The Green Bay Packers Should Utilize Davante Adams in the Slot

Davante Adams

With the NFL Draft less than a week away, the Green Bay Packers and general manager Brian Gutekunst are finalizing their draft board and looking towards the 2020 season. One of the worst kept secrets in the league is that the Packers are looking for a running mate to Pro Bowl star wide receiver Davante Adams. Even though it was Matt LaFleur’s first year installing the offense for his new squad, an Aaron Rodgers-led passing attack should still rank better than 17th in the league. Many look to the draft for solutions, but one prominent change in LaFleur’s scheme could hold huge benefits for the Packers. Today we look at how Adams could be used more in the slot to maximize the offense in 2020.

The Green Bay Packers Should Use Davante Adams in the Slot More

The Problem

No receiver besides Davante Adams, who almost humorously missed the 1,000-yard mark by three yards for the second time in his career, recorded 500 yards in 2019. Running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams finished second and third on the team in receptions. So far the only off-season move to rectify the situation was to bring in uninspiring sixth-year pro Devin Funchess who appeared in one game for the Indianapolis Colts last year. Funchess adds another big-bodied outside receiver to a locker room already featuring Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, and Equanimeous St. Brown. All stand 6’4’’ or taller and bring similar skillsets to the offense. Geronimo Allison, who was the Packers primary slot receiver last year, left for the Detroit Lions in free agency. This has led to many draftniks mocking quick and shifty slot receivers to the Packers early in the draft.

Draft Targets

The story of the 2020 draft is the depth of the wide receiver group. Ceedee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, and Jerry Jeudy should be long gone by the Packers pick in the first round. Justin Jefferson is the dream but he will most likely be off the board as well. If the Packers go receiver at pick 30, should they be focused solely on slot-type guys to fill the offense’s largest need? TCU’s Jalen Raegor and Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk are common mock draft predictions and would be wise picks by Gutekunst. If both players are gone or if the Packers don’t view them as proper value at 30, how flexible is the front office to grab another boundary-dominant player? Baylor’s Denzel Mims, USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., and Clemson’s Tee Higgins are all in a similar tier to Raegor and Aiyuk. If Gutekunst values any of these three over the slot receivers listed, he should make the pick without questioning how the rookies could perform in LaFleur’s offense.

The Solution

The old football adage of “players, not plays” could be put to the test for the Packers in this draft. If they add another boundary receiver early, many evaluators will question whether the front office is neglecting the slot position. Perhaps the answer at slot receiver is right under our nose. Adams may be the team’s best boundary receiver, but he could fill the void on the inside in three receiver sets. If the season started tomorrow, the Packers would most likely trot out Lazard opposite Adams in two receiver sets. Funchess could play opposite Lazard in 21 personnel which would move Adams inside. Adams will still have plenty of production no matter where he aligns.

After Davante Adams missed several games with a turf toe injury, LaFleur had to adjust his offense. He ran more two-back personnel groupings. A rotation of Kumerow, Lazard, and Valdes-Scantling kept the group afloat on the outside. When Adams re-entered the starting lineup in week nine, the offense inexplicably had some of its worst outings of the year. It wasn’t until Week 14 against the Chicago Bears that LaFleur started moving Adams around the formation. The results were instant as Adams easily burned corner Buster Skrine in the first quarter for a 29-yard touchdown. On fourth down, LaFleur split three wide receivers out on the left side with Adams in the middle. Rodgers made a check at the line and sent Adams deep. The master craftsman shook Skrine off the line and made the play. This impressive playcall was a sign of things to come as the season winded down.

Whole Package

Look at Adams’ performance against the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round. On third and eight with just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Packers risked handing the ball back to Russell Wilson in a five-point game. Kumerow and Allison split out wide with Adams in the slot to the right. The boundary players slanted inside and Rodgers hits Adams on the fade 30 yards downfield. Everyone knows where the ball is going but the scheme allows Adams to burn his man and secure the pivotal conversion. Adams also added two touchdowns in the game where he acted like he was crossing the middle of the field before breaking back outside.

Regardless of who the Packers target in the draft, Adams will be the team’s most dominant pass-catcher next season. His skills on the outside are some of the best in the league, but he’s not known for his presence in the slot. LaFleur realized he could make life easier for his star receiver. Adams skills out of the break are second to none. Give him even extra space in the slot and Adams should break away from any cornerback. Even if opposing defenses shadow Adams with their best corners, there will be better matchups for secondary receivers out wide. LaFleur should go into 2020 with the idea that he can move Adams around the formation and focus him more in the slot. This should free up Gutekunst and the front office to take the best player regardless of fit in the offense. The cohesion between Rodgers, Adams, and Jones entering year two in LaFleur’s offense should be enough to make this one of the strongest attacks in football.

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