The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
One guy shooting up draft boards is the dynamic Randall Cobb. The speedy Packers wideout opened up 2012 as a trendy deep guy, but people took notice when Cobb pulled in all nine targets he received in week 1 for 77 yards to go along with his only punt return touchdown of the year (a solid 13 fantasy points). From there, Cobb was an up-and-down performer. He failed to score more than six points in each of the next three weeks, only to score no fewer than 10 (and at one point 21) in each of the next three.
The rest of Cobb’s point totals look like the following: 8, 17, 14, 4, 6, 10, 9, 12, and 0. Quite literally, Cobb was an up-and-down performer. In this new “consistency” age of fantasy football that not only I have bandied about, but several others on this and other websites have bandied about, Cobb’s meteoric rise to a mid third rounder above fantasy mainstays Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, and even Hakeem Nicks and Larry Fitzgerald, seems, at best, counterintuitive.
I think a lot of fantasy owners are falling into the old Michael Vick trap – the reason a particular fantasy team with Cobb was so good was that they probably got the Cobb lottery ticket either in the last round of his or her draft, or potentially as a free agent. The rest of his or her team was solid, and Cobb provided an extra boost. I, for one, loved Randall Cobb last year, but it appears he is going to be a bit too expensive for my tastes.
There are a lot of proverbial (and literal – zing Lambeau Field tailgating) big mouths to feed in Green Bay, and while Cobb has the reputation of explosivity, he averaged less than 12 yards per reception this past year. That was good for a tie at 70th in the league, behind the ultra explosive Jeremy Maclin and tied with speed demon Jared Cook.
Cobb’s reputation is preceding him a little bit here, and while I quite like him maybe a couple of rounds later, I think it’s extremely unlikely Cobb returns his value at a mid-third round selection. That said, one thing I do like about Cobb is he is what I like to call “real-life matchup proof”. We talk about a fantasy stud being matchup proof – a guy you start regardless of the opposing defenses – but I think Cobb is a guy that can factor into the game plan regardless of the defense that stands across from him. Mainly this is because of his versatility to catch passes out of the backfield. However, with some quality running backs possibly available, I think Cobb’s role might be decreased in 2013.
Stevie Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
The Joker was a guy that got really trendy, mostly as a result of big plays and for having as much swag as OchoCinco at a trash talking convention. Johnson, however, has been coasting (fantasy-wise) on a reputation built on an admittedly incredible but ultimately distant 2010.
Though Johnson started the year off well, posting a touchdown in each of his first three games, he also failed to hit 85-yards in a single game during the first half of the season. During the second half of the season, Johnson hit that number four times, and hit 100 yards three times, but snagged only two touchdowns.
Long story short, Johnson scored eight or fewer points in nine games, and scored three or fewer points in four games. Johnson, right now, is going as the 25th wide receiver off the board, nearly a full round ahead of two guys I like much more in Mike Williams and Dwayne Bowe, and a half of a round ahead of Steve Smith. As the 25th wide receiver, Johnson hypothetically would be a team’s starting flex player.
Now, a flex spot is a relatively easy position to fill because you can plug a variety of guys in the position, but at no point would I draft Johnson in a position where I would be forced to rely on him right now. The lows are low, and really, the highs are not even that high. Johnson scored 12 or more points only three times in 2012, and never posted a monstrous 20-point game. If you are going to take a chance on someone, in my opinion, it should not be on the Joker. Let someone else play the fool.
Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Cecil Shorts became a hot commodity last year, but right now his draft stock doesn’t really reflect that. The issue might be his hands – Shorts caught only 55 of the 106 passes thrown his way, just barely over 50%. For a guy to be a trustworthy option, he needs to catch more of the passes in his direction.
The good part about Shorts is he only needs one to be fantasy relevant. Shorts averaged 17.6 yards per catch, trailing only Vincent Jackson in the category. Remove Shorts’ Week 2 80-yard touchdown catch, and he still averaged 16.6 yards per catch, good for a tie at fifth behind only Jackson, Danario Alexander, Torrey Smith, and TY Hilton.
The big-play reliance is going to scare away owners, and I certainly understand that sentiment. But my thought is – if a guy has big play capability (as Shorts clearly does), is it that crazy that he relies on a big play? Or, to put it another way, it’s much more a part of his skill set than it is some sort of luck, right?
There also will probably be some concern about the quarterback, which for possession receivers is something I would be concerned about. However, with a guy like Shorts, you can throw bubble screens and let him run around. I’m pretty sure even Blaine Gabbert can throw a bubble screen. To alleviate some concerns, here are some numbers:
Games in which Chad Henne threw 15-plus times: 9 games, 5 touchdowns, 36 catches, 602 yards
With Chad Henne for 16 games at same pace: 8.9 touchdowns, 64.08 catches, 1,071.56 yards
Games in which Blaine Gabbert threw 15-plus times: 7 games, 2 touchdowns, 24 catches, 482 yards
With Blaine Gabbert for 16 games at same pace: 4.56 TDs, 54.72 catches, 1,098.96 yards
While the touchdowns vary, the catches and the yardage are both pretty close. I think that Gabbert and Henne are both below average quarterbacks, but I’m not certain Shorts’ value depends on whether one of them is starting. I think Shorts’ value remains the same, unless the Jags find an above average quarterback (which it doesn’t sound like they will). If the Jags get a good signal caller, I suspect Shorts’ draft stock will improve, but as of right now, I think he is undervalued. He’s hovering around the 38th receiver off the board, and I’d be thrilled if I got him in the late 8th round.