Underrated Game-Breaker: Randall Cobb
I’ve seen Randall Cobb ranked as a fringe WR1 and the second Packer wideout among most expert rankings this offseason, but I don’t understand the hesitation to move him up to the top 10 at the minimum and potentially within the top 5 at his position now that he is healthy.
No, he’s not the elite athlete that most owners feel more comfortable with as their top pass catching option, but he’s got a combination that few receivers have: youth and elite quarterback play. Regardless of how you rank the 2014 crop of signal callers or receivers, move down your list and tell me how many in your top 30 are under 28 years of age are and have a top five quarterback throwing to them.
Demaryius Thomas and …
For the third consecutive season, Cobb had the lowest average depth of target (aDOT) on the Packers, a trend that limits his downside. For your standard receiver, that would also limit upside, but that is not the case for Cobb, who is averaging more 20-plus-yard receptions per game over the last two seasons than A.J. Green.
The accuracy of Aaron Rodgers and the ability to get quick separation are a lethal combination, especially when you consider that the Packers play 10 games against teams that ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards per pass attempt last season. The schedule does Green Bay another favor, as they play 11 of their final 12 games either in front of their home crowd or at a location that rarely has weather issues (dome or a warm weather environment).
Combine those schedule quirks with the fact that the Packers had the third best pass blocking offensive line in the league last year and it’s difficult to imagine this offense as anything but a top 5 unit with the potential for more.
As for the argument that Cobb isn’t the best fantasy pass catcher on his team: You’re dreaming. Jordy Nelson is a nice receiver who has the ability to stretch the field (over the last five seasons 22.7% of his receptions have gone for at least 20 yards), but I want safety and consistency with my top receiver, something I expect the still-improving Cobb to provide more of.
Jarrett Boykin will fill the void left by the departure of James Jones, another reason I love Cobb over Nelson. Boykin and his 6’2” frame proved capable of challenging defenses down the field (recorded a 20-plus-yard reception in all eight games in which he was targeted with at least five passes), thus opening up the middle for Cobb and potentially taking some of Nelson’s looks.
Aaron Rodgers has the talent and now the respected running game to keep defenses honest to give all three receivers considerable fantasy value this season, but the versatile Cobb is the only one I trust as my top fantasy wide out.
The soon-to-be 24-year-old was on the verge of a full blown breakout before his vicious leg injury and should be viewed as a safe option (his injury, along with Rodgers’, were both of the “fluke” variety and shouldn’t scare owners) this year. In his last 16 regular season games, Cobb has hauled in 89 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 scores, fantasy numbers that aren’t that different from Alshon Jeffery’s breakout 2013 (89-1,421-7).
Great receivers of this generation (the Calvin Johnsons, Andre Johnsons, and Larry Fitzgeralds of the world) exploded in their fourth professional season, ranking them among the fantasy elite for years to come … a jump Cobb could easily make in 2014.
Other Underrated Game-Breakers: