After the free agency blitz that the New York Giants had, things are starting to clear up. They clear had a plan in mind and now the plethora of holes on the roster have shrunk significantly. Still, some remain. One of those is clearly wide receiver, where the Giants have added Mario Manningham, but not as a No. 1 wide receiver.
With Hakeem Nicks bolting for the Indianapolis Colts, one of the most underrated players in this draft is Fresno State's Davante Adams. Nobody seems to be talking about him, but he's got the tools to be a bonafide No. 1 receiver. Let's take a look at why Adams is such a high-caliber player with a film study of one of his games in the 2013 season.
Before we get started, like always, if you haven't read my stuff before, I like to give a primer on what I look for when analyzing prospects. This is what I look for in wide receivers:
Obviously, the first thing you want to look for when evaluating a WR, is exactly what type he is. There are three types, the X, Y, Z.
The "X" wide receiver is also called the "split-end" wide receiver and is often times the team's best receiver. He is the primary deep threat, usually the most athletic, and will play on the outside. He lines up basically on the LOS. Therefore, he can get jammed easily, so your bigger wide receivers will be the X. The Giants' split-end in 2013 was Hakeem Nicks.
The "Z" wide receiver is also called the "flanker." They are usually (but not always) the possession WRs that play on the outside. They line up a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage. That gives them an advantage for beating the jam, but as a result, their routes are shorter because it will take them longer to develop the deep routes. The Giants' flanker in 2013 was Rueben Randle.
The "Y" wide receiver is what we call the "Slot" wide receiver. They stay only a few yards away from the offensive line, and are on the inside of either the flanker or split end. They are quicker than fast, are usually security blankets and are usually the best route runners of the group. The Giants' slot receiver in 2013 was split between Victor Cruz and Brandon Myers.
At The Snap
Once the ball is snapped, there are a couple of things that I look for. Acceleration is huge. If he can create instant separation at the point of the snap, its highly translatable. If the wide receiver gets jammed, I want to see how long it takes to break off the jam. Upper body strength is crucial, and if the receiver can stay on target with his route by beating an early jam, it's very good. If not, you have to question whether he's strong enough to be an NFL caliber player. If the wide receiver is running an extremely short route, like a slant, he might make his break right out of his initial stance. You look for that "suddenness." That's a term that scouts often use to describe players that have crisp cuts and can shake a defender based on their route running and acceleration.
During The Route
The biggest thing we look for is ... speed. Speed kills. It's the easiest way to get separation. Speed is what allows the wide receiver to turn a 10-yard crossing route into a 50-yard touchdown. I look for acceleration at the beginning of the route, maintained speed throughout the rest of the route. Each route has a break or "stem." You'll see virtually no slowing down on post or corner routes by good wide receivers, and relatively minimal deceleration on digs or out routes.
We also often talk about wide receivers being able to run the full route tree. The route tree is different for both slot receivers and outside receivers. Since we anticipate Davante Adams being an outside receiver, here is a VERY rough picture of an outside receiver route tree:
A wide receiver who can run the full route tree needs to know how far he needs to go before going into his break. He needs to show that smooth acceleration through the beginning of the route, and if he's running the top half of the route, he needs a smooth transition. If he's running the bottom half, like a comeback or curl route, he needs to be precise and take minimal extra steps. Each extra step needed to retain balance is extra time given to the defender to catch up.
Receivers often add a little bit of spice along their routes, usually a double move or a subtle fake here and there. Seeing that out of a college prospect is nothing but a plus.
Catching The Ball
The first thing I look for as the ball is coming towards the target is the separation. How much is there? If there's no defender in the area, all I look for is tracking of the ball through the air, and a simple hands catch. That basically means, can the receiver position his hands to receive the incoming ball in stride and catch with his hands instead of letting the ball fall into their bodies or arms.
If the catch is going to be contested, the name of the game is body control. Can the receiver gain superior position versus the defensive back by either physically boxing him out, outjumping him, or outreaching him? That sort of blends in with the concept of catch radius. Basically, draw a circle around the entire area where a player can catch the ball. This is what made Alshon Jeffery so very good for the Chicago Bears this past year.
After The Catch
Just want to see big play potential here. Elusiveness. Speed. Power. Yards after catch (YAC). That's basically it. You measure from point of possession to final yardage, and sort of grade on a curve based on how close the defense is. This is the least important of all of the other fundamentals, but having that big YAC ability can definitely be honed into a very productive specialist of sorts. One great example, as annoying as he may be, is Desean Jackson.
Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 218 pounds 40 yard: 4.48 Vertical: 39.5"
Disclaimer: I removed the plays that Adams was not involved in from my breakdown "show your work" section below to streamline the post and make it more digestible. That's why you might see some times missing. Any questions about any of those plays, and I'll be happy to explain my thinking.
0:00 - 0:10: Adams takes a simple post route, makes a nice adjustment to his route and high points the ball over his shoulder. Good play that shows solid fundamentals. Easily defeats off coverage. Grade: +0.3
0:11 - 0:24: This is a nice play. We see Adams with a simple comeback route. He disappears off screen so I cannot see how well he ran the route, but he didn't seem to get great separation. He makes the mistake of letting the ball come into his body and ends up double catching it, but does do a good job of shielding the ball with his body in front of the corner. The plus part of the grade comes from the strength he has to shake loose and get the YAC afterwards. Grade: +0.2
0:25 - 0:34: Adams starts the play off well by beating an attempted jam with a quick double move inside. Shows great fluidity for a guy his size, but cannot make an adjustment on the ball and ends up with a drop as it is thrown slightly behind him. Should have caught it. Grade: -0.2
0:35 - 1:00: Bad play here and really highlights the frustrating aspects of his game. He shows his ability to be a natural hands catcher most of the time, but then again you see him allow the ball to drift into his chest and force him to double catch the ball. Ran out of room this time and he paid for it. Grade: -0.5
1:09 - 1:30: Adams runs a deep 9 route, but doesn't get enough separation with his pure speed. Doesn't look back for the ball or fight for it enough, however, he does draw the pass interference penalty, which is just as good. Still, a "meh" play from Adams. Grade: -0.1
1:30 - 1:48: What a release! Lightning fast double move and a blur that got separation outside. This is a guy that's pushing 220 pounds. Then he highpoints the ball and gets his foot inside on the corner jump. Great play. Grade: +0.6
1:49 - 2:02: Nice route to get separation on a curl inside. Again, though, double catches the ball. That's always going to be an issue. Nice playmaking ability by avoiding that one tackle to gain an extra few yards. Grade: +0.1
2:03 - 2:15: Weird play here. Adams is clearly wide open on a shallow route but Carr doesn't see him. I don't like that Adams was standing around and not attempting to get into Carr's field of vision. Grade: -0.1
2:16 - 2:45: Great play by Adams. Slow plays the first second before accelerating past the defender. He hand fights well and disengages at the perfect time to reach back behind the corner and pluck the ball out of the air before accelerating to his second gear and running in twenty yards for a score. Grade: +0.6
3:14 - 3:25: Does a really nice job of breaking out of his cut. Nice and sharp. Ball goes high, but shows off the vertical and once again shows off his ability to create after the catch. Breaks yet another tackle and gets a couple more yards. Grade: +0.2
3:26 - 3:33: Shows off Adams blocking for a quick screen. Isn't going to be mistaken for Hines Ward, but does a good enough job to wall off the defender to spring the underneath guy for a quick few yards. Grade: +0.1
3:34 - 3:44: Doesn't this play remind you of Hakeem Nicks? Quick bubble screen outside, Adams gets skinny and dances on the sideline before finishing the play by barreling into a defender for a first down. Grade: +0.3
3:53 - 4:15: This was very close to being a "Megatron" play. Adams' focus slips right at the end, but look at how he positions himself, how high he gets himself. Just couldn't finish as it goes off his finger tips. He could have caught that. Grade: -0.1
4:16 - 4:28: Even though this play goes for a loss, watch how low Adams' arms can get to retrieve that ball. Sign of a good catch radius. Not just the balls you can high point, but the ones you can adjust to low as well. Grade: +0.1
4:29 - 4:54: Another play that highlights everything that's great about Adams. His stop-start ability on his routes is elite for a player his size. Add to that his body control to make such a coordinated movement as a spin move on the sideline in the opposite direction and then accelerate is awesome for a 220 pound player. This is stuff you see in guys that are sub-200 pounds. Grade: +0.7
5:06 - 5:16: It's very frustrating that the television broadcast breaks away from Adams at the top of his route right when he changes direction. In any case, watch before he disappears and then reappears making the catch. You see separation so you can infer he didn't do a half bad job at it. He almost breaks free again, but the hit took just enough momentum to push him outside. Grade: +0.1
5:17 - 5:28: Adams was not targeted, but you can see his full route. Does a nice job of initiating contact and getting away pretty easily. He's a bit of a long strider so it doesn't look like he's going terribly fast, but he creates enough separation there. Grade: +0.0
5:40 - 5:50: Targeted Adams and intercepted. Not Adams' fault. Carr badly underthrew this one. Adams showed off tremendous acceleration on this play and blew past the defender on an in and go route. Grade: -0.1
5:51 - 6:06: Adams was completely blanketed on this play. Tremendous coverage by Benwikere. Adams didn't even have a chance and the throw selection was poor as well. Grade: -0.3
6:07 - 6:22: Runs a stutter and go route on the outside. Shows tremendous adjustment skills again leaning back in and turning around, shielding the ball from the defender. And once again, he shows off his ability to break tackles and run after the catch. Great power and speed combo. Grade: +0.6
6:23 - 6:34: Adams makes a subtle double move, but Benwikere doesn't fall for it and as a result, Carr overthrows. Grade: -0.1
6:35 - 6:46: Crossing route across the field. Might have been a defensive blown assignment. Catches the ball and goes straight up the field and shows off his acceleration to grab a nifty 15 yards. Grade: +0.3
From this video, its pretty easy to scout who Davante Adams is. He's frustrating. He flashes so many No. 1 qualities. Can show off tremendous burst and acceleration. He does a fantastic job of shielding the ball from the defender and puts himself in great position many, many times. That's a rare trait. He shows off his catch radius as well. His route running is superb compared to most players that come out of college. He doesn't have a full route tree yet, but his cuts are sharp and clean and his ability to move in and out of his breaks at high speed match that of some of the best route runners in this draft like Sammy Watkins, Paul Richardson, and Jared Abbrederis.
By far, however, his best ability is what he can do after the catch on a consistent basis. He's close to Sammy Watkins in that aspect when it comes to breaking tackles and creating with his legs. He should not be able to accelerate as fast as he does at his size. Nor should he have the lateral movement skills to create some of the double moves he does.
The play at 1:30 is that quick twitch athleticism that not many players have at similar sizes to Adams. It's what pushes him far up the list when it comes to WR prospects for me.
However, with some of the good comes the bad. He is inconsistent when it comes to actually catching the ball with good technique. Too often do I see him double catching the ball and letting it into his body. Is this fixable? Absolutely.
The other big issue I see with Adams is awareness. He doesn't have the same creativity that, say, Mike Evans has when it comes to making life easier for his QB. If his QB is scrambling or keeping the play alive, he doesn't break off his route and come back to get free and get in his line of vision. That's very important and something to absolutely keep in mind.
Is Davante Adams a 1st round pick? In most other years, absolutely. He reminds me of a more inconsistent Dez Bryant with the way he can high point the ball, the above average straight line speed, the raw power to muscle away from defenders and his lateral movement skills.
Is he a 1st round pick this year? I don't think so, but I wouldn't be surprised if he snuck into the bottom of the first. I have him in the same "tier" as players like Jordan Matthews and Allen Robinson. If Adams makes it down to the 2nd round, it might be too much value and need for the Giants to pass. He'd make the perfect "X" receiver to play across from Rueben Randle and would function as the possession guy on the outside with the ability to break the big one.