Davante Adams could be one of the most coveted free-agent WRs in 2018

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Davante Adams will need to back up his breakout season of 2016 with another equally -- if not more -- productive performance this season.

If he does, the Green Bay Packers receiver could be one of the most coveted free-agent receivers on the market next March.

ESPN’s John Clayton identified Adams as “a sleeper” in his story on the best potential free agents by position in 2018.

Clayton’s reasoning is sound. The 2014 draft class of receivers was one of the best in recent years, and Adams could be one of the few who actually comes available. The second-round pick (No. 53 overall) would be a free agent next March if the Packers don’t complete a contract extension.

The group of first-round picks from that draft -- among them Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins, Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., New England’s Brandin Cooks and Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin -- all will be kept off the market if their teams pick up the fifth-year option that applies only to first-round picks. The Panthers already announced they will exercise their option on Benjamin, and it’s a good bet the others will do the same if they don’t reach contract extensions before next month’s option deadline.

Adams set career highs with 75 catches, 997 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and was named a Pro Bowl alternate. That followed a pair of inconsistent seasons in 2014 (38 catches, 446 yards and three touchdowns) and 2015 (50 catches, 483 yards and one touchdown).

Packers president Mark Murphy already has identified Adams as one of the players the Packers have an eye on re-signing before free agency next year. He brought up Adams -- along with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (also in the 2014 draft class) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- last week at the NFL owners meetings when discussing future priorities for contracts.

Among the other potential Packers free agents that Clayton mentioned in his piece were center Corey Linsley and safety Morgan Burnett. Linsley will be coming off his rookie contract, while Burnett is in the final year of a four-year, $24.75 million extension he signed just before his fourth NFL season.