GREEN BAY, Wis. – In NFL history, there have been 51 seasons in which a player caught at least 110 passes.
In that group, only one player caught at least 18 touchdowns.
That would be Green Bay Packers star Davante Adams.
Adams is coming off one of the great seasons in NFL history. He caught 115 passes for 1,374 yards and the 18 touchdowns. He set the team record for receptions and tied Sterling Sharpe’s franchise mark for touchdowns – the third-most in NFL history. And he did it while missing two-plus games due to a hamstring injury. With two more scores in the playoffs, Adams’ 16-game total was 20 touchdowns.
He became the first player with at least 100 receptions and 18 touchdowns in a season. He also became the first player to average eight-plus receptions, 95-plus yards and score 15-plus touchdowns.
Not only did Adams lead the NFL in touchdowns, but he led the NFL with 98.1 receiving yards per game and 8.2 catches per game. Had he not missed the two games, he might have joined Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith (2005) as the only players in the Super Bowl era to win the receiving triple crown of most receptions, yards and touchdowns in a season.
Late in the season, sometime around Adams’ 28th birthday and Christmas, quarterback Aaron Rodgers did something that isn’t done very often in today’s society.
He wrote Adams a note.
“I wrote him a real long message and just let him know how important he is to me and how much I value his friendship and I appreciate the way that he inspires me and our team,” Rodgers said after the Packers dismantled the Tennessee Titans in Week 16 behind Adams’ dominant game of 11 receptions for 142 yards and three touchdowns. “I just can’t say enough great things about the kind of person he is. And when you have the talent and the ability to go out there and dominate the way he has …
“You know, I’ve said for so long that Charles (Woodson) was the best player that I played with. And Charles could dominate in a way that I’ve never seen a nickel corner dominate before. (But) it’s probably time to start putting Davante in that conversation. Because he is that type of player. He’s a special player.”
Always a superb route runner, two numbers jumped to the forefront as he continually produced despite everyone in the stadium knowing where the ball was going.
First, it was catch percentage. According to Pro Football Focus, he caught 78.8 percent of targeted passes. Of the 62 receivers targeted at least 70 times, that was the third-best rate in the NFL. His previous career high was 68.5 percent. So, while it’s true Rodgers targeted Adams frequently, the passing game was efficient and Adams’ production was not forced.
Second, it’s the absence of dropped passes. PFF charged Adams with only one drop. His drop rate of 0.87 percent tied for third in the NFL among those receivers with 70-plus targets and tied for first among those with 75 targets. In his first six seasons, he averaged 6.8 drops.
Adams tied arguably the greatest receiver in NFL history, Rice, as the only players in NFL history with two seasons of 110-plus receptions and 13 plus touchdowns. He became the first player ever with four games of 10-plus receptions, 100-plus yards and two-plus touchdowns in a season.
“I think about scoring touchdowns a lot,” Adams said in December. “I definitely think about that. But records … the awards or little minor achievements along the way, the weekly things, hearing stuff like that makes me feel good, obviously, but that ain’t what drives me. What drives me is getting the Super Bowl and ultimately trying to be the best receiver to play this game. That’s how I attack it. That’s how I attack my day-to-day. That translates to touchdowns, which can translate to all that stuff down the road, but I’m just focused on what I need to be focused on.”
With 63 receptions for 820 yards, Adams already is the most prolific postseason receiver in Packers history. If he signs a contract extension, he’s likely to become the most prolific receiver in franchise history. Adams ranks fourth with 546 receptions, three behind Jordy Nelson (550) and 51 behind Sterling Sharpe (595). Donald Driver is the franchise’s career leader with 743 receptions. Adams needs 198 receptions to get past that number. Based on his performance in 2020, he could set that milestone sometime late in the 2022 season.
The question is whether Adams will be with the team in 2022. He’s entering his final season under contract and is due a monster payday. Considering Adams will turn 29 late this season, will the Packers want to cough up, say, the $27.25 million per year it would take to match Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins as the NFL’s highest-paid receiver? And would Adams have any interest in sticking with a team that’s not committed to having Rodgers as the quarterback for the long term?
For 2021, anyway, Adams will be ready to dominate, whoever is throwing the football. It’s a mentality he took from former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.
“It’s not just that they play that way but they live their life that way. It’s about being consistent,’ he said. “I feel like if you do that, if you go out and practice super-hard and then you go play in the game, it’s going to be a lot more natural for you. You’ll be able to catch the ball and think fast and start making plays, making people miss and turning it into the next phase of the play, rather than just catching the ball and being surprised and happy that you caught the ball. Those type of habits and that type of lifestyle that you build up and become accustomed to it just becomes second nature. It’s been something that I’ve admired from him forever, so just trying to allow that to continue to live on.”