In this series, we will take a deep statistical dive into many common perceptions in fantasy football to find out if they are Facts or Myths. All of the data presented can be found within FFStatistics, and we look to leverage the tools to challenge narratives to find out what the real truth is. In this edition of Fantasy Mythbusters, we will look into the myth that Davante Adams is an inefficient receiver.
Is Davante Adams An Inefficient Wide Receiver?
Davante Adams has burst onto the fantasy football scene over the past two years following a disappointing sophomore
campaign. Fantasy owners in both seasonal and dynasty leagues are valuing Adams as a top-ten wide
receiver. However, there is a common perception that Adams is an inefficient pass catcher. Let’s look at the facts we
- Adams plays with Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the league
- He has never eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving
- The past two seasons, over 25% of Adams’ fantasy points have come from touchdowns
- He owns a career YPR (yards per reception) of 11.9
- Based on a career YPR of 11.9 and career Catch% of 59.5%, Adams would need 142 targets to eclipse 1,000 yards
Based on what we have above, it’s easy to paint a picture that Adams is a touchdown-dependent wide receiver. His upside has clearly relied upon getting double-digit touchdowns, which he has collected over the past two seasons. The question is, can he sustain that touchdown rate? That remains to be seen, but fantasy owners are banking on it. One main point of this series is to not just understand the data itself but to also understand the context of the data. Lack of context is often what leads to potential fantasy myths, so let’s dive deeper to understand Adams’ efficiency, or lack thereof, to debunk or confirm this myth.
Wide Receiver Market Share
First, before we dig in, I want to preface the idea of Market Share for anyone that’s not familiar with this concept. Market Share (MS), simply put, is just the Player’s Total divided by the Team’s Total. An example of this would be MS Targets. If Player A received 100 targets and his team threw the ball 500 times, we would say that Player A’s MS of Targets is 100/500, or 20%. I’ll be referencing MS throughout this and other articles, as it is a great tool to look at for context.
Davante Adams has posted a relatively low yards per reception (YPR) throughout his career. However, he has improved slightly over the past two seasons. In order to put his YPR in context, I looked at every player in 2017 who had at least 20% MS Receiving Yards or higher on the season and plotted their MS Rec Yards over their MS Receptions. This would indicate how efficient Adams was at turning his opportunity (receptions) into yards in the context of his team. Adams’ data is in orange throughout this piece.
Interpreting this data, we see that Adams actually over-indexed the linear estimation of how much MS of Yards he would have been expected to generate with his MS Receptions. Adams is not among elite wide receivers here but was far more efficient given the context of his offense. Higher than players like Alshon Jeffery, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Stefon Diggs. (Who all fall below the line, data table below).
Looking historically back to 2014 when Davante Adams entered the league, we can build a more complete trend line using the same criteria as before:
Davante Adams’ 2016 and 2017 seasons both made the filter criteria, and they can be seen above in orange. Adams improved both in MS and efficiency from 2016-17, and his 2016 season did not even under-index expectations much. With Jordy Nelson out of the picture, Adams has the opportunity to gain even more MS Receptions and Yards in 2018. From a historical performance lens, we should expect Adams to come in around or above the trend line again.
Red Zone Targets
One key piece of context we are missing from our efficiency analysis is the context of where Adams’ receptions come from. It’s no secret, and it’s been discussed here that Adams is a major threat in the Red Zone. Is there anything that we can take away from that to help in analyzing Adams’ efficiency numbers? Take a look at the chart below. It plots a receivers % of targets in the Red Zone to his total number of targets.
This universe of players is the exact same as we previously analyzed, just through a different lens. We can see that Adams 2016-17 seasons were both among the league highs in the percentage of targets in the Red Zone since 2014. This helps explain Adams’ touchdown success, but it also gives more context to his yardage output. Adams is used far more than his peers in an area that restricts total potential yardage.
The narrative that Adams is touchdown dependent due to inefficient YPR compared to other elite players is misrepresenting his usage. Adams is used more than others in the Red Zone, so his YPR and touchdowns should be lower and higher. However, we analyzed through MS efficiency metrics that Adams has been just as efficient as his peers over the past two years. All while receiving one of the highest percentages of his targets in the Red Zone in the league each year.
— NFL (@NFL) October 8, 2017
Davante Adams is an elite player that is well worth the high draft pick fantasy owners are paying this year. Putting his efficiency metrics in the context of the Packers offense, and usage within the system, we can identify that Adams has thrived in his role. I’m excited to see what Adams can do this year with potentially less competition for targets. Even if his touchdown totals regress, Adams efficiency will help buoy him as one of the top receivers in fantasy.