GREEN BAY, Wis. – Davante Adams finished second in the NFL with 115 receptions, third with 1,407 yards and first with 18 touchdowns. That latter figure tied for third in NFL history. His 2.96 yards per pass route paced the NFL by a whopping 0.30 yards, with only four other players topping 2.50.
Still, it wasn’t Adams who topped the Next Gen Stats’ list of top pass catchers in NFL. Rather, it was his teammate, tight end Robert Tonyan.
Tonyan’s expected catch rate in 2020 was 71.4 percent. He crushed that by catching 88.1 percent of passes. That 16.7 percent difference was No. 1 in the league last season and the second-best in Next Gen Stats’ five seasons.
“Tonyan generated 4.2 yards of separation per target in 2020, the second-most of any player since 2016, helping him post a league-leading six receiving touchdowns and a +12.8 percent catch rate over expected when aligned tight,” NFL.com’s Nick Shook wrote. “This effectiveness made Green Bay's offense that much more dangerous, because the Packers didn't need to split Tonyan out to put him in advantageous situations, adding to their offensive unpredictability.”
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It was a breakout season for Tonyan, who started his collegiate career as a quarterback at Indiana State and joined the Packers’ practice squad in one of those who-cares-about types of transactions late in the 2017 season.
Tonyan had 14 receptions in his first two seasons but 11 touchdowns in 2020.
“I think it’s just a good foundation for what I stand for and what I stand on, just continuing to come in here every day and work, and get better, and learn from ‘Cedes [Marcedes Lewis] and continue to grow behind him,” Tonyan said following an organized team activity last week. “That’s a leader of this team and leader of the room, but he gives me so much opportunity to grow mentally and physically. I stand on my hard work. I stand on coming into work and putting that hard hat on and just working. It’s been great for me thus far and I’m going to continue to do that, and continue to look at the faults in my game and continue to try to bring those up and make those a strength.”
After showing bits and pieces of his potential in 2018 and 2019, Tonyan became a surprise star in 2020 with 52 receptions for 586 yards. Of the 34 tight ends who were targeted at least 40 times in the passing game, Tonyan was No. 1 in catch percentage (89.7 percent of catchable passes), drop percentage (0.0) and passer rating (148.3), according to Pro Football Focus.
“He’s got every trait that he needs to be successful and put in that elite category,” tight ends coach Justin Outten said.