them. The Packers are not going to stop throwing the ball, and Aaron Rodgers always has a favorite. With Jordy Nelson gone and Randall Cobb inconsistent, there's nobody to compete with Adams for that title. Meanwhile, his catch percentage has risen, his yards and touchdowns have been consistent enough to set your watch by (if you owned one which, come to think of it, you probably don't), and he will get a huge amount of the targets Nelson once did. Now that Rodgers is healthy, those stats should all continue to improve.

Adams had a rough start to his career, but he's straightened out and now has two very productive seasons under his belt. He's ready to take over what has been one of the most productive fantasy wide receiver situations in fantasy, and that makes him worth the price.

Thoughts from the Shark POOL (Footballguys Message Board)

Elevencents is worried about drops, but is still excited

"Had him his breakout season and not gonna lie his hands looked terrible. Not sure what his drop pct was but it was frustrating watching so many balls hit him right on the hands and fall away. Full disclosure I did not watch him at all last year so he may have amended those faults but what I remember was not pretty. Can’t be anything but excited for his situation tho."

Gally’s concerns revolve around health

"I would be more worried about Adams staying healthy. I am not buying at his current price and having two concussions in the span of 3 months makes me run away. I will likely not be drafting him at his price point."

JetMaxx thinks 1200/10 is the expectation

"He’s been paired with ARod in my dynasty for what seems to be an eternity, Kept him through some tough early years and Jordy. It’s now $ time. I’ll be disappointed with less than 1200/10 if ARod stays healthy. Loving life with Adams and AJ as 1A/1B."

Barackdhouse thinks Adams will be a long-term producer

"I got him in an FFPC style startup in 2015. I came very, very close to cutting him in the first offseason. Now he is the only player I have left from that startup. I expect big things. He is 25 years old. He has the tools to dominate with Rodgers for several more years. The concussion question *does* give me pause. Also, I think Graham only makes the offense better."