The Green Bay Packers season may have had yet another unfavorable ending, but the year as a whole featured many top performances. Many players on both sides of the ball elevated their games, which is what led to them playing at Lambeau Field in January. Of the players who elevated their games, among the most notable was wide receiver Davante Adams.
With the NFL resembling more of a 7-on-7 passing league than the league from a few decades ago, wide receivers have become just as big of stars as anyone. They are absolute freak athletes. Wide receivers are also more skilled than ever, with every season’s rookies being the most NFL-ready we have ever season.
Still, there are some players who are capable of developing their skills and growing as a player, and there may not be a better example than what we have seen from Davante Adams in his career.
Davante Adams Early Career Struggles
Packer fans everywhere spent a great deal of this season complaining about the struggles of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and it reminded me a lot of another receiver who had some struggles early in his career. Davante Adams.
Drafted 53rd overall out of Fresno State, Adams was far from a lock to be a star. While his route-running was unfairly criticized, he was nowhere near as immaculate as he is now. Just for laughs, take a look at his draft profile cons from Bleacher Report:
- Plays very sloppily and inconsistently.
- Timing of his routes and effort when making cuts is inconsistent, at best.
- Seems to play lazily at times and rounds off his routes.
- He lacks the athleticism to have such a passive approach to the game.
- Extremely inconsistent in his body placement on 50-50 balls.
- Faster than he is quick.
- He can pick up chucks of yardage after the catch when given space, but he struggles to shake defensive backs if he doesn’t haul in the pass with immediate room to run.
- Played a fairly simplistic role in Fresno State’s offense, featuring a lot of screens, comebacks and go routes.
They actually called him sloppy, inconsistent and lazy. Hilarious.
The biggest issue Packer fans had with Adams was his hands (remind you of anyone?). Adams has four drops his rookie year. This spiked to 10 and nine in his second and third years, respectively. To compare it to present day, Adams has two drops on 170 targets — not too shabby.
Davante Adams Clear Top WR in 2020
All rankings consider players with at least 50 targets, unless otherwise noted.
Davante Adams’ stats in 2020 were absolutely remarkable, especially once you consider he missed two games and also didn’t have a true number two threat to draw attention away from him.
In just 14 games, Adams tied for fourth in receiving yards (1,374) and second in receptions (115). Of course, he led the league with a remarkable 18 receiving touchdowns. While these typical stats clearly show Adams is among the best, more advanced stats prove he is the best wide receiver in football.
Adams was second in the NFL in first downs caught (73). This means 79.1% of his receptions went for either a touchdown or first down, and this was the result 62.3% of the times he was even targeted.
His footwork is absolutely legendary at this point, allowing him to get open against anyone. It also helps as a ball carrier, as he led wide receivers in yards after the catch, with 584. Adams also led all wide receivers or tight ends in yards per route ran, with 2.96 (of players with at least five receptions).
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There is zero doubt that MVP Aaron Rodgers makes Adams a better player, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Adams also makes Rodgers better. Adams is very clearly the best wide receiver in the NFL right now, and it’s even more remarkable when we consider where he was to begin his career.
The next time we go to criticize a player for early career struggles, we should remember just how much some are able to develop.