Another hit for general manager Ted Thompson may be waiting in the wings.
A unique mix of some of the game's best receivers, Davante Adams—picked 53rd overall by the Packers—now has a real chance to continue the legacy started by Greg Jennings and extended by Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in Green Bay.
Despite not using a top-35 pick on any of the three above-mentioned receivers, the Packers have still cashed in to the tune of 863 catches, 12,889 yards and 103 touchdowns from the second-round trio of Jennings, Nelson and Cobb. Expect Adams to add to those bargain-bought numbers.
The Fresno State product blends a touch of Dez Bryant, Michael Crabtree and Jennings into the body of James Jones, creating a high-potential NFL pass-catcher with a relatively low bust factor. In some drafts, Adams would have been a first-rounder. In 2014, which featured a loaded class of receivers, he fell to Green Bay with the 21st pick in the second round.
Here's how Adams compares to NFL receivers in several of the position's most important attributes:
Catching the Football: James Jones
Making the catch is the most important aspect of playing receiver. You can be as physically dominant as Calvin Johnson or as fast in a straight line as DeSean Jackson, but if you can't consistently catch the football, nothing else really matters.
In this area, Adams gets mostly high grades. His best comparison is probably Jones, a former Packers receiver who occasionally let good throws hit the ground but who also matured into one of the league's best catchers in traffic.
While not perfect, Adams consistently displayed the ability to high-point the football and catch passes away from his body. Rarely did it matter if a defender or two were in his immediate vicinity.
Derek Carr, Adams' former quarterback at Fresno State, appreciated these pass-catching abilities.
"I just had to put it somewhere in his vicinity and he was going to come down with it," Carr said, via Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It could be underthrown. It could be way too wide. Or it could be 13 feet in the air and he'll go up in the air and grab it. It won't be a problem for him."
Below, we see Adams making a Jones-esque catch for the touchdown:
The defending cornerback is right in Adams' hip pocket, driving him toward the sideline and increasing the difficulty of the catch and throw. For the most part, it's good coverage.
But watch as Adams goes up to get the football, high-pointing the catch and eliminating any chance for the corner to disrupt the connection. His strong hands complete the process with relative ease. How many times has Jones snatched away a similarly tough catch in traffic in recent years? Adams then has no problem getting two feet in bounds, making this a legitimate score whether it came in college or the NFL.
More highlights of Adams making all kinds of difficult catches can be found in this six-minute clip:
The video shows difficult catch after difficult catch. No receiver, save for maybe Mike Evans at Texas A&M, bailed out his quarterback more often with off-target receptions than Adams did over the last two seasons.
Yards after the Catch: Greg Jennings
Jennings has consistently been one of the NFL's better receivers in yards after the catch (YAC). Since entering the NFL in 2006, Jennings has averaged 353 YAC per season. And his 2,829 career YAC represent almost 39 percent of his eight-year receiving total.
The Packers offense is part of the reason why. Last season, Green Bay ranked fourth overall in total YAC, with almost 55 percent of the team's total passing yards coming after the catch was made.
But Jennings, who spent his first year away from the Packers in 2013, still brings special qualities to the table that make him hard to bring down. While not the biggest or the fastest receiver, he uses lightning-quick acceleration, running back-like moves and impressive field vision to elude defenders.
Watching Adams, I found it hard not to see some of the same twitchy moves Jennings still makes to turn simple five-yard catches into explosive 20-yard gains.
Here is one example:
Jennings became the NFL's very best at catching the comeback and then making a quick swivel inside, helping him to circle past the pursuing cornerback and get upfield. Adams does the same here.
He first secures the catch in front of the corner before feeling the defender closing in on his outside shoulder and spinning away inside from the tackle attempt. This was against inferior competition, but the resemblance to Jennings and his ability after the catch was too obvious not to share.
One more example, just for good measure:
Adams' move is once again Jennings-like. He squares his shoulders, forces the defender to commit one way and then jukes the other. Adams turns the catch from a 10-yard play into a 15-yard one, which in some scenarios (not this one) can mean the difference between a first down and punting.
Adams should fit right in with the Packers' YAC-heavy passing game.
Red-Zone Production: Dez Bryant
You can see elements of Bryant's playing style throughout Adams' game, especially in terms of catching the football and chewing up yards after the catch. Both players attack the football with strong hands and show a suddenness to their movements once the catch has been secured. Bryant is the more explosive player overall, but the similarities are there.
In no area does Adams remind more of Bryant than in the red zone.
Production inside in the 20-yard line requires many traits of the receiver position. The best in the business combine route-running, body control and the rare ability to track and attack the football in the air to rack up touchdowns for their offense.
Bryant might be the best receiver in the game at exploiting cornerbacks inside the red zone. His size and length (6'2", 34" arms) are great tools, but he wins mostly with an unparalleled ability to create and utilize an inch of separation. And when the football is in the air, few are better at adjusting their body and outworking the defender for the catch.
The same goes for Adams.
"And when there is a situation where it’s tighter, more of a competitive-type throw, you see a guy with strong hands and physicality that can go up and make a play, make the tough catch,” Packers receivers coach Edgar Bennett said, via Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee.
Adams enters the NFL as the best fade runner in this year's draft class. He made a killing at Fresno State catching short to intermediate fades from Carr, who was completely unafraid to loft balls his way in the compressed area.
Here's one example of Adams winning at the line of scrimmage and making the catch in the corner of the end zone:
There's so much to like about the entire sequence. For starters, Adams supplies himself a free release with a devastating shoulder-dip fake to the inside. This might be against San Jose State, but rarely do you see a cornerback getting completely turned around just a few steps into a receiver's route, especially down in the red zone.
Once the corner is soundly beaten, Adams shows off his 39.5-inch vertical leap—again high-pointing the football—before securing the catch and holding on throughout the entire process (the NFL, as Megatron can attest, is very particular about this).
This is just one example of Adams winning inside the 20. His 38 career touchdowns offer numerous others. In addition to his mastery of the fade, he's also shown an ability to make plays over the shoulder, on the back shoulder (look up his one-handed catch against Wyoming in 2013) and with the slant. Expect Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to give him opportunities to score touchdowns from inside the red zone early on in his NFL career.
Route Running: Michael Crabtree
Crabtree was one of the more savvy and skilled route-runners to come out of college in some time. Adams isn't nearly on the same level, but you can see certain qualities—such as the ability to sell a fake—that evoke memories of Crabtree at Texas Tech.
Of course, Crabtree has translated that ability to create separation in and out of his breaks into over 100 catches and 10 scores over his last 21 regular-season games. And he also burned the Packers for eight catches and 125 yards in the San Francisco 49ers' Wild Card Round win over Green Bay last January.
The example from Adams below has hints of Crabtree's deceptiveness:
Adams sells the inside breaking route and becomes wide open on the stop-and-go. He completes the big play by going up and high-pointing the football (sensing a theme here?), which was thrown somewhat short. A good throw and Adams walks in for a score.
Crabtree has become one of the game's best at selling his routes with head and shoulder fakes (the same can be said for Jennings). When combined with quickness out of the break, a good sell job can create the necessary separation for a receiver that might lack the breath-taking speed sometimes needed to keep cornerbacks honest.
Adams still has refinement to do in this area. He's in no way slow, but as a long-strider, he'll need to get very good at running deceptive routes on every snap. And almost all incoming college receivers need work on consistently beating the press from NFL corners.
The tools appear to be in place. It will now take continued work with Bennett and the offensive staff in Green Bay to refine and then master the craft.
Overall: Somewhere between Jones and Bryant
Bryant and Jones both show up consistently in Adams' game.
He isn't as effortless an athlete as Bryant, who appears to be playing at a different speed—almost gliding at times—during most Sundays. But in terms of body control and attacking the football in the air, especially in the red zone, the two play the receiver position very similarly.
Jones is the easier comparison given the catching styles and body types. Like Jones, Adams wins consistently in traffic and shows deceptive long speed.
In a worst-case scenario, Adams would occasionally struggle to separate and have untimely mental lapses catching the football but still remain a mostly productive pro receiver. Best case, he becomes a touchdown vulture who can win over the top or underneath with deceptiveness and is a nightmare with the football in his hands.
The range is wide, but both the ceiling and floor should be high for Adams' NFL career. He has the array of tools to become the latest in a long line of second-round success stories for Thompson and the Packers.
Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.
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