Fantasy Free Agents: Cobb's Tangled Web
Randall Cobb’s free agent status promises to be a continual point of interest for many reasons, not the least of which is the 24-year-old was a top-10 fantasy wideout while playing on the league’s highest-scoring offense. A departure obviously makes waves wherever he lands, but the ripples felt in Green Bay would be no less impactful.
Second-year pass catcher Davante Adams, who flashed on occasion as a rookie, would see his role enhanced by Cobb’s absence. More interestingly, someone would assume the snaps vacated by Adams’ elevation. It would be big news if a single receiver takes over for Adams, who played on 72.8-percent of Green Bay’s snaps despite a light early-season workload.
Before you run through a wall while high-fiving your Jeff Janis Fathead, it’s worth noting how Cobb’s potential departure would affect a more prominent Packer pass catcher.
During the last two seasons, Jordy Nelson was in the slot on 21.8-percent of snaps when Cobb played, versus a hefty 73.3-percent when Cobb missed games. That non-Cobb slot percentage is nothing to sneeze at. It would have ranked 15th-highest out of the 50 wideouts who saw at least 25-percent of their teams’ slot snaps in 2014.
When Cobb sat out in 2013, Nelson’s average depth of target (aDOT) was 9.1 yards and he hauled in 73-percent of those looks. In the other seven contests, Nelson’s aDOT was 13.8 and he caught 71-percent of targets. In 2014, when he and Cobb both played 18 games, Nelson’s aDOT (12.0) and catch percentage (66%) were again reflective of more downfield routes.
If Cobb walks and Nelson assumes his slot role, he would become even more valuable – especially in PPR leagues. Over the last two seasons with Cobb in the lineup, Nelson scored 17.3 PPR points-per-game and ran more (and deeper) routes while lined up out wide. When Cobb sat, Nelson’s average in PPR leagues jumped to 20.7 points-per-game while he executed higher-percentage routes.
Throw in the fact that Nelson, at 6-foot-3 and 215-pounds, would dominate typically smaller slot cornerbacks in the red zone. Last season he saw the same number of targets inside the 20-yard line as Cobb (29), but his touchdown percentage was significantly lower (17% vs. 38%). Add a few more scores to Nelson’s ledger in 2014, and he’s essentially the top-scoring wideout in standard leagues.
Nelson is currently being drafted in MFL10 formats as the seventh wideout (overall ADP of 15.5). He was a bargain last year as the ninth receiver selected, near the end of the second round. Early returns indicate that little has changed on that front.
As for Mr. Janis, the Packers have already hinted strongly that he’s expected to take a “big step” forward. While there’s no shortage of love for uber-athletic size-speed freak in the metrics community, there sadly is a lack of a Janis Fathead.
Expect that to change if Cobb does indeed leave Green Bay. Even if the Packer slot machine stays, there is a real possibility that Janis eats into Adams’ stats. Unfortunately the effect would probably be to devalue Adams more than it would elevate Janis to a usable fantasy asset, but it’s something to keep in mind. While mulling that over, consider the athletic webs that the two second-year wideouts weave, courtesy of MockDraftable.com:
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman