Saturday, May 28, 2022

Davante Adams to the Raiders: Superstar receiver can help lift Derek Carr from middle of the pack

Derek Carr has been among the top-10 quarterbacks in yards per attempt over the past three seasons, and he’s been top 15 in pass attempts overall, but he’s ranked 21st, 15th and 23rd in touchdown rate (the percentage of pass attempts that have resulted in a touchdown). 

Drill into his red-zone work and he’s been even worse. In each of the past three years he’s ranked 19th or lower in red-zone completion rate and 33rd or lower in red-zone touchdown rate. That’s hard to do. 

The Raiders acquired Davante Adams from the Packers for draft picks, in part, to improve those numbers. And if his history is any indication, he most certainly will. 

With the obvious benefit of catching passes from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Adams was third among all receivers in red-zone targets (27), fourth in red-zone receptions (18) and second in red-zone touchdowns (10) in 2021. Those mouth-watering numbers were actually DOWN from 2020, when he was first in each category (28 targets, 23 receptions, 14 touchdowns).

Part of Adams’ allure was his synergy with Aaron Rodgers — the two had their timing down to a science. It figures to be very easy for Adams and Carr to reach a similar level since they already worked in lock-step for two seasons at Fresno State and combined for 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns. Reuniting was the driving force of Adams’ desire to leave Green Bay — he reportedly took less money from Las Vegas to play there. 

Plus it won’t hurt that Adams will share the field with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, two very different kinds of pass-catchers but both of whom will warrant attention from opposing defenses. Adams will only deal with so many double-teams — chances are defenses won’t pressure Carr much and instead will hope he makes a mistake throwing into tight windows. 

And the guy calling the plays for the Raiders, Josh McDaniels, is the same dude who instructed Tom Brady to magnificent red-zone results for years in New England. Not that Carr is on the same level as Brady, but he’s clearly a capable NFL quarterback who figures to be much better surrounded by a deeper and more reliable receiving corps. 

Point is, don’t expect the same ol’ Raiders, especially with a schedule that includes likely high-scoring shootouts against the Rams, Cardinals, 49ers and the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos twice each. 

If the Raiders are making a big move to get Adams, it’s not so they can run the ball 50% of the time. Be it by design or by virtue of their shoddy defense, the Raiders were pass-heavy last season (61.7% pass rate). That was stunningly higher than the 56% or so rate they were at in 2020 and 2019, both seasons conducted by former old-school coach Jon Gruden, who clearly didn’t trust Carr to make things work with the meandering receiving corps he pieced together for him. We have seen McDaniels’ offenses as pass-friendly with Brady and shift in the other direction with Cam Newton and a rookie Mac Jones. The assumption is that McDaniels will have no problems putting the ball in Carr’s hands, especially now. 

Adams has seen 10.6 targets per game over the past two seasons. That figures to continue. If there’s a downside, it’s that the quality of targets won’t be quite as good because Carr is throwing to him instead of Rodgers. And, while Carr is undoubtedly thrilled to have Adams back on his team, he also can’t straight-up ignore Waller and Renfrow, especially in the red zone. Waller especially is a matchup nightmare for defenses and will absolutely stop seeing double-teams with Adams on the field. Also, if Carr continues to be somewhat averse to throwing deep (he’s good at it, but he doesn’t do it much), then Adams won’t have as many chunk plays. 

I would expect a small drop in production from Adams, but it could be as little as 20 fewer catches, 300 fewer yards and three fewer touchdowns. Subtracting that from last year’s total would have given Adams a 103-1,253-8 stat line, which would have still made Adams a top-10 receiver on a per-game basis in PPR. 

– Bottom line: I’m comfortable taking Adams as a top-six receiver and might even find myself indulging with a pick around 15th overall. 

Expect Adams’ arrival to be a mixed bag for Waller. He averaged 8.5 targets per game in 2021 and even more than that in 2020 and 2019. That number’s going down, but his efficiency should rise as defenses stop focusing solely on him. Nine tight ends had 6.5 targets per game in 2021 — eight of them finished among the top-12 at the position in PPR points per game. Waller should still pick up at least 6.5 targets and be a better touchdown scorer than we’ve seen, even if he’s not the top target anymore. 

– Bottom line: Waller’s reception upside will shrink, but he should be more efficient. He’s currently my No. 5 tight end but if the Cowboys do nothing to restock their receiving corps then I would take Dalton Schultz ahead of him. 

If Adams and Waller are going to soak up targets, that leaves less on the bone for Renfrow. I love his role as the slot receiver in Josh McDaniels’ offense; I don’t love the chances of him matching the 7.5 targets per game he had last year much less the 9.6 targets per game Julian Edelman had from 2013 through 2019. 

– Bottom line: Figure Renfrow to start the year as a low-end No. 3 PPR receiver who should dabble in the 10-point range from week to week without many touchdowns. I’d put him in Round 8 in full-PPR, at least a round lower in half- and non-PPR.

There’s been literally no mention of Josh Jacobs in this article. His 4.3 target per game average wasn’t much, but it was an improvement, and he did catch 84% of those targets for career-highs across the board. I fear it won’t mean much — Adams’ arrival obviously isn’t good for his target share but McDaniels’ offenses have long preferred specialized running backs based on down and distance. That means when the Raiders have an obvious passing down, Jacobs is unlikely to be on the field. On the other hand, he’ll be there in short-yardage goal-line opportunities, and that should salvage his stat line. 

– Bottom line: I don’t think many Fantasy managers will be excited to get Jacobs, but they’ll see the opportunity in front of him and be fine with him as a No. 2 running back in Round 3 (sooner in non-PPR than full-PPR). 

Finally, there’s Carr. Even though the situation is incredible, the stigma of him not being considered a great playmaker will hold people back from drafting him in Fantasy. 

And that’s perfect. Because of that stigma, Carr offers very good upside without the draft capital that typically comes along with it. Most Fantasy managers also forgot about Carr’s hot start to 2021 when he averaged 21.4 Fantasy points per game through Week 7 with Henry Ruggs a part of the team. He’s more than capable of being a good Fantasy passer and now he’s been gifted one of the league’s best wide receivers. 

– Bottom line: Shrewd Fantasy managers will wait until the mid-point of one-QB drafts to find a quarterback, and Carr will be toward the top of their list. He has top-10 upside with a late-round price tag. That’s exactly what you’re looking for on Draft Day.

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