cobb-camp2

I like Randall Cobb. I like him a lot, and we go way back. We have personalized handshakes, and when we were kids I once let him borrow my Ultimate Warrior lunchbox. Bring it back anytime, Randall.

So of course, I like him a whole lot this year in all my fake footballing leagues, from my just chillin’ for fun 10-teamer with family, to an unhealthy and obsessive 20-teamer here in the office. Like most of you, I expect great things from Cobb this upcoming season, and by that I mean a year that hovers around the 100-catch mark, and he’ll be especially appealing in PPR leagues.

But as we begin to approach the time in August when most drafts are held, we should ask and explore this question: has the Cobb hype gone too far?

The giddiness around the Packers all-purpose football vacuum has reached a point where in many leagues, he’s knocking on the door of the second round. This is happening even though Cobb plays a still relatively deep position despite the glut of offseason injuries at the wide receiver position. Let’s take a trip on the ADP train:

  • Fantasy Football Calculator: 30.6
  • My Fantasy League: 26.6
  • ESPN: 35.7
  • Yahoo: 29.8
  • CBS: 36.8
  • Aggregate: 31.9

By that aggregate, Cobb is roughly the seventh pick in the third round of a 12-team league. What’s a little concerning is that in two of those sources (Yahoo and My Fantasy League) he’s bordering on being a second rounder.

The purpose here isn’t to tear down Cobb. Not at all, as again, I expect him to have a fine season while being used creatively in a sort of poor-ish man’s Percy Harvin role while he continues to develop. But before we keep lusting for Cobb in drafts, let’s check ourselves before we wreak ourselves (so sorry).

Yes, Jordy Nelson has a nerve problem that required surgery, and there’s a chance he could miss regular-season time. But although that’s dealt a gut shot to his fantasy value, the impact on the target distribution by Aaron Rodgers won’t be significant, or at least not long term throughout the season. There’s still hope that Nelson will be ready for Green Bay’s season opener, which means he’ll be around to be one of the multiple weapons at Rodgers’ disposal. That’s concerning for those valuing Cobb high.

Last year on his way to 80 catches for 954 yards, Cobb was targeted 104 times, which led all Packers receivers. That’s nice, but the margin was small, with balls widely distributed by a quarterback who often shares the love. Excluding the departed Greg Jennings (who wasn’t much of a factory last year anyway due to his injuries), here’s how the targets broke down.

  • Cobb: 104 targets, 18.8 percent of Rodgers’ pass attempts
  • Nelson: 73 targets despite missing five games, 13.2 percent
  • Jones: 98 targets, 17.7 percent
  • Finley: 87 targets, 15.7 percent

Between Cobb, Jones, and Finley, the Packers had three pass catchers with at least 60 receptions. And while Cobb led, the gap wasn’t especially glaring, with 14 catches separating him from Jones.

The distribution gap just isn’t there, though in the short term it will be if Nelson misses time. Long term, though, if we look back at the high side of Cobb’s ADP (those crazy folks in the mass population of Yahoo leagues), we see that he’s being selected only a pick or two behind Victor Cruz and Roddy White, who are both far more firmly established target vacuums. They each finished with 143 targets in 2012, and White had nearly 400 more receiving yards than Cobb.

For another value comparison, at the above aggregate ADP Cobb is also often being selected either ahead or in roughly the same draft real estate as Vincent Jackson, the Bucs receiver who had 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns last year despite having to catch footballs thrown by Josh Freeman. Although he’s complemented by Mike Williams, the target distribution in Tampa is a little more slanted in Jackson’s direction, as he compiled 147 targets.

We can throw Andre Johnson in there too. Yeah, he’s aging and maybe slowing, and now DeAndre Hopkins has arrived to be the hero. But Johnson still showed he has plenty left with his 1,598 yards on 162 targets, and yet he’s in Cobb draft territory too.

There’s a comfort level with Cobb that doesn’t quite exist yet, especially with the Packers maybe/likely set to re-establish their running game with Eddie Lacy. That’s why it feels like we’re all buying just a little too high on him right now as he sits in the vicinity of the aforementioned entrenched top targets. Later in the back half of the third round feels about right, and allowing him to approach the second round feels so very wrong.