After 10 games, 574 receiving yards, 54 catches, and 7 touchdowns, it’s apparent to even the most passive observer that receiver Randall Cobb has become the Packers most dangerous weapon. On its face alone that’s impressive, let alone after Cobb’s impact on the return and running game is factored in.
The second year receiver has been such a revelation that Greg Jennings’ pending free agency, a major preseason storyline, has become a complete afterthought.
And it was so close to not being that way.
Randall Cobb wasn’t an unknown commodity heading into the 2011 draft. Not only had Cobb made an All-SEC first team, but he had done so for the lowly Kentucky Wildcats. His return skills and overall versatility were also widely celebrated. Most draft experts had Cobb projected to go as high as the first round.
Yet Cobb fell, and six receivers were taken before he landed to Green Bay on the final pick of the second round. All but A.J. Green and Julio Jones, both top 10 selections, have been irrefutably inferior to Cobb. While it isn’t news to anyone that players often outperform those drafted ahead of them, or vice versa, it seemed odd at the time that Cobb fell so far. Nowhere is this more apparent than pick 44.
The Detroit Lions, wanting a speedy receiver to take pressure off Calvin Johnson, selected Boise State’s Titus Young. Young’s profile was very similar to Cobb: A somewhat diminutive pass catcher with fantastic speed and quickness who was highly productive in college.
Detroit will be left questioning this decision for quite some time.
While their career numbers are nearly identical at this point – Cobb has 79 catches for 949 yards and 8 TDs while Young has 80 catches for 990 yards and 10 TDs – these are two players moving in opposite directions.
Young hasn’t progressed as a playmaker despite increased opportunities. His production is basically the same as last year, and he hasn’t done anything to make defenses think twice about double-teaming Calvin Johnson.
Cobb on the other hand has been thrust into the role of lead receiver. And he has flourished. In the last six games alone, Cobb has 412 receiving yards and 7 TDs on 36 receptions. That’s more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Young’s entire 2012 season to date.
Now imagine what the Packers offense would look like this year without Cobb. Jennings and Nelson have missed a lot of time, and while James Jones has played great and deserves even more praise than he’s receiving, this team is two or more games worse without Cobb’s play.
It’s early, but the preliminary returns indicate Cobb could go down with Aaron Rodgers as the greatest draft robberies of the Ted Thompson era.