The consensus top four picks for the NFL’s 2020-2021 MVP are as follows:
Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Derrick Henry
Following those four are Alvin Kamara, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, and while I agree that all seven (maybe not Russ but we’ll save that for another column) are deserving of that marker, there is one name left out of most if not all lists until you get around No. 8 in the voting, but should easily be in the top 5, if not higher: Davante Adams.
In a season plagued with uncertainty, you won’t find a surer thing than Adams. In the Packers’ season opener against division rivals and early favorites to win the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings, Adams hauled in 14 catches for 156 yards and two TDs in a 43-34 win. One game after returning from injury against a struggling Houston Texans in Week 7, Adams grabbed another 13 passes for 196 yards and two more TDs.
I’ll spare you the stats on the rest of his games in 2020, but needless to say that sort of production became the norm for Rodgers’ WR1.
Coming into the season, Adams was probably a top 5 receiver on some team’s radars, trailing behind the likes of Deandre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones and maybe even Tyreek Hill among others. Now, only one season later, he is in the debate for the best receiver in the league.
Over the past few months, Adams has solidified himself as the best route-runner, one of the hardest workers, and dare I say it (sorry Hopkins fans), owner of the surest hands in the NFL. Garnering over 10 targets per game, Adams dropped just one pass all season according to PFF and hauled in an insane 77.2% of passes thrown his way, first among teams’ WR1s. And not only was Adams the WR1 on the Packers, he was sometimes the only viable option on the team. Let’s look at the supporting cast.
Lined up opposite of Adams was a rotation of undrafted WR Allen Lazard, undrafted TE Robert Tonyan and the speedy but often butterfingered Marquez Valdes-Scantling. To say Adams faced the opposing team’s top corners was an understatement, but he was still able to put together some fantastic performances. And this is nothing against the other receivers. They put together great seasons as well, which got the Packers to where they are, but it was always clear that Adams would be the go-to guy, night in and night out, resulting in plenty of doubles for the seventh-year player.
Of course, more casual fans will look at the stats and say, “Stefon Diggs had a better year in almost every statistical category, if anyone should be in the MVP discussion it’s him.”
But what they are forgetting is that Davante Adams missed two-and-a-half games.
In the 14 (really 13 and a half) games he played this year, Adams averaged just over 98 yards and eight receptions per game. Even ignoring the half of football he missed against the Detroit Lions, adding 196 yards and 16 receptions to Adams’ season stats puts him at the top of the league in receptions (131) and yards (1,570). Tacking on that Adams already led the league in yards per game (98.1) and TDs (18) — the most since Randy Moss had 23 in 2007 — this was as dominant a year we have seen a wide receiver have in some time.
In terms of Packers history, his 77.2% completion rate is the highest while receiving at least 100 targets in history, his projected 1,570 yards would have been the most in a single season, and his 18 touchdowns and 115 receptions both place him first in the All-time Packers rankings respectively. But sure, Stefon Diggs was better.
The one knock to Adams’ resume is that the Packers did well enough without him where his innate value seemed less important than that of the players previously mentioned. In his two-game absence, Lazard exploded for 146 yards a TD in a win against the Saints, while Tonyan hauled in an incredible six catches for 98 yards and three TDs in a 30-16 win over the Falcons.
For that reason, I think it’s clear the actual winner of the MVP award should be Aaron Rodgers. But to not have Adams, who put together one of the most dominant performances we have seen while being the only established WR on his team makes him more than worthy of being on the list of top 5 candidates.
This is a year unlike anything we have seen or will see for quite a while, and it should be treated as such by putting Adams where he belongs, firmly in the MVP conversation.