Free Agent Profile: Randall Cobb
Although Green Bay’s front office knew that Randall Cobb had potential in the NFL, the former Kentucky player was mainly used as a kickoff and punt returner in his rookie season. Since then, however, he has steadily developed and closed the gap on Jordy Nelson, Green Bay’s top receiver. He timed his best season perfectly; a contract year before becoming a free agent.
Over the years, with continuous improvement, Cobb has become one of the premier wide receivers in the game. He is our third ranked free agent wide receiver behind only Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. Among the Top 7 players, Cobb is the only one who was not considered the No. 1 receiver for his team last year.
Cobb has been the Packers’ most dependable wide receiver since entering the league as he led the team in catch percentage every year, ranging from 72.8% to 80.6%. Furthermore, league wide he was in the Top 2 in this category three straight years (2011-2013) and finished 10th last year. Cobb is a reliable receiver but the weight of targets he received in Green Bay led to some drops as well. He was among the league ‘leaders’ in terms of number of drops in 2012 and 2014 (the last two seasons in which he played at least 15 regular season games), and his Drop Rate of 8.08 in 2014 was in the lower half of qualifying wide receivers, right behind Nelson.
Cobb was also used as a kickoff and punt returner on numerous occasions before becoming primarily a wide receiver, and those skills are visible when he is catching passes. Forcing missed tackles has been a strength throughout his career, regardless of where he has been deployed. He finished with 18 forced misses in 2014, which was good for third place among wide receivers behind Steve Smith and Golden Tate, who have also had experience as returners over the years.
Taking advantage of Cobb’s elusiveness and explosiveness, the Packers have lined him up in the backfield several times during his tenure there — dictating favorable matchups for one of their most dangerous playmakers. Overall, Cobb lined up in the backfield 49 times, including playoffs, and had 13 rushing attempts. Obviously, his experience in lining up in the backfield provides another layer of versatility on top of his usage as a wide receiver and a returner.
Another indicator that highlights Cobb’s elusiveness is Yards After Catch per Reception. He led Green Bay wide receivers in this category every year, except for 2013, when he was second behind James Jones. His lowest mark was a 5.8-yard average over a season, while his best result came in his rookie year when he averaged 7.7 yards after the catch. This figure was good enough for fourth position in the league behind the likes of fellow rookie Julio Jones. This past year he was again tied for fourth place with 6.6 yards after the catch.
Cobb’s reliability shows also when looking his Wide Receiver Rating, which is the rating that quarterbacks have when throwing to him. He was in the top half of the league in this category throughout his career and actually led the league in 2014.
Green Bay quarterbacks threw 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions over his 298 career targets. He had a WR rating of 114.4 and 119.5 in 2011 and 2012 and was able to top 134.0 in his final two years. Then again, this might have something to do with the fact that he was playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers.
He turned out to be the perfect complement for Jordy Nelson’s presence on the perimeter. Cobb ran a route from the slot position a league-high 501 times in 2014, 54 more than second place Jordan Matthews. This number represents 87.3% of all his routes. He caught 75 passes from the slot, which is 70.8% of all his receptions in the season.
Cobb complemented Nelson not only by where he lined up, but also by what part of the field he worked at. While the average Depth of target for Nelson was 12.0 yards, which is 48th among receivers, Cobb was clearly an underneath option for Rodgers as his aDot was 9.0 yards. To further emphasize his role in the offense, this was good for 97th among the 115 qualifying wide receivers.
Reportedly looking for a deal that would pay him $9 million annually, Cobb would be in the range of what his current teammate Jordy Nelson makes due to his four-year $39 million extension signed last year. Although, signing him for a long-term deal would require a significant investment for a team, Cobb has shown the ability to justify it. He is one of the league’s most dependable and versatile slot weapons, and brings value as a return man to the table as well.