Punch Drunk Wonderland

What to make of Davante Adams in Fantasy Football?

Since Jordan Nelson went down in the preseason many of us have been waiting for Davante Adams to step into a prominent role for the Packers. He has the size and measurables, but he just hasn’t shown that he can produce. That said, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is getting him involved. In Week 10 Adams saw 21 targets. 21! That’s huge. What does that mean going forward? Will he emerge as a viable fantasy option or is he not worth the time. Our friends at numberFire have taken a look.

Rules are Rules

First things first: we watch games like Adams’ and build ourselves a perception of how terrible he’s been, but what exactly are we looking at here? The table below shows his box score stats from his career thus far. What do we find?

Year Rec/Tar Catch Rate Rec Yd TD
2014 38/66 57.6% 446 3
2015* 58/106* 55.1% 588* 0*
Career 65/115 56.5% 718 3

Despite having a projected 40 more targets in 2015 than he did in his rookie year, Adams is on pace for just 142 more receiving yards because of his decrease in catch rate. To put how awful of a pace this is into perspective, per Pro Football Reference, only nine wide receivers since 1992 — when targets began being tracked — have had more than 150 targets, a catch rate lower than 56.5%, and fewer than 1,050 yards in their first two seasons in the NFL.

Perhaps this should be hopeful, that Adams’ career beginning has been so horrid that the odds are he can’t possibly continue to be this bad. But are we certain that’s the takeaway?

Rules Are Made to Be Broken

The easiest thing we could do to fix Davante Adams’ catching woes is to change the definition of a catch once again to include any football thrown to him. Then this article could be over, and you would be happy, and the Packers would win everything.

But it’s not that simple.

Unfortunately, far more goes into the makings of a good NFL receiver than most people believe. We know that an excellent receiver needs precise route-running, sure hands in the receiving game, and even the ability to get off of a jam at the line.

It’s hard to quantify those skills and assign an easy reference number to them, but we can analyze the output via some of these skills through numberFire’s signature metric, Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP helps us take the numbers we get from the box score and assign them contextual value so they relate even closer to the game on the field. By adding down-and-distance value, we can see just how much each play and each team as a whole influence the outcome of games. For more info on NEP, check out our glossary.

The table below depicts Adams’ career so far in terms of Reception NEP and Target NEP, as well as his Reception Success Rate. I also included his ranks among qualifying wide receivers in these metrics by year. Has he really been as atrocious as he’s seemed?

Year Rec NEP Per-Play Target NEP Success Rate
2014 38.42 (69th of 76) 0.58 (54th) 14.16 (57th) 86.8 (t-36th)
2015 18.90 (58th of 62) 0.39 (57th) 0.83 (59th) 77.8% (54th)

Target NEP is one way we can try to assess the details of a wide receiver’s game, from the route-running and catching perspective. It helps to show us which receivers are making themselves the best targets for their quarterbacks. But, if a receiver does have a bad quarterback, they will also have a lower Target NEP; it goes both ways.

However, Adams has Aaron Rodgers, and I don’t think anyone would argue that he’s a bad quarterback.

Adams’ 2015 advanced analytics season is so bad that only six wide receivers since 2000 have had lower per-target Reception NEP marks while still sustaining 100 or more targets. The most recent entries into this group include Cecil Shorts and Andre Johnson in 2014, but even Johnson had a decent (relatively) Target NEP of 3.71. Adams is on pace for just 1.66 Target NEP in 2015.

Even his Success Rate is ridiculously poor, considering the offense he’s playing in and his supposed physical ability. Success Rate — the percentage of positive NEP receptions — can be seen as the combination of both a player’s ability to create positive value and the offense’s ability to put him in a good position to do so.

That said, there have been 16 wide receivers since 2000 with at least 100 targets in a season and lower Success Rates, and every single one of them had a better per-target Reception NEP, including Larry Fitzgerald during the Arizona Cardinals’ 2012 dumpster fire.

So, why hasn’t he made the splash we hoped?

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numberfire)


K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...