Adams was also the recipient of the inaugural Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers Return Specialist Award (Jet Award) in 2011, recognizing the best return specialist in all of college football. Adams returned 19 punts for 321 yards (16.9 yards per return) and 4 touchdowns (tops in the nation) in the 2011 season, helping the Razorbacks to an 11-2 record, and a victory over Kansas State in the 2012 Cotton Bowl. Adams also returned a punt 51 yards for a touchdown in the bowl game, the first punt returned for a score since former Arkansas player Lance Alworth returned one in the 1961 Cotton Bowl. But Adams' most electrifying punt return came against the Tennessee Volunteers on November 12, 2011 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Joe caught the punt on the Razorback forty yard line, reversed his field numerous times, slipped seven tackle attempts, and wove his way through the Vols defenders for a sixty-yard return and six points. Arkansas won the game, 49-7. It is considered the most electrifying punt return in Arkansas football history.
The Carolina Panthers selected Adams in the fourth round, 104th overall pick, of the 2012 NFL Draft. He returned kicks in the first three games of the 2012 season before being benched after losing two fumbles in a game against the New York Giants. On August 27, he was waived.