With the 90-man roster set for OTAs, now seemed the perfect time to dive into some film on the Packers' most recent acquisitions. We'll break down the draft picks and select undrafted free agents in our Packers Tape Watch series to help prepare for the upcoming season.
The first subject of Packers Tape Watch is none other than Fresno State wide receiver Davante Adams.
Davante Adams Workout Profile
School: Fresno State
Year: Sophomore (RS)
Weight: 212 lbs.
40 Yard: 4.51s
In a draft stockpiled with top tier receiver prospects, inevitably some fall below their projected slot. In a typical draft, Davante Adams comes off the board near the end of the first round, but because of this year's unique circumstances, the Packers managed to grab him all the way down at pick 53. And the team must have really liked Adams to select him over Cody Latimer (taken at 56), Allen Robinson (61), and Jarvis Landry (63).
Looking at the tape, it's easy to see what intrigues Packers GM Ted Thompson about Adams.
Fresno State runs an offense that features primarily three and four receiver sets. Along with Adams, the Bulldogs passing game included Isaiah Burse (UDFA with the Broncos) and Josh Harper (an intriguing 2015 draft prospect). That meant that quarterback Derek Carr had ample motivation to spread the ball around. Yet it was Adams who received the lion's share of the attention as his 233 catches, 3031 yards, and 38 touchdowns over two seasons reveal.
On nearly every offensive play, Fresno utilized Adams as their split end. This means that while Harper moved around as the flanker and Burse lined up in the slot, Adams was left tethered to the line of scrimmage and unable to move pre-snap. As a result, the defense often pressed him at the snap forcing Adams to break free and separate. Due to his strength and quickness, Adams excelled in this area as defenders regularly struggled to knock him off his routes. In Green Bay, most expect Adams to handle James Jones old role in the offense, which involves playing mostly off the line of scrimmage, and shifting in the pre-snap phase. However, should Jordy Nelson continue to receive a significant number of snaps in the slot (and especially if he leaves as a free agent after 2014), Adams can step in as the Packers' X receiver.
At Fresno, Adams' route tree consisted primarily of quick hitches and fade routes. That's not to say he can't run other routes -- Adams made some big receptions off slants and comebacks against New Mexico -- but most of his production came off of those two staples of the Bulldogs' offense. In past seasons, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin made a living catching quick hitches and breaking a few tackles for extra yardage. Adams can step into that role immediately with no drop off. As for the fade routes, Adams uses his elite leaping ability to attack the football rather than allow defenders the opportunity to making a play on the ball.
One of the concerns regarding Adams' athleticism entering the draft was his straight-line speed. Clocking in at a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine and a 4.51 at his pro day, these concerns were already somewhat dubious. This becomes even clearer after watching the tape. Returning to the New Mexico game, Adams recorded his second of four touchdowns on the day off a quick hitch that he took 44 yards. Carr quick tosses to Adams where a defender is clamping down just past the line of scrimmage, but Adams jukes left around him. There he gallops past a linebacker and breaks back inside to elude a safety (and figuratively breaking the defensive back's ankle in the process). It's this open field elusiveness that suggests that Adams can develop into a game breaker at the next level.
If there's a weakness to Adams, it's his blocking when a run play isn't headed his direction. He certainly possesses the ability, as Fresno often ran screens to Burse with Adams as lead blocker. However, when the ball carrier is headed to the opposite side of the field, Adams can be seen moving at half speed. Such is common at the college level and even among professional receivers. As such, expect receivers coach Edgar Bennett to coach that out of him in short order.
Overall, Adams impresses in just about every facet of the passing game. The Packers may not lean on him for most of his rookie season, but by 2015 Adams should become an integral piece of the Packers aerial assault. More significantly, there's nothing to stop Adams from developing into the Packers' top receiver by his 24th birthday.