Who Is the Best WR in the NFL? Davante Adams vs. Cooper Kupp Face Off in B/R AppJune 16, 2022
Davante Adams is finally where he belongs, and the move to the Las Vegas Raiders will help cement his legacy as an all-time wide receiver.
The new setting should show that Adams isn't a byproduct of Aaron Rodgers' greatness and an offense that didn't feature a consistent secondary receiving threat.
If anyone is wrestling with the thought of Adams not being the same ultra-productive wide receiver with the Raiders as he was with the Green Bay Packers, consider this a situation like Cody Rhodes leaving AEW to join WWE and elevating his status as one of the world's biggest stars.
Adams enters the AFC as the conference's best receiver, according to a poll conducted by Bleacher Report with 20,000-plus interactive fans. The voting wasn't particularly close, either.
Adams' ascension toward elite status wasn't simply a byproduct of usage rate as Rodgers grew comfortable with him (and only him at times) in the Packers offense. Yes, Adams averaged a whopping 142 targets over the last six seasons. He's finished in the top four in targets three times over the last four years. Still, opponents knew Adams would be fed the ball and could do nothing to stop him, because he's one of the league's most consistent and precise route-runners. In that regard, nothing changes even though he's now playing in Sin City.
His consistency creates the separation found among the league's best targets.
As Pro Football Focus' Kevin Cole noted, Adams leads the NFL over the last two seasons in receptions (232), receiving touchdowns (29), first-down receptions (152) and average yards per route run (2.9). His receiving yards (2,872) and drop rate (2 percent) rank second. Adams is the best all-around receiver that money can buy and the Raiders were more than happy to oblige.
The Raiders traded first- and second-round picks to the Packers for Adams and then handed him a five-year, $140 million contract to make him the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history.
"I was a Raiders fan my whole life," Adams told reporters at his introductory press conference. "It is a dream to be a Raider, man. It's a dream come true."
But this is more than a good story. The Raiders made a savvy move by bringing in an elite target to pair with quarterback Derek Carr.
"It's not that he has the ability just to take you deep; he has the ability to do it all," Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown, who's the franchise's all-time leading receiver, said during an interview on Raider Nation Radio (h/t Rachel Gossen of the team's official site). "When you have a guy who can do that, it really puts a lot of pressure on defenses."
To Brown's point, Adams is the game's highest-graded wide receiver over the last two regular seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. His grade against press coverage last season was second-best. He has the second-most receptions of 15 or more yards during that span. His 22 touchdown receptions when working out of the slot are the third-most since the start of the 2018 campaign.
Whether Adams is facing press or zone coverage while working outside the numbers or in the slot, the back-to-back first-team All-Pro really can do it all.
Now his surrounding cast, at least among the wide receivers and tight ends, is better. The Raiders have one of the game's premier receiver threats at tight end in Darren Waller. Hunter Renfrow is nearly uncoverable when working from the slot.
And Carr may not be a significant downgrade from Rodgers.
Carr and Adams have a rapport in place from playing together in college. As CBS Sports noted, Carr led the FBS in passing yards (9,187) and touchdown passes (87) while Adams led the FBS in receptions (233), receiving yards (3,031) and touchdown receptions (38) during their two years together at Fresno State. The two are already close, which eases the transition to spur Adams toward greater heights.
"As far as talent and ability, it's really similar, if I'm keeping it real," Adams told reporters when comparing Carr and Rodgers. "They throw the ball a lot different. Derek's gonna fire it in there, and you gonna know that thing's coming quick. Aaron's got the ability to tighten that core up and flick that ball to you. So the release is a lot different, but being able to get the ball to you late, if they see you coming out of a break, not many quarterbacks can get it to you before you get to the sideline if you're outside the numbers already.
"Having two guys like that with really strong arms, and understand the game, the mental part of it, is another similarity that they have. They both obsess over it and they know everything that's going on out there."
Adams does have some competition for the top spot, though. The Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp is coming off the best season by a wide receiver in league history. Including the playoffs, Kupp accumulated an unbelievable 178 receptions for 2,425 yards and 22 touchdowns on his way to becoming the Super Bowl LVI MVP. As a result, he's now viewed as the NFC's best wide receiver, according to fans on Bleacher Report.
If an argument was built on a single season, Kupp would easily edge out Adams as the league's best. The two are closer than they appear. As noted earlier, Adams is third over the last four seasons with 22 touchdowns when working from the slot. Kupp is second with 23. The latter has more yards after the catch than any wide receiver since the start of the 2017 campaign, per PFF. Kupp led the league in yards per route run last year, while Adams paced the league in 2020.
Yet Adams is more effective working outside the numbers and further down the field. Kupp's game is primarily built upon lining up in the slot and creating after the catch. However, Adams is the absolute best because he can effectively win at all three levels from any alignment despite defenses keying on him at all times. He's proved it year after year.
When asked, Kupp even sided with Adams as the NFL's best wide receiver.
"I think you gotta go with Davante," the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year said during an interview on Sirius XM's Mad Dog Sports Radio. "... What he's been able to do over such a long period of time, his consistency, all three phases—short, intermediate, down the field—he's an incredible football player. ... That's one of the coolest things I've seen with Davante is his growth and pushing himself to be a better football player from one year to the next. That's a pretty special thing."
Adams should continue to grow with the franchise he's always wanted to play for, the quarterback he chose to play alongside and the best group of supporting targets he's enjoyed during his career.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.