Since Mike McCarthy became head coach, the Packers have drafted six wideouts in what used to be called the first day of the draft – Rounds 1 through 3, (counting Ty Montgomery, even though he seems to have converted to running back). Those players have totaled 6415 fantasy points (FP) in point-per-reception scoring. Is that good?

Only one team's draft picks have scored more. Giants' WRs drafted in the first three rounds have managed 6443. But it took 9 draft picks (vs. 6) to score a mere 28 more FP. And two of those picks were first-rounders; all of the Packers were taken in the 2nd and 3rd round. (Note these totals include points scored while playing for other teams).

The Packers are one of just four teams to avoid using a 1st round pick on a WR since 2006.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pack has used more picks, six, vs. four each for Seattle and New England, and only two for the Jets, to amass those numbers. But that's a pretty wide discrepancy, even allowing for the fact that a number of Green Bay's picks have played more years (itself a measure of good drafting and player development). Even if I adjust the metric from total FP to FP per season played, Green Bay looks pretty good:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Packers are not the leader in this metric however. Both Dallas and Detroit have done better, with the Eagles and Broncos not far behind:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, all four of the other teams have used first round picks on those players. Dez Bryant accumulated 72% of the points posted by the Cowboys' highly drafted WR (Terrance Williams is the only other receiver taken by Dallas in the first three rounds since 2006). Calvin Johnson had 87% of Detroit's total – Ryan Broyles, Titus Young, and Derrick Williams did very little. Eagles (2 first rounders, 39%) and Broncos (1 WR taken in the first round, 41%) have gotten a bit more out of their 2nd and 3rd round WRs – or maybe just less from their top choices (Denver's draftees have been Cody Latimer, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Eddie Royal; Philly's Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson – remember not all of the FP by those picks were earned by the teams who drafted them).

Here's the six Green Bay WRs used in the charts above: Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Greg Jennings. All have had fantasy success as WRs except for Montgomery (Jones had a year as WR19, the other four have had at least one Top 10 year in points per game) although Davante Adams' first two years were disappointing for his owners. 

The point is, given McCarthy and the Packers' success with 2nd and 3rd round picks, it should not have been a surprise that Davante Adams finally had a breakout year in 2016. The question is now, can he repeat it?

Before answering that, let's look at what I mean by "breakout" and how Adams' progress as a WR compares to other Packer WRs taken in the 2nd and 3rd rounds in the McCarthy era. I've arbitrarily decided to call a Top 20 fantasy finish (per game scoring) as a "breakout."


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cobb and Jennings broke out earlier than Adams in terms of experience. Nelson, arguably the best WR of this group, took until his 4th year. It took Jones six seasons. So Adams was right on track compared to his peers (hindsight of course). And Adams was younger than Jennings when drafted, so they actually broke out at the same age:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adams has developed at roughly the same pace as his comparable teammates, so we can reasonably expect him to perform at their level in the year after they broke out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cobb and Jennings were low-end fantasy WR1s in fantasy points per game (FPG) after they broke out. Jones had a big drop to the WR4 level, Nelson had a slump to the WR2 tier. All were fantasy relevant, three of the four were WR2 of better, and the two closest in age to Adams at break out were WR1s.

Probably the biggest concern with Adams' 2016 performance is that it was heavily TD-reliant (12 RDs), and WR TDs can be very volatile. How did his Packer peers do the year after they scored double-digit receiving TDs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennings and Nelson both topped 10 TDs twice; Cobb and Jones did it once each. Only Nelson followed up with a 2nd year of 10+ TDs, so we can expect Adams to fall back a bit. Jones took the biggest hit, only scoring 3 times after his 14 TD season. Four of six times the player managed six to nine TDs in the following year; that seems to be a reasonable expectation for Adams in 2017.

I did spend a little time looking in more detail at Adams' 2016 numbers and how TD scoring affected his fantasy performance. He was 10th overall in FPG, but if we look just and yards and reception scoring, he would have been 30th in FPG. So clearly his standing was boosted by his 12 TDs. But were his TD totals unreasonable for the opportunity he received?

From some work I did last year, I knew that in 2013-2015, WRs scored on about 40% of their targets inside the five (goal-line targets, GLT), on 20% of their targets in the rest of the red zone (RZ), and just 2% of their targets outside the RZ. Adams had 105 non-RZ targets (RZT), 5 GLT, and 11 targets in the rest of the red zone. Based on 2013-2015 rates, he "should" have scored just over 6 TDs. So he was remarkably efficient in scoring TDs in 2016, another reason to expect a drop in his TD numbers in 2017.

I ran a regression on all 2016 WRs, using non-RZT, GLT, and rest of RZT as inputs and TDs as the dependent variable. That yielded an equation of :

Expected TDs = -0.03 + 0.64 * GLT + 0.27 * other RZT + 0.02 * non-RZT 

The equation had an R-squared of 0.77. That can be interpreted as saying that breaking targets into those three categories and using the given coefficients explains 77% of how many TDs a WR scored. Or simply, the number and location of targets is very important in predicting TD scoring.

Based on that equation, Adams could have been expected to score 8.5 TDs, a bit more than my previous estimate. Of note though, both fall into the 6-9 range we (mostly) saw from other Green Bay WRs in the year after their double-digit TD seasons. That gives me more confidence that I can expect Adams to post numbers in that range in 2017. 

An interesting thing emerged when I looked at the Top 10 WRs in TDs over expectation using that regression equation:

Player

TDs Over Expectation

Kenny Stills

6.2

Antonio Brown

5.0

Dez Bryant

4.0

Mike Evans

3.6

Davante Adams

3.5

Taylor Gabriel

3.3

Sterling Shepard

2.5

Jordy Nelson

2.4

Odell Beckham Jr.

2.3

Brandin Cooks

2.2

 

Adams' teammate Nelson is also on the list (TDs over expectation is the actual TDs scored minus the number expected to be scored based on the number and location of a player's targets). So are two NYG receivers, who are in an offense relatively similar to Green Bay's. It's possible that the Mike McCarthy offense is more favorable for TD-scoring WRs than most (it's also possible that GB and NYG both had crappy RBs so more scoring was done though the air last year), which would limit any decline in Adams' TDs.

Finally, when I calculated the fantasy points all WRs would have had in 2016 if they'd scored the "expected" number of TDs, Adams ranked 20th. That's another sign that he'll regress in 2017 but that he'll still be a valuable WR2.

I've gone a bit far afield, so let me just end with this summary. The Packers front office has done a good job drafting talented WRs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds since 2006, and Mike McCarthy has done a good job of developing them. Based on that, I don't think Davante Adams' 2016 was a fluke. I do think he'll drop from 12 TDs to around 6-9 TDs in 2017 and will not repeat as a fantasy WR1. However, he'll still be a WR2 and I'd be happy to draft him about the 20th WR off the board. Also, if Ty Montgomery gets moved back to WR in the next year or two, I'd expect him to be productive for fantasy at that position, although it might take a year. And if I had a dynasty team and the Packers drafted a WR in Rounds 2 or 3, I'd target that guy in my rookie draft.