Davante Adams, Michael Crabtree, and Historic College Seasons


If you’re even a casual RotoViz reader you know we talk A LOT about relative metrics (market share, nQBDR, and very recently Fantasy Footprints) and less about raw stats.  But sometimes you have to just step back and appreciate a historic full season performance when it happens.  Fresno State Sophomore wideout Davante Adams had that kind of a season.

Rarified Air

At 6’2” 216 pounds the two time All American and all-time Bulldogs leading receiver put up a ridiculous 131 receptions for 1,719 yards and a 24 TD stat line (including the Las Vegas Bowl stats) this season.  Let me repeat: TWENTY-FREAKING-FOUR TOUCHDOWNS!  During his dominant 2013 campaign he had six 1 TD games, two 2 TD games, two 3 TD games (!!), and two 4 TD games(!!!).  In case you were wondering, there was only one game in which Adams didn’t score a touchdown this season.  Put another way, over the 13 games he played in 2013, Adams’ average stat line is 10.1 catches for 132.2 yards and 1.85 toughdowns per game.  Just…wow.

Using the invaluable Sports Reference CFB website we can put Adams’ 2013 performance into some historical context…since 1956:

His 131 receptions is tied for 9th all time.

His 1,719 yards ranks 18th all time.

His 24 TDs ranks 4th all time.

Let that last one sink in for a minute.  Only 3 other college players since 1956 have ever scored more receiving touchdowns in a season than Davante Adams.  One of them happens to be hall of famer Randy Moss who scored 26 in 1997.  Enough said.  Another happens to be a fascinating RotoViz DR darling Stedman Bailey.  Bailey started to make some noise towards the end of the 2013 NFL season and we’ll see if he can live up to his dominant raw and relative stats, despite his smallish stature.  If the guy at the top of the list – Troy Edwards with 27 TDs in 1998 – is any bellwether for Bailey, the outlook may not be so good.  Both guys are 5’10” and weigh almost exactly the same (around 190lbs).  Edwards never amounted to much in his seven NFL seasons.  His 61/714/5 rookie campaign would be the best of his NFL career.  But, I digress…

No Love for “DA”

What shocks me is the lack of attention the media draft analyst community is paying Davante Adams despite his historically productive season.  Despite leading the nation in receptions and racking up a top four all-time TD total, the major media outlets that do rankings this early have him no higher than their fourth best receiver in this class and most have him much lower:

ESPN – The lone standout Adams lover, they have him at WR4 toward the end of their top 32 draft prospects for 2014.

CBS – Potentially lowest of the bunch with Adams behind 9 other receivers in this year’s class.

SIAdams doesn’t crack the top 40 players here although there are 8 other receivers on the list.

NFL.com – Of the four mock drafts on the site at the moment, only Daniel Jeremiah has DA going in the 1st round.  Yet he’s literally pick 32 and Jeremiah’s 7th WR off the board.

On one hand this probably speaks to the depth of this year’s WR class, which by all accounts is pretty tremendous.  But on the other hand, it clearly demonstrates that despite the elite stats most analysts don’t consider Adams an elite talent. At least they don’t yet.  Perhaps they’ll come around between now and May. Perhaps Adams will do enough at the combine to make believers out of a few more, but it’s unlikely. Since “the tape” on Adams is already there for all to see, these lackluster opinions of him are likely fully formed.

If we try to explore the NFL draft community to see why that is, a quick Google Search yields little in the way of scouting reports. If you dig around hard enough for general descriptions of Adams’ “game”, what you tend to get is some praise for being good in the red zone, some questioning of the level of competition he faced, and some comments about his lack of top-end speed. Interestingly, the most common thing you find on Twitter is Michael Crabtree comparisons:





Got Crabs?

But what of these Crabtree comparisons?  Is it just the echo chamber that “Draft Twitter” can sometimes be?  Or is there more to it?  Let’s dig a little deeper…

Some of the desire to compare the two undoubtedly comes from their almost identical sizes:

Player Height Weight
Michael Crabtree 6’1″ 214
Davante Adams 6’2″ 216

Some of it probably comes from the style of offense they played in.  From the NFLDraftGeek.com scouting report in the Twitter link above:

Fresno State runs a wide-open offense similar to what Texas Tech runs and ran under Mike Leach with Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree. While Leach had Harrell and Crabtree, Fresno had Derek Carr and Davante Adams. Ironically, Adams best NFL comparison is Michael Crabtree.

And some of it likely comes from the fact that Crabtree himself was a bit of a stat factory at Texas Tech. On that same S/R list of best seasons since 1956, Crabtree’s 2007 redshirt freshman campaign boasts even more elite ranks than Adams.  Crabtree owns the 6th best reception total, the 3rd best yardage total, and 5th best TD total (22, right behind Adams). He tailed off a bit with “only” 97/1165/19 in 2008 but that TD total is still tied for 12th all time.  Bcuz stats…

What’s even more intriguing and probably not as obvious to non-RotoViz readers are differences between these two guys with respect to their “Eric Decker Factor” metrics.  Using the College Career Graphs App we can plot Crabtree and Adams side by side:


Both saw very heavy usage in their two college seasons and impressively both recorded elite > 9.0 yards per target (YPT) marks on those heavy workloads.  Both are well above average in the Red Zone TD Rate category, catching about a third of all targets thrown their way in that compressed, high-leverage area of the field.

But market share is where they start to diverge a little.  Crabtree is certainly no slouch in the receiving market share department (aka Dominator Rating or DR).  His Year 2 DR of .31 (average of .22 market share of team receiving yards and .4 market share of team receiving TDs) is solid if unremarkable.  Adams on the other hand, has Crabtree beat in both market share categories in his Year 2 effort and therefore boasts an elite .42 DR.  I wouldn’t consider this an automatic sign that Adams will be a more productive NFL receiver than Crabtree, but these numbers suggest it’s very possible.  In fact, I’d argue the better market share number shows Adams has more upside than Crabtree.  Mostly, the numbers support the idea that Crabtree is a very solid NFL comp for Adams (and might even represent more of a floor than a ceiling), making Adams a fantastic NFL (and Dynasty rookie draft) pick.

What About the Skeleton Key?

Age is all the rage these days here at RotoViz and I’d be remiss if I didn’t conclude by comparing their breakout ages.  If you haven’t been following along, be sure to catch up on all of the age related stuff by starting with the NFL Draft Age Project, then following from the Holy Grail on to the Skeleton Key, and concluding with How to Pick Better Wide Receivers.  Now that you’re with me, let’s see how they compare using the “Skeleton Key”:


Player Height Weight Breakout Age Breakout DR NFL Rookie Age
Michael Crabtree 6’1″ 214 20 0.38 22
Davante Adams 6’2″ 216 20 0.34 22

Almost identical yet again.  Both are in the 20 year old breakout cohort which contains illustrious names like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Eric Decker, Mike Williams, Torrey Smith, Dwayne Bowe, Justin Blackmon, and Michael Floyd.  Check it out for yourself.

What Next?

It will be fascinating to follow Adams through the NFL Scouting Combine and the Draft to see what effects they may have on his value.  From my personal perspective, only extreme outcomes in either of these two events will alter my view of him.  By extreme I mean something like Adams running a forty time north of 4.7 (absent some explainable injury or stumble) or falling to Day 3 of the NFL draft (absent some scandalous off field behavior).  Why only extremes?  Stats seem to matter more than anything else. Because of his elite raw stats as well as his elite relative metrics, it would take a lot to sway my view of Adams as one of the premier prospects in this 2014 WR class despite the current lack of media hype.  If we’re lucky, he’ll continue to be undervalued all the way through the NFL Draft and present a great value in Dynasty rookie drafts this offseason.

If you can’t get enough Dynasty Wide Receiver analysis, check out my recent post “Josh Gordon, Marvin Jones, and the Naive Dynasty WR Ranking Model.”

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