Green Bay Packers: Don’t sleep on Randall Cobb in 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Aaron Rodgers
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Aaron Rodgers /

Randall Cobb may be one of more polarizing figures on the Green Bay Packers offense. But I don’t believe he should be.

Sometimes a player’s value is not always truly evident when watching game after game. Cobb is one of those players where the numbers tell his story more so than what fans actually see on Sundays.

Football in its entirety has developed a hunger. A hunger for the big play. The play that causes a fan to jump out of their seat, chug their beer, and cheer. For this reason, Cobb gets overlooked and is under appreciated within this Green Bay Packers offense.

Now this does not speak to the entire fan base. But there is definitely a fair amount of those who believe the Packers would be just fine without Cobb. I, however, beg to differ.

Before I delve into the statistical analysis that proves Cobb’s worth to this team, let’s touch on his intangible value. The things that can only be seen in film analysis and won’t show up on a stat sheet.

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The NFL has developed into a chess match if you will. Whomever can create the most mismatches is going to be the most successful. This is the mentality of the modern NFL.

Cobb is just that. He is the ultimate mismatch tool. The versatility Cobb brings to the offense is unmistakable. The opposing defense is forced to identify his location before every play. Cobb generally identifies in the slot, which is slowly becoming a more and more prominent position in the NFL.

From this position, Cobb can run any route or any deception of a route. This allows him to do what he does best: become a smooth and shifty route-runner to shake his defender. For this reason, teams can find themselves having to shadow coverage in his direction. This can create holes and opportunities for other teammates. But that’s enough of the X’s and O’s.

Regardless of the attention he gets from defenses, Cobb has the numbers to back him up. The most significant statistic is his catch rate. For Cobb’s career, he has posted a stellar catch rate of 71.3 percent. The soon-to-be 28-year-old receiver has also been targeted 614 times to this point in his career. The only other receiver ever to post a catch rate of higher than 70 percent with more than 600 targets is former Patriots receiver Wes Welker.

One of the bigger arguments against Cobb is the fact he runs a lot of short routes, and thus this makes for easier receptions due to the cushion in pass coverage. This is true. According to numbers from NFL Next Gen Stats, Cobb averaged the third lowest amount in average air yards per target in 2017 at 5.8. However, the caveat to this number is his ability to create after the catch.

Yards after the catch is where the former Kentucky Wildcat excels. According to my own calculations, in relation to his total yards on the season, 62.3 percent came after the catch. Out of his total 653 yards, 409 of them came after the catch. This was ninth best among receivers in 2017, and his rate of 62.3 percent of his total yards was best in the league.

Cobb was also one of the best in the league at maintaining the cushion that was given to him at the snap. The way I have calculated this number is by comparing the separation from the defender at the time of the reception to the cushion that’s given at the time of the snap. Both of these are NFL Next Gen Stats.

What this statistic is intended to measure is the amount of cushion lost from the time of the snap to the time of the catch. Therefore, the higher the number the better. Cobb finished second in this calculation at 61.7 percent, only behind Rashard Higgins of the Cleveland Browns.

My final point is that Cobb is in a contract year. The last time he was in a contract year, Cobb put together a career season. He signed a new contract following a 2014 season in which he finished with career-highs in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. Those numbers turned out to be 91 receptions on 127 targets for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cobb will be competing for touches with several other players on this offense, but should see his fair share of opportunities.

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Cobb is under-appreciated, and I believe will once again show the Packer fanbase why he was made one of the highest paid at the position back in 2014. The quality of play has always been there. If Cobb can stay healthy, and this is a big question mark for him currently, there is no reason to believe he can’t put up another All-Pro caliber season.