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Player Faceoff: Randall Cobb, Green Bay

Two staffers go head-to-head and discuss Randall Cobb

The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.

High Side: Justin Howe

Randall Cobb’s death warrant has been all but signed by the drafting community. After a dynamic 2012-15 stretch, he limped through last season with a nagging hamstring injury and posted a very ho-hum PPR WR53 season. Now, he appears to be definitively passed on the totem pole by Davante Adams – and perhaps Martellus Bennett, too. But I don’t think he’s done producing for us yet – at the very least, he’s still a much stronger asset than WR40. After all, if we extrapolate that 2012-15 run to 16 games, we get a very solid line of 85 receptions, 1,058 yards, and 9.1 touchdowns. Add in Cobb’s occasional rushing production, and that line brings home easy WR1 production. And his path back to those heights might not be as arduous as you think.

Let’s not forget that, through six weeks last year, Cobb actually led the Packers in targets (55) and PPR points (15.52 per game). In fact, he was the overall PPR WR7 during that span. Cobb injured his hamstring against the Bears in Week 7, then sat out the following game and wasn’t himself again until the playoffs. Of course, he went vintage Cobb at that point; while Jordy Nelson sat out most of the postseason, Cobb averaged 6 catches for 87 yards and hung 3 touchdowns on the Giants.

I do expect Cobb to lose the target battle with Adams in 2017, but not by much. Cobb registered 56% of their looks over the first 6 weeks, but Adams took 54% once he returned to full snaps. And I think that’s about what we’ll see going forward. Adams became a true every-down player down the stretch, and while there are still kinks to work out – he remains frustratingly inefficient – he’s also a better downfield option than Cobb, as well as the superior go-up-and-get-it weapon. Still, I’m confident a healthy Cobb will keep his prominent stake. He boasts history as Aaron Rodgers’ primary slot man of six years.

If we can expect Cobb to land somewhere between those two target-share poles, we can still project him for solid No. 3 numbers. By my projections, with 48% of the Cobb/Adams targets and 17.7% of the team’s overall, Cobb lands in the neighborhood of 73 receptions, 769 yards, and 5-6 touchdowns. And we should boost his value marginally as he starts in arguably the league’s most dynamic offense. No team has thrown more touchdowns over the past three years, and none have even attempted as many passes in the red zone. Considering his 2012-15 productivity, Cobb makes for a much sexier option than a WR40 should. He’s virtually the only way to buy cheaply into the Green Bay offense, and he’s a starter to boot.

Low Side: Phil Alexander

Cobb isn't a terrible pick at his current WR38 ADP. He plays in a perennial top-5 offense, has a 91-1,287-12 season on his résumé, and it could be argued his struggles the last two seasons have been injury related. Somewhat surprisingly, Cobb will only be 27-years old when the season starts, so it's not like he's some washed up veteran.

But don't let Justin's spin fool you into thinking Cobb will significantly outperform his ADP. Since Cobb last had a productive season, Davante Adams emerged as Aaron Rodgers clear number two target behind Jordy Nelson, and the Packers signed Martellus Bennett, giving them their best tight end of the Rodgers era (sorry, Jermichael Finley).

Not only do Adams' emergence and Bennett's addition put a dent in Cobb's overall target projection, they absolutely ruin his scoring opportunity. From 2014-2015, only Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown had more red zone targets than Cobb. But last year, Rodgers zeroed in on Adams to great effect when Green Bay got within striking distance. Adams' 23 red zone targets trailed only Nelson's 31 for the league lead at wide receiver, and his 39% red zone touchdown conversion rate was second to only Rishard Matthews' 47% (minimum 15 targets). With Adams and Nelson's roles solidified and Bennett's history as a red zone producer throughout his career, Cobb looks like the odd man out.

Don't read much into Cobb's blow-up game against the Giants in last year's playoffs. Nelson left that game in the second quarter, Rodgers was surgical, and Cobb went on to do nothing of consequence in the Packers other two playoff games, despite Nelson's absence. At best, Cobb is priced appropriately this year as an unexciting WR3 who will need touchdowns to have big weeks, but won't have consistent opportunity to score them.