A deep wide receivers class comes together at the NFL combine to sing Davante Adams' praises
INDIANAPOLIS - As prospects move around downtown Indianapolis, through Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Convention Center and hotels for the NFL combine, they do so with a backdrop declaring “Next is here.”
The next star, the next record breaker, the next MVP, the next game-changer. The possibilities are endless. For a team balancing on the cusp of greatness but unable to make the final jump in recent years, the Green Bay Packers are open to any and all of those possibilities. There’s no one piece they are desperate to fill as of now, but decisions over the next two weeks could drastically change the look of a storied franchise.
Aside from the cacophony that is the Aaron Rodgers discourse, the Packers face another decision this offseason that is arguably just as important: What to do with wide receiver Davante Adams. In his eighth season with the Packers, the former second-rounder had 132 receptions for 1,643 yards (both career bests) and 11 touchdowns.
The pending free agent is a likely candidate for the franchise tag, with a Tuesday deadline looming. If Green Bay elects to put the tag on Adams, it would still have eight days to work out a new deal before free agency begins at 3 p.m. March 16, when all teams must be under the cap.
Or, if the Packers felt confident in their ability to replace Adams, they could let the free agent walk. In a wide receiver heavy draft, there is a tantalizing option to take the chance.
But in asking receivers at the combine to consider what they could bring to not only the league, but Green Bay, it becomes clear the Packers already have the guy they’re all working to become.
“I mean, you just sit there and watch all (Adams’) game and just the things that he does at a high level is just amazing,” said SMU receiver Reggie Roberson, with a bit of awe.
“His release work, top of the routes, how he separates and how he sets guys up, for me, it's just like poetry.”
So perhaps it’s poetic the Packers are facing a ticking clock, trying to decide if the touchstone (Adams) can be replicated with any of those he’s influenced. Or perhaps even just supplemented, so Adams isn’t triple-teamed again like he was versus the Baltimore Ravens.
There are flashes of Adams in big names such as Georgia’s George Pickens, who watches Adams and Rams receiver Cooper Kupp regularly to mine for tips.
“I can most definitely watch (Adams’) separation,” Pickens said. “I can watch his separation because his releases are really the smoothest I’ve probably ever seen besides (Chad Johnson) Ochocinco. A lot of people compare Davante to a lot of other receivers in the game today when in reality he’s more like Ocho to me.”
Ochocinco has publicly praised Adams as his favorite player and famously was brought to tears while watching clips of Adams' route running two years ago. So if Pickens is correct and Ocho beget Adams (and we’re sticking with the poetry comparisons) the next stanza here would tell of Adams helping to mold a player who can surpass him.
At least that’s what Tre Turner of Virginia Tech is manifesting. He leaves the Hokies as one of the program’s top five receivers in history in receiving yards and receptions. During a week that leans on speed and agility drills, Turner is using Adams as motivation and a reminder: The game isn’t always played in measurables.
“You turn the film on, anytime you see him running, full speed, every single route he's running. He's getting separation from defensive backs very easily, and he catches the ball very well, no matter where the ball is thrown,” Turner said.
“And just seeing him, knowing that he ran like a 4.5 or something at the combine and like I know there's other guys that are way faster than him, but it doesn't matter … he gets separation and he wins on routes. So just watching him, like a lot his tapes, I feel like our games are kind of similar because like I wasn't one of the faster guys in the NCAA but I could get separation. I could catch the ball wherever I needed to catch it.”
Adams in fact ran a 4.59 at the 2014 combine, in the 29th percentile for receivers in his class. It was his worst measurable. His best was a 39.5 inch vertical, in the 89th percentile among receivers that year.
But Adams was a student of the game, precise to the point of cutting in his routes and with the impressive vertical that helps him defy physics to this day. All of these attributes have created game tape that the 2022 receivers have studied so much, it can be recalled in detail.
“He's setting DB's up,” Roberson said. “I seen one route he ran, it was like he set a guy up off of a fade route that he ran earlier in that game and ran a slant off it and he sold his eyes well. He got the DB to look up and then he cut right under it. Just like, the routes that he runs, he sets them up off of other routes and other receivers don't do it like he does it.”
Roberson is right. Other receivers don’t do it like Adams, at least not yet. Now the question remains, is the “next” Davante Adams here in this class? And is it worth possibly losing the original, just to find him?