The offseason news of Aaron Rodgers and his potential holdout has thrown fantasy football owners into a frenzy. However, it’s not because Rodgers himself is a must-own, can’t-miss fantasy quarterback. It’s because of everyone else on the Packers’ offense he could impact with his absence – including Davante Adams.
Right after the news broke about Rodgers wanting out in Green Bay, WSH’s Chris Buboltz wrote about the potential fantasy impact for players in Green and Gold.
I am going to look specifically at Adams, as he is the biggest fantasy asset on the Packers offense. Does his value really take a hit like most of the fantasy industry predicts? Let’s dive in.
RODGERS HAS BEEN OUT BEFORE
Everyone assumes Adams’ success rests on Rodgers’ availability. But it’s not like Adams hasn’t caught passes from other quarterbacks.
Rodgers hasn’t always had a clean bill of health. Since Adams was drafted by the Packers in 2014, Rodgers has either missed games, or was nowhere near 100 percent while playing. Here are some examples:
- 2018: A Grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial plateau fracture led to Rodgers being carted off against the Bears during Week 1. He came back to lead a second half charge for a Packers win, but the knee hampered him for most of the season, Packers missed the playoffs, and Mike McCarthy was shown the door.
- 2017: The infamous Anthony Barr hit in Week 6, which ultimately led to the Packers missing the playoffs.
- 2016: Rodgers pulled a hamstring and was bothered by a calf strain for the latter part of the second half of the year.
- 2014: Not to be forgotten, during Adams’ rookie season, Rodgers literally played with a calf tear at the end of the season.
Obviously nobody really plays football at 100 percent, but when you’re the quarterback, it gets magnified.
For the purposes of trying to figure out what Davante Adams’ fantasy output may look like without Rodgers behind center, we will focus specifically at the 2017 season in which he missed a significant amount of time.
ADAMS’ PRODUCTION WITHOUT RODGERS
From the jump, it took Adams a couple years to win over Packer fans and get rid of the dropsies. He had a breakout year in 2016, scoring 12 touchdowns, averaging 13.3 yards per catch and hauling in 75 receptions in his third professional season.
So it seemed as though 2017 was going to be his year to set records with the (at the time) two time league MVP. That is, until Rodgers broke his clavicle.
Here’s a snapshot of Adams’ numbers without Rodgers during that stretch.
In the Week 6 contest, Rodgers was knocked out early after attempting just four passes. His replacement was none other than Brett Hundley.
Adams was the recipient of Hundley’s first career touchdown and 10 total targets in the win against the Vikings.
Obviously his next contest against the New Orleans Saints was forgettable – as was the performance of Hundley and the rest of the Packers.
But if you look at the numbers after the bye week, it’s as though Rodgers never left. Adams averaged 9.5 targets, 6.5 receptions, and almost 80 yards per game. In his Week 14 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, he was peppered with throws and had two touchdowns to boot.
EXTRAPOLATE THE STATS
Now, I’m not a huge fan of “he was on pace for [insert stats here] if he played a full season.” But, if I want to prove my point, I’m going to have to. So, here it goes.
If you take all 8 games that Hundley was the quarterback into a full season, Adams’ numbers turn into this:
- 144 targets
- 92 catches
- 1,086 yards
- 10 touchdowns
And remember, that’s with Brett. Freaking. Hundley. That’s also with a 2 catch, 12 yard, no touchdown clunker against the Saints in Week 7.
Those stats would give him around 261 points in a half ppr league. In 2020, that would have been about 10 points behind DK Metcalf and a finish in the Top 10 fantasy wide receivers.
For reference, Adams had 149 targets in 14 games in a record-breaking 2020 season.
WHAT’S THIS MEAN?
It means that Adams is basically quarterback-proof. Only elite wide receivers don’t need an elite quarterback to manifest their talent. However, when there is an elite quarterback like Rodgers throwing the rock, a season like 2020 could happen. Ya know, 18 receiving touchdowns, 115 catches, etc., etc.
What fantasy owners really need to hope for – if Rodgers is not in Green and Gold – is two fold:
- Jordan Love is better than Hundley. If so, then at least you have somewhat of a reference to the potential output of Adams. He’s not going to get you 18 touchdowns like last season, but he’ll be very relevant.
- Matt LaFleur doesn’t play it safe. Look, in 2017 it was Mike McCarthy at the helm. The guy would throw 70 times a game if he could. For the most part, McCarthy wasn’t holding Hundley back, even though he wasn’t very good. LaFleur, however, may have a different approach with the young Love. Using Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon makes sense. So if LaFleur puts the handcuffs on Love, Adams will be impacted.
WHY THE QB DOESN’T MATTER FOR ADAMS
Adams is a pure athlete. He was a star basketball player in high school and didn’t play football until his junior year. He is, according to Josh Hermsmeyer of 538 prior to the 2020 season, the best of any NFL wide receiver at creating separation
According to Acme Packer Company, “Josh Hermsmeyer of 538 did a deep dive into every NFL receiver over the last three years, breaking down exactly how open they are at the catch point on short, medium, and long passes, and Davante dominated.”
Adams uses his basketball skills to bait defensive backs. He rarely gets tangled up in press coverage, and is a master at the slant and comeback routes. You’ll often see him pause at the line of scrimmage, shimmy a defensive back, and use his long strides to get open.
It’s fun to watch. Ask any quarterback, it’s a lot easier to throw to an open receiver.
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2021
WHAT IS ADAMS’ FANTASY VALUE IN 2021?
There are a couple of terms in the fantasy industry that are used (sometimes overused) that I’ll mention to describe Adams in 2021.
The first is: Regression.
Adams had an incredible, almost unmatchable performance in 2020. He recorded 115 catches, 18 total touchdowns, and nearly 1,400 yards in only 14 games, leading to being ranked fantasy’s number one wide receiver. It’s so insane that the percentage of him repeating this in 2021 whether Rodgers is under center or not is miniscule.
So fantasy owners needed to take the regression factor into account even pre-Rodgers drama.
It still left Adams in the conversation of the top wide receiver to be taken in redraft and startup dynasty leagues, though. Between players like Adams, Tyreek Hill, AJ Brown, DK Metcalf and Justin Jefferson, it was a toss up to who owners preferred.
The second term is: High/low floor and high/low ceiling.
Basically, it’s a nice way to say what the volatility of a player’s performance will likely be.
If Adams does not have Rodgers as his quarterback in 2021, the numbers under Hundley prove he still has a really high floor. As in, he’s matchup-proof and a safe play week in and week out.
At the same time, it’s easy to see his ceiling will be lowered. Again, his numbers were likely to come down this year anyway, but it’d be set in stone sans Rodgers.
SO WHERE DO I DRAFT HIM?
If you are anywhere between picks 8-12 in a PPR re-draft league, Adams is still your guy. Don’t be scared away from the Rodgers situation. Obviously though, there are players like Hill and Brown that seem to be can’t misses, either, so it’s really preference.
But here we focus on dynasty. So if you have a dynasty start up draft soon, other owners will probably fade Adams slightly. But you shouldn’t. Take the chance and make him one of the first three wide receivers taken.
It boils down to this: If Rodgers does not come back, Adams will be just fine. His ceiling will be capped, but he’ll still be a stud. If Rodgers does come back, well, you got yourself the best fantasy wide receiver in football.
Obviously for your dynasty startup you should know the set up of the league – scoring (ppr, tight end premium, etc.), roster (superflex, etc). Adams is 28 years old, and as of now, at least, is a free agent next year. All things you have to take in consideration.
His current ADP (average draft position) in dynasty startups is around pick 14, which in 12 team leagues is the second pick of the second round. It’s a great spot. If you’re sitting there at the back end of the draft with pick 9, 10 or 11, and already selected a young back like Cam Akers, you could potentially pair that with Adams after the turn.
Or, heck, you could maybe pair up a DK Metcalf and Adams, or Tyreek Hill and Adams if you get the chance.
Just don’t fade him!
TRUE OR FALSE: ADAMS’ DYNASTY VALUE TAKES A HIT
He’s still very valuable. He’s still very talented.
Is Adams no longer a slam dunk top three wide receiver without #12? Ok, I’ll give you that. Will there be some natural regression from last season? Undoubtedly. Is he 28-years-old and going on his third NFL contract after the season? Yup.
But if the Packers don’t force feed their best offensive weapon, no matter who is under center, there’ll be issues.
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