Fresno State wide receiver Davante Adams, a potential first or second-round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has used his basketball background to propel himself up draft boards.
The former two-sport star at Palo Alto High School in California has favorable athleticism due in large part to his on-court experiences. He also shared the same basketball coach as San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Both played for longtime Paly coach Earl Hansen.
Harbaugh and Adams didn’t talk hoops at last week’s local pro day event in Santa Clara. Adams didn’t participate in on-field drills, but the 49ers coach and general manager Trent Baalke both conversed with the wide receiver prospect during the open period of the workout.
“Really impressive youngster,” Harbaugh said of Adams, a productive wideout who led the nation with 131 receptions last season. “Genuine, down to earth, good-hearted guy. You can tell. He’s had a heck of a career.”
Adams is one of many draft hopefuls with major basketball experience.
“Generally speaking, the guys with basketball in their background understand a key element of sport, which is spacing,” Baalke said. “They understand how to keep space, and more important, create space. That’s not easily learned. That’s a natural instinct people have.”
Harbaugh noted the hand-eye coordination that is key in basketball and baseball translates to a wide receiver making difficult catches on the football field.
“That’s the sport you like to see in their background,” Harbaugh, a well-documented half-court shooting basketball enthusiast said. “Of course baseball helps receivers, safeties, corners, people who track the ball. You like to see that.”
Adams explained at the NFL Scouting Combine that he committed to Fresno State so he could play two sports in college. He only began playing football as a junior in high school and long considered himself to be a “hooper.”
“That obviously didn't work out with the amount of time I had to dedicate to both with them kind of overlapping during the season,” the 6-foot-1, 212-pound receiver said in February.
Adams eventually put aside his basketball aspirations to focus on football. He redshirted to start his football career and went on to produce 38 touchdowns over his next two seasons, including 24 as a redshirt sophomore.
Though he gave up playing basketball collegiately, Adams carried many of his on-court talents into football.
So how did basketball improve his wide receiver ability?
“It makes it really easy for me to go up and win those 50-50 balls,” Adams said. “I'm so used to grabbing boards and stuff like that, so it makes it kind of second nature. When the ball's in the air, I just go up and grab it. With my leaping ability I know no one's going to go up and get it over me.
“That's why we were so effective at the goal line on fades this past year. (Fresno State quarterback) Derek (Carr) trusted me pretty much to throw the ball up and go grab it.”
Adams’ Scouting Combine measurements backed up those statements. He clocked in at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash to go along with a 39.5-inch vertical leap.
Baalke said Adams’ physical traits were evident on film.
“You can see the numbers in his play,” Baalke said. “He’s a smart football player. He knows how to stem DBs. He knows how to create space, so you can obviously see the basketball player in his background. Good football player.”
Adams is currently listed as the No. 49-ranked prospect in NFL Network analyst Daniel Jermiah’s prospect rankings.
Adams, however, is supremely confident he can be the top receiver in the draft.
When asked what a team will get if they choose him, Adams said his future team will get “the best receiver in this draft class.”