The news came down Saturday that coveted free agent receiver, Randall Cobb, was re-signing with the Green Bay Packers. Widely regarded as the top pass catcher on the market, it appears Cobb took a discount to stay with his original team on a four-year, $40 million deal. Coming off a career year in which he posted 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, the 24-year old player could have chased the money on the alluring open market.
But if his goal is to sustain the level of production he’s had the past three seasons, he made the right decision.
In the eight games sampled for this Reception Perception study, which evaluates eight games (the four best and worst statistically) of a wide receiver’s performance to create an accurate assessment size, Cobb played in the slot on 82.1 percent of his 431 snaps. He was attached to the line of scrimmage on 65.2 percent of his plays. However, to categorize him as a traditional slot receiver would be a mistake: Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff do an excellent job maximizing Cobb’s abilities.
Cobb ran a qualifying route — one where he could have reasonably been expected to catch a pass—245 times over the eight-game sample. His most frequently run routes were the flat (17.1 percent), post (16.7 percent) and the slant (13.1 percent). However, Cobb’s Route Percentage Chart is fairly balanced, compared with his peers at the position. No pattern was charted as being run at a more than 20 percent frequency rate. While Cobb was not much of a factor in the screen game, his route tree provides a better than average amount of diversity. Such balance also translates to how often he was successful at getting open on each type of passing pattern:
Randall Cobb posted good success rate versus coverage for each route (SRVC) scores on the routes he ran most often. His post, flat and slant routes fall between an 80.5 percent to 81.3 perecnt SRVC number. That means Cobb was beating the defender covering him far more often than not on those plays. He was also quite productive on those patterns, as he scored most of his PPR fantasy points when executing them, in addition to corners (18.3). Cobb performed excellently on what the Packers asked him to regularly do in their offense. In reality, Cobb posted good SRVC on almost all branches of the route tree, except outs. No one route reaches into the 90 percent range, but such consistency speaks to how well rounded of a player Cobb is. He’s become a true technician, able to execute the subtle nuances a receiver must use to release at the line of scrimmage, and separate from coverage:
He is also more than just a slot or gadget player in Green Bay. Cobb is a complete receiver. When comparing him to a true NFL slot and gadget receiver, Percy Harvin, you can see Cobb’s SRVC scores on vertical routes—nines, posts and corner—are far superior. The Packers’ receiver is a true threat at every level of the field, whereas Harvin and other players of that ilk typically are not.
So, if Cobb is a complete and excellent receiver, why was it paramount he stayed in Green Bay? The answer lies behind center. Not many quarterbacks could get the absolute best out of Cobb’s particular skill-set, as Aaron Rodgers has.
The routes Cobb runs most often and records the best SRVC scores on — posts, slants, flats and corners — require a pristine degree of timing and precision. These throws are difficult, and call for the quarterback to hit the receiver right at the perfect time. Of course, Rodgers is the ideal man for that job. He gets the pass out to Cobb at the breaking moment in routes, so that the dynamic receiver can make plays after the catch.
The Packers got Cobb “out in space” on 12.2 percent of the 245 routes from this sample. He rewarded them by breaking at least one tackle on 70 percent of those attempts. This ability separated him from other receivers who will hit the open market, such as Michael Crabtree, who was brought down by first contact on 56.5 percent of his in space attempts.
We can see that while Cobb is a good player who would have fit anywhere, his decision to re-sign with the Packers was the best way to sustain his career production.
Matt Harmon wrote the book on NFL receivers, literally, and writes about draft prospects at Footballguys.com. Follow him on Twitter (@MattHarmon_BYB) and keep up with his analysis using the hashtag #ReceptionPerception.