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Can Randall Cobb Make the Leap?

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb is on the radar. It is not just any old radar, though. It is the radar that vividly encapsulates the NFL wide receiver names in the running to be fantasy football’s next top points scorer. However, this means that the electrifying, defense-grating playmaker has to out leap Detroit Lions superstar Calvin Johnson, a feat that is probably viewed by most as impossible. Cobb is the latest underdog.



STATISTICAL TRENDING
No offense to those who follow the “third-year wide receiver” cult, but the notion of predicting a player breaking out based on years of NFL service is preposterous. In Randall Cobb’s case, this will be his third year in the league, but it’s not the reason why he has a chance at pushing Calvin Johnson down the mountain. Simply put, Cobb’s numbers are trending up, as illustrated below. Note: The percentages are based on 2011 and 2012 stats.

Receptions: Up 69 percent
Targets: Up 70 percent
Yards: Up 60.7 percent
Touchdowns: Up 87.5 percent
First downs: Up 66.6 percent

*There is no empirical magic numbered potion involved here. Cobb is just climbing the statistical ladder.

PERSONNEL CHANGES
With now-Minnesota Vikings receiver Greg Jennings out of the cheese country equation completely, Cobb can continue to progress in to an expanded pass-catching role within the green-and-gold offense. Furthermore, the additions of rookies Johnathan Franklin and Eddie Lacy should also help Cobb see more passes down the field and less behind the line of scrimmage. Jeremy Ross‘ emergence as a kick and punt return man may also help keep Cobb off of special teams and fresh for offensive snaps. 


COMMITMENT

Since being selected late in the second round three years ago, Cobb has shown the personal commitment to continue to get better as a receiver and defensive nightmare. His dedication to the film room and overall maturation have been essential to his progression. They illustrate how truly committed he is going to be moving forward, something that will be critical to the offensive success in Green Bay, especially as Cobb gets ready for his next challenge

of stepping in to that anticipated expanded role (as noted above). It’s a challenge that, according to
USA Today, Cobb seems to think he will be ready for.
  

“It’s definitely going to be a lot more weight on me (and) James’ (Jones) and Jordy’s (Nelson’s) shoulders,” Cobb said before the start of the Packers’ Tailgate Tour in mid-May.

“But we’re taking on the challenge head-on. We’ve been really excited to get back and work. We’ve got some young guys, some drafted guys that (are) coming in. We’re excited to see how it’s going to turn out this year.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently lauded Cobb for the extra time he continues to put in studying other slot receivers that he can pick things up from. Rodgers believes it is what sets Cobb apart from those who also aspire to become elite.

CHEMISTRY WITH RODGERS
On the field, it was crystal clear that Cobb was Rodgers’ all-around go-to receiver last season. If you didn’t see it, consider the following eye-popping numbers. Cobb not only led the team with 104 targets and 80 receptions, but he led all NFL receivers who had triple-digit targets with a catch rate of 77 percent. Just how good is that?   

There have been only two other wide receivers, with a 100 target minimum, to post at least a 75 percent catch rate in the last five seasons. The first was former New England Patriots slot star Wes Welker (76 percent) back in 2009, while the second was New Orleans Saints prime target Marques Colston (75 percent) in 2011. For the record, in Cobb’s 2011 rookie season he was targeted 31 times, for which he recorded a 81 percent catch rate.

COBB VS. HARVIN
A very hearty and popular debate has been brewing lately as to who holds the keys to better fantasy value this coming season – Cobb or Seattle Seahawks playmaker Percy Harvin. While some consider the two to be about even, I am not even considering Harvin to be in the same class as Cobb.

Harvin has an ugly list of injuries that have prevented him from rising to the top, and now he’s playing for a new Seattle team that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard plus receiver since the last good season of the Mike Holmgren-Matt Hasselbeck era in 2007 (Bobby Engram – 1,147 yards). Meanwhile, Cobb has already established a comfort level in Green Bay with his quarterback, understands the offense he plays in, and hasn’t consistently shattered like a cheap piece of glass in his first two seasons.

VALUE VS. POTENTIAL
Currently, Cobb’s value lies in the early third round in redraft league formats. He is a high-definition steal, especially for those fantasy owners utilizing a points per reception scoring system. Cobb has the potential for so much more based on the above-mentioned statistical data, the current state of the offense, and his own quarterback’s beliefs. Fortunately for those fantasy owners who believe in his much higher ceiling, Cobb will continue to maintain his value throughout the offseason just inside the Top 10 among wide receivers.

READY TO LEAP
All indications seem to point to Cobb being truly ready to make a leap up in to at least the top-3. Whether or not he can supersede Johnson remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Thanks for reading! 

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for Fantasysharks.com and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). Email him your thoughts ehuber@fantasysharks.com or follow him on the Twitter @EricHuber12

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