Identifying the players whose per-game fantasy scoring went up the most last year probably wouldn’t take you very long. The surprises (Chris Thompson), the bouncebacks (Todd Gurley, DeAndre Hopkins), and the guys who finally got starting jobs (Kenyan Drake) will give you the top four.
Likewise, picking the players whose production fell off by the most doesn’t take much effort. Losing starting gigs (LeGarrette Blount, DeMarco Murray) and merely being one of the year’s biggest disappointments (Jordy Nelson) will get you a lot of the list.
The point is, maybe you can’t name the top and bottom 10, but there isn’t a name on either side of that list that should surprise anybody.
The middle names, the ones who had basically the same production from 2016 to 2017, are harder to pick out. And that’s for good reason, as most of them are unremarkable. Are you interested in the fact that Jermaine Gresham averaged 3.13 fantasy points per game in 2016 and 3.14 in 2017? I’m the one writing this piece, and that doesn’t interest even me. Justin Hardy went from 4.0 to 3.9. Very exciting.
But every once in a while, a number stands out, and this year’s single most repeated fantasy performance from 2016 is that number.
Let’s look at Davante Adams’ per-game numbers for 2016 and 2017:
|Year||Games||Targets||Receptions||Yards||Touchdowns||Fantasy points||Fantasy rank||PFF grade|
A player maintaining a level of production in his age-23 and -24 seasons doesn’t have to be remarkable, but doing so despite going from Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback to (mostly) Brett Hundley stands out. Adams was essentially the same wide receiver in 2017 as he was in 2016 despite going from a Hall of Fame quarterback in an MVP-caliber season (Rodgers’ 2016 PFF grade: 92.1) to a second-year signal-caller who wasn’t expected to see the field much beyond kneel downs in 2016 (Hundley’s 2017 PFF grade: 72.8).
It’s that last column that gives us a hint. Adams’ game got better on one end (his own performance) while getting somewhat cut off at the knees on the other (his quarterback). It was like a bastardized game of Snake, with one end getting longer while the other gets shorter, and the net is the same as you started.
In short, Adams appears to have hit his maturation as a receiver just in time for the best way for him to utilize those skills got hurt.
What does it mean for 2018? Adams is a nice investment. With Nelson putting up his worst PFF grade since 2009, Adams has officially assumed the No. 1 receiver role in the Packers' offense. If you assume Rodgers is back to his old self (and there’s not much reason to expect otherwise), then you can do the rough math of “2016 Rodgers plus 2017 Adams” and end up with a result that could leave you with a potential top-five fantasy receiver.