Fresno State receiver Davante Adams is brought down by USC's Kevin Greene during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on Dec. 21, 2013 in Las Vegas. / File/Getty Images
Davante Adams didn’t always know who James Jones was, but can certainly see the similarities he shares with the former Green Bay Packers receiver today.
A little more than a month after losing the seven-year veteran to free agency, Packers general manager Ted Thompson replaced Jones with a receiver of a similar ilk in Adams, a redshirt sophomore out of Fresno State taken with the team’s second-round pick (53rd overall).
Like Jones before him, Adams isn’t a behemoth at 6-foot-07⁄8, 212 pounds and won’t set a scout’s stopwatch on fire with eye-bending speed or quickness.
It’s what you see when you throw on the game film that sets Adams apart, including a productive two-year collegiate career in which he amassed 233 catches for 3,030 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Adams, who caught 24 of Derek Carr’s 50 touchdown passes in 2013, didn’t need a 4.2-second time in the 40-yard dash to do it, either. A 4.56 time at February’s scouting combine is more than enough to get the job done.
“You see a lot of these guys who are maybe track stars who can run all over the place, but you still have to go up and catch the ball and spacing, and have releases,” Adams said. “The guys who are covering you are fast, too. It doesn’t mean as much to be able to run a 4.2 if you can’t get off a press or go up and high-point a ball. I feel like those are definitely more important qualities.”
Adams, 21, was a two-sport prospect in football and basketball coming out of high school, and teased playing both sports when he chose Fresno State. He settled on football after redshirting his freshman year.
That wait prepared him for Friday when he was the ninth receiver drafted in a class regarded as one of the deepest in recent years. The wait was admittedly “pretty brutal,” but a full contingent of friends and family erupted when the Packers chose him.
What stood out to receivers coach Edgar Bennett was his combine interview with Adams. The more he watched, the more he noticed traits mirroring those of Jones, a third-round pick in 2007 who ran a 4.60 time in the 40 after a productive senior year at San Jose State.
Although Adams didn’t know who Jones was at first, the two Californians became acquainted over the years and now share the same agent, Frank Bauer.
“I didn’t know who he was earlier, but since I’ve been in college I’ve gotten to know him pretty well,” said Adams, who will wear No. 17. “We’ve talked multiple times and I’m happy for what he’s doing now. He’s definitely a great route runner, a really disciplined guy and someone I look up to. We have a little bit different parts to our game, but he’s a great player and many qualities I’ve tried to take on myself.”
Thompson could have gone with a taller receiver who runs roughly the same speed in Indiana’s Cody Latimer, who fell to Denver at No. 56, but it’s hard to argue with his thought process.
Since 2006, the Packers have been better than anyone at unearthing second- and third-round receivers — a fraternity that includes Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jones.
One area in which Adams should quickly be able to make an impact is in the red zone, where the Packers struggled to finish off drives last season, especially after losing tight end Jermichael Finley to a season-ending neck injury.
That was Jones’ calling card in 2012 when he led the league in touchdowns (14). A 39½-inch vertical leap made Adams an easy touchdown target for Carr in Fresno.
“I feel like I’m one of the best playmakers in this draft being able to catch the ball deep or catching the short route and taking it the distance,” Adams said. “I feel like I’m the best red-zone threat in this draft and definitely be utilized that way.”
Now, Adams needs to show he can match Jones’ production and perhaps even surpass it. He played in pro and spread formations in college, which should position him well for the hybrid West Coast scheme Packers coach Mike McCarthy utilizes.
“I see myself fitting in perfectly,” Adams said. “I’m extremely excited that I get to play with these guys. They’ve definitely had a lot of success and can teach me a lot going in with me being a rookie and them having a lot of experience. The more I can learn, the quicker the better. I know they’ll be guys who are open with helping me out and stuff like that.
“We’ll just learn off of each other and try to be the best wideout group in the NFL.”
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