We’ve all heard of the term “coach speak” before. If I had to take a crack at defining it, I’d say coach speak was when a coach answers a question in front a microphone. Doesn’t matter what he says, it’s almost always a bogus half-truth so he can make a reporter happy without giving up his true intentions. I make it a point to never believe a word a coach says and to do the thinking for myself. If I think a player is in a great situation with potential to contribute and ample playing time, I draft him. I don’t worry what the coach has to say about it.
However, I don’t take what players say with the same grain of salt. Unless they play under Bill Belichick, athletes tend to speak their mind. When arguably the best player in football speaks out, I pay extra attention. I, of course, am talking about the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rodgers said quote, “I think he (Randall Cobb) can be a 100-catch guy. We haven’t had that here in a while, but I think he can. He’s a special player. As long as he stays healthy, I think he’s going to be a big-time star for us.”
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If you’re like me, you’re borderline addicted to Twitter. If you follow plenty of the leading personalities in the fantasy football industry, there seems to be a level of skepticism towards Cobb. It seems to me that many experts are sold on the fact that Jordy Nelson could outproduce Cobb in the 2013 season. Sure, he’s coming at a better value with an ADP of two-ish rounds later, but I’m not buying it. I say there is no way Nelson outproduces Randall Cobb barring injury. Cobb is a blossoming fantasy stud and you absolutely want to draft him to your team.
Sure, Jordy Nelson put up an impressive 15 TD season just two years ago. It’s hard to look at those numbers pessimistically, but there’s cause: five of Nelson’s 15 TD catches came in the three games that Greg Jennings sat out. While he still produced 10 TD in the other 13 games, the three game TD binge certainly enhanced his numbers. Let’s face it, in Green Bay there should be production for plenty of pass catchers. The problem with Nelson is he fits better in an offense as the deep threat. He flourished in that role in 2011 while Jennings took care of business as the possession/red zone duties (which is now Cobb’s job). Jordy averaged an outrageous 18.6 yards per catch which along with the 15 TD were completely unsustainable. I like Jordy Nelson but that was an outlier, dream type season. Everything that could go right did including staying healthy for a full 16 game slate. Last season, he missed four games with lingering hamstring problems. For 2013, his outlook again is cloudy because he underwent sudden knee surgery last week to correct a “nerve issue that’s bothered him since college.” Obviously, the hope is that he’s fully recovered by week one but I’m not so optimistic. As a speed receiver, having a shaky knee is very bad. Momentum comes from the knee and transfer of motion from upper leg to the foot. If there’s pain in the knee, you won’t run as fast. Also, the timetable assumes there will be no setback. Can you really guarantee that recovery from knee surgery goes so smoothly? As an organization, don’t you think the Packers would rather play it careful? I wouldn’t be surprised if Jordy Nelson either comes back too soon and under-performs or takes longer than once thought. Either way, I am not relying on him as my WR1 in any format.
That brings me to the point of the article: Randall Cobb is primed for a monster season. With Nelson’s health in doubt, Cobb is undoubtedly Rodgers’ first look. Even if Nelson were healthy, Cobb was still the man in Green Bay’s passing game. Cobb averaged 6.93 targets per game to Nelson’s 6.08 last year. Cobb averaged 5.33 catches per game to Nelson’s 4.08. Cobb saw at least 7 targets in 10/15 (66.7%) of the games he played while Nelson only saw that many in 5/12 (41.7%). The amazing part is Cobb only saw less than five targets in three games last year: none of them after week five as he developed chemistry with Rodgers. Nelson saw a maximum of five targets in the last five games he played last season (which all came from week 7-17 because of injury). In his defense, Nelson did have at least 70+ yards and a TD in two of his last three games. With the lack of targets though, how can you expect him to be a top receiver? Seems to me he’s more like a Torrey Smith boom or bust type play. I want consistency with a top wide receiver, and Cobb definitely provides that. His 80 catches, 954 yards and 8 REC TD ranked him the 16th overall WR in PPR last season. I would call it his first “full year” but if you recall it wasn’t: he began the season only playing part time. Mike McCarthy’s quote after week one last year was that he wanted to get Cobb more involved in the offense. It took him a while to become fully integrated and a true part of the plan. Now, Greg Jennings leaves the picture clearly identifying Cobb as the team’s #1 target in the quarterback’s mind. If we assume he was fully integrated into the offense after week five (his final game under five targets), he was on pace for 92.5 REC, 1382.4 Total YDS and 11.2 TD. Of all wide receivers who finished with at least 92 REC last season, not a single one finished outside of the top ten in PPR leagues. In non-PPR, the lowest a WR finished with that catch total was 16th (Reggie Wayne). I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that if a Green Bay WR catches 92 passes, he will outproduce Reggie Wayne’s 2012. So if his floor, if healthy, is 16th WR in any format, what’s the hesitation? If you watched the Packers last season, it was clear to see that Cobb was Rodgers’ security blanket. That trend will no doubt continue into this season, and with lack of other elite options, leaves Cobb as the man in Green Bay.
Regardless if Jordy Nelson starts the season healthy or not, Cobb is primed for a monster year. I don’t think a ceiling of 100+ catches, 1500 yards and 12-15 TD is crazy, especially if you include the rushing attempts he will sprinkle in during the way. His quarterback thinks it’s possible. Green Bay’s other options include James Jones and butterfingers Jermichael Finley. If in a pickle, who would you throw to? Nelson who converted 67% of his 2012 targets or Cobb who converted 77% with the larger sample size. Rodgers, an elite quarterback, is going to be looking for Cobb early and often. Don’t let the high ADP scare you away; he is going to be worth every penny. Besides Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Julio Jones, there is no wide receiver I would clearly rather have in any format. Pay the “inflated” second-to-third round price for Cobb, get yourself an elite receiver and for the love of all that is holy, enough with Jordy Nelson.