Packers receiver Davante Adams caught fire in third season
PACKERS BY POSITION: WIDE RECEIVERS
Green Bay — Twelve months ago, Davante Adams’ future in Green Bay was tenuous, at best.
Today, Adams could be positioning himself to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid wide receivers.
Adams is coming off a huge 2016 season in which he tied for second in the NFL with 12 touchdown receptions, caught 75 passes, and fell just short of 1,000 receiving yards at 997.
Adams, set to enter his fourth NFL season, is in the prime of his life and just so happens to be entering a contract year, as well. Adams won’t turn 25 until Christmas Eve, has a complete understanding of everything the Packers do on offense, and is loved by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins shapes up as the No. 1 free agent wide receiver in March 2018. After Hopkins, though, Adams could be No. 2 among a group that might also include Philadelphia’s Alshon Jeffery, Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins and Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson.
“That’s definitely not the type of focus you want to go into a season with,” Adams said of his impending free agency. “I’ve seen so many guys come into that way and lose focus and lose sight of what they’re actually playing for. You play to get a ring, so I’m not out here thinking about the money. I’m just trying to play ball and do what I can to help this team out. All that stuff will take care of itself at the end of the year or whenever it does. We’ll let it happen then.”
The Packers will have a gifted group of potential free agents in 2018 that includes safety Morgan Burnett, center Corey Linsley, guard Lane Taylor and cornerback Davon House. But Adams has jumped to the head of that class following an extremely impressive 2016 campaign that silenced many of the doubters.
Adams, a second-round draft choice in 2014, flashed during a solid rookie season. But in 2015, Pro Football Focus ranked Adams 118th out of 119 receivers after he averaged a pedestrian 9.7 yards on his 50 receptions, dropped 12 passes and had just one touchdown.
Adams battled an ankle injury throughout 2015, which clearly had an effect on his production. When healthy in 2016, Adams blossomed into a quality starter.
“Davante Adams made a huge jump,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think a number of things. I think he’d be the first to tell you the injury that he fought through in Year 2, he was definitely much healthier in Year 3.
“Complete understanding of all the positions, obviously an advancement in the route running and the time clock of the coordination between him and Aaron Rodgers was definitely much better last year.”
Adams, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds coming out of Fresno State, will never wow anyone with speed. But he has extremely quick feet at the line of scrimmage, is tough to jam and runs efficient routes.
Adams also benefited from working with receivers coach Luke Getsy in 2016 after McCarthy inexplicably went without a receivers coach in 2015.
“The thing about him was that he grew tremendously in a lot of areas,” Getsy said of Adams. “I think everyone in this room knows how explosive of a player he is and can be.
“He has the vertical leap and the short-area quickness that make him very special, but I think it was, like I said, he made himself a much more well-rounded football player and wide receiver and I think that was the biggest difference. That enables you to be consistent and scary for a defender to line up across from you.”
The emergence of Adams once again gives Green Bay one of the top wide receiver groups in the NFL.
Jordy Nelson, who missed the 2015 season with a torn ACL, made an impressive return last season and led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions. Nelson also caught 97 passes, the fifth most in team history, and posted 1,257 receiving yards.
Nelson, who turned 32 last month, is entering his 10th NFL season and probably won’t ever be the same deep threat he once was. But the extremely crafty Nelson could be even better in 2017, nearly two full years after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.
“I hope he’s one of those guys who has an even better year the year after,” the 33-year-old Getsy said of Nelson. “I think as the year went on, I think we saw him get better and a lot of that, too, was he was not doing many football activities until we started our season.
“I think he was getting in game shape as the season was wearing on, so that’s probably why you saw a really good player by the end of the season again, and I expect nothing less than him to go out and perform at a high level again as soon as we get going.”
Diminutive Randall Cobb (5-10, 192) won’t turn 27 until August. But Cobb might be closer to the end than the beginning and now faces a critical year in Green Bay.
Cobb’s 60 catches last season were his fewest in a full season since his rookie year of 2011. Cobb’s average of 10.2 yards per catch were a career-low. And Cobb had just four touchdowns after averaging nine TDs in 2014-’15.
Cobb operates most effectively out of the slot and lacks the size to pose much of a threat outside. But Nelson’s snaps in the slot rose dramatically last year, plus Green Bay added dangerous tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks this off-season.
That could mean fewer chances for Cobb, who is entering the third year of a four-year, $40 million deal. If Cobb’s production continues to dip, Green Bay will have to decide if he’s a luxury it can no longer afford.
“I don’t think anybody on this football team is as dynamic as that guy is with the football,” Getsy said of Cobb. “So yeah, he’s an important part to our process and us having success for sure. We’ve got to get him the ball.”
Geronimo Allison, an undrafted free agent in 2016, was activated from Green Bay’s practice squad midway through last season. The 6-foot-3 Allison is a huge target, wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment, and finished the year with 12 receptions and two touchdowns.
Veterans Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis also return, and will battle rookies DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre for roster spots. Janis failed to build on his 2015 playoff heroics and caught just 11 passes a year ago. Davis was an early star in training camp last summer, but lacked strength to escape press coverage and caught just three passes all year.
Yancey, a fifth-round pick, has ideal size, but has poor hands and is slow getting into his routes. Dupre, taken in Round 7, played with JV-level QBs at LSU. But Dupre has ideal size and athleticism and could surprise this summer.
While there are several interesting story lines surrounding Green Bay’s wideouts, none will take on as much attention as Adams and his future.
“The biggest thing for me coming into the league was my last year in college I didn’t think about the NFL one time,” Adams said. “I just played ball and went out there and did what I did and let everything take care of itself. It worked out great for me.
“I’m in a perfect place for me and I’m happy where I’m at right now and just going into this season focused and ready to have another successful season.”
MEN IN THE MIX
Name Ht. Wt. Age Exp. College
Jordy Nelson 6-3 217 32 10 Kansas State
Davante Adams 6-1 215 24 4 Fresno State
Randall Cobb 5-10 192 26 7 Kentucky
Geronimo Allison 6-3 202 23 2 Illinois
Jeff Janis 6-3 219 26 4 Saginaw Valley St.
Trevor Davis 6-1 188 23 2 California
DeAngelo Yancey 6-1 220 22 R Purdue
Malachi Dupre 6-2 196 21 R LSU
Max McCaffrey 6-2 200 23 1 Duke
Michael Clark 6-6 217 21 R Marshall
Montay Crockett 6-0 184 23 R Georgia Southern
Colby Pearson 6-0 194 22 R BYU
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