Just over a week ago Aaron Rodgers said something which confirmed that Randall Cobb is on both his reality football team, and his fantasy football team. Oh sure, when he told us that Cobb is an easy candidate for a 100-catch season in 2013 (FYI: he is), Rodgers tried to come off as though he’s just really excited about his receiver who could see many, many more targets now with Greg Jennings gone.
But that was all a masquerade. Make no mistake about it: Rodgers is going against all conventional fantasy football wisdom by drafting himself in the first round, and then he’ll take Cobb in the second like a crazy man. His running backs will then be some combination of Fred Taylor, Emmitt Smith, and O.J. Simpson, and it won’t matter.
That’s because since his job description (umm, Packers quarterback) requires him to throw a lot of footballs in Cobb’s direction, Rodgers has picked up on a piece of information that will be very valuable to the shifty receiver’s fantasy owners going forward.
In a question and answer session with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel over the weekend, Rodgers said that Cobb thinks like a quarterback, because he was a quarterback:
Randall sees the game through the eyes of a quarterback because he was a quarterback. So he understands timing and spacing and when he has to get out of his breaks. He’s an excellent — just like Jordy is — an excellent second reaction guy. When I have to come out of the pocket, where in the past you might have seen some of the balls go to Greg and Jordy, Randall caught more than anybody last year because he was healthy and he also has really good reactions.
This quote jumped out at me, likely because it highlights something that can’t be truly quantified: how much a quarterback trusts a receiver. And for the record, Cobb was indeed a quarterback during his freshman year at Kentucky, starting four games as the pivot. He then moved to wide receiver, with his total pass attempts finishing at 122 over his three collegiate seasons.
Rodgers was under pressure constantly this past season, which resulted in a lot of hurt. He was sacked 51 times, the second worst league total, while being hit 85 times. While the hope is that an improved running game through the additions of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin will help in the effort to keep pass rushers pinned back a little more, and that a healthy offense line will hopefully lead to a more upright Rodgers, he could face a lot of pressure again behind the same unit.
If a scrambling Rodgers is a Rodgers who’s likely to connect with Cobb more often because of the receiver’s instincts, then pressure could be highly profitable. Pressure led to 54 rushing attempts by Rodgers in 2012, which was eighth among all quarterbacks, with the really mobile and fast guys who run read-option plays (Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III et al) primarily the names ahead of him.
So there’s another point for Cobb’s likely booming 2013, and there’s also this from Pro Football Focus, and their accuracy percentage stat. I know, that sounds fancy and crazy, but it’s not. Promise.
Essentially, it’s a better version of the plain old completion percentage metric, and it’s explained thusly:
We’ve accounted for a set of factors that help better define a quarterback’s performance on passes that were actually aimed at (and delivered to) a targeted receiver. We add back in dropped passes to give the QB credit for getting the ball to its destination and take away ‘attempts’ that were actually throwaways, spikes, or balls that were batted at the line and those that fluttered from his hand when hit as he threw.
What’s Rodgers’ rank in this much better attempt to gauge the accuracy of quarterbacks? He was first in 2012, with an accuracy percentage of 80.2. Oh and look, he was first in 2011 too at 80.6.
That’s a pretty good quarterback to have a strong connection with, especially if you’re in the business of receiving a high volume of targets (Cobb finished with 104 this past season), and especially if you’re a receiver who finished only 46 yards short of the 1,000-yard mark despite competing for looks with Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones.
Yeah, it’s good to be Randall Cobb, and it’ll be good to own him too.