Raiders WR Davante Adams talks Jakobi Meyers

Davante Adams is still the most trusted receiver in football, and the analytics prove it

Plenty of words have been used to describe Las Vegas Raiders star receiver Davante Adams in the past. ‘Elite’. ‘Touchdown machine’. ‘The best in the business’. Some have gone as far as dubbing the 31-year-old a future Hall of Famer. In 2023, one phrase wasn’t used to describe Adams for the first time in seven years: Pro Bowler. Neither was All-Pro, which was an honor Adams had earned for three consecutive seasons prior to his latest campaign.

After back-to-back seasons with north of 1,500 receiving yards, Davante Adams ended his ’23 season with a mere 1,144 yards through the air. This averaged 67.3 receiving yards per game throughout Adams’ 17 appearances, marking the lowest number he’s posted in this category since his ’17 campaign by 15.8 yards per contest.

Adams regressed in other areas as well. When it came to hauling in the football, only two receivers league-wide totaled more drops than the Raiders’ star (9) per Pro Football Focus.

The merits of a ‘drop’ are entirely opinion-based, but a good amount of Adams’ were right in the bread basket – a few even costing Las Vegas points. Others cost the team first downs. At the season’s end, Davante recorded 59 total first downs; his lowest mark since 2017. His quarterback rating when thrown to was 81.1, which stands as his lowest since becoming a full-time starter.

All-in-all, last season fell well short of the standard Davante Adams has set for himself.

With the numbers going down and his age only going up, many fans believe this is the beginning of the end for the Fresno State alum. But don’t be so quick to have that opinion. Although the statistics were forgettable, the analytics proved Adams is still entrusted to carry his offense. As much as any receiver league-wide, in fact.

Analytics don’t lie: Davante Adams is still the most trusted receiver in football

Pro Football Focus – or PFF – studies each individual snap of each individual player in the NFL each year, in effort to provide the most accurate and detailed breakdown of a player’s season. The company aims to dig deeper than a basic stat sheet and instead prioritizes analytics and other play-by-play information.

On Monday, PFF shared a breakdown of wide receiver target percentages (vs routes ran; 25% min.) broken down into five separate categories. They are as follows: Outside, late down, under pressure, red zone, slot.

Before we get into the numbers, let’s go over what targets ultimately mean. Yes, targets are simply the amount of times a quarterback throws the ball a player’s way – of course – but it isn’t just a number at random, or by chance. Targets accumulate when your quarterback trusts you; when your coaches trust you. This is especially true in situational football, such as snaps in the red zone or on later downs to move the chains.

If you haven’t earned your quarterbacks trust, you won’t get targets. If you haven’t earned your coach’s trust, you won’t have plays designed for you. But if you have both, you’re going to get the ball tossed to you frequently.

And now, to the numbers.

Where Adams ranks in target percentage per situation

Outside477 routes ran, 146 targets, 30.61% target percentage (third-most)
Late Down 181 routes ran, 46 targets, 25.41% target percentage (10th-most)
Under Pressure183 routes ran, 46 targets, 25.14% target percentage (first-most)
Red Zone – 81 routes ran, 30 targets, 37.04% target percentage(first-most)
Slot – Did not qualify

No receiver in the National Football League was trusted more by their quarterback(s) both under pressure and in the red zone than Davante Adams was in 2023.

It isn’t for no reason that quarterbacks and coaches trust Adams in the red zone, either. Adams’ career receiving grade of 85.7 in the red zone is the highest grade the company has ever recorded. In 2023, the Raiders’ star caught 16 passes in the red zone (second-most) and 10 passes (most) inside the 10. Adams’ five touchdowns inside the 10 ranked second among all pass catchers league-wide.

Overall, Adams’ total target percentage ranked second (29.38%) behind Tyreek Hill. While Davante didn’t qualify when lined up in the slot, Hill’s 37.21% target percentage inside (first-most) catapulted him past Adams in total. But the three-time first-team All-Pro is continuing to put up historic target percentages regardless.

In each of his last five seasons, Davante Adams has surpassed a 27% target percentage. His combined target percentage in this timeframe is 29.3%, which marks the highest percentage among all pass catchers.

With a full season of familiarity with Aidan O’Connell now under his belt, along with a new weapon like Brock Bowers to take defensive pressure off of him, Davante Adams may be in for a historic year. He is, after all, a mere six touchdowns away from leaping Tim Brown for eighth-most receiving touchdowns in league history.

*Top Photo: Getty Images

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