Packers Annual Checkup: WR Randall Cobb

Today is the eighth day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Monday, Jan. 28: OT Don Barclay
Tuesday, Jan. 29: RB Cedric Benson
Wednesday, Jan. 30: ILB Desmond Bishop
Thursday, Jan. 31: WR Jarrett Boykin
Friday, Feb. 1: OT Bryan Bulaga
Saturday, Feb. 2: S Morgan Burnett
Sunday, Feb. 3: CB Jarrett Bush
Today: WR Randall Cobb
Tuesday, Feb. 5:
TE Tom Crabtree
Wednesday, Feb. 6: K Mason Crosby
Thursday, Feb. 7: DL Mike Daniels
Friday, Feb. 8: C Evan Dietrich-Smith


Season stats: 17 games (15 regular season, two postseason), team-high 954 receiving yards, team-high 80 catches, team-high 104 targets, eight receiving touchdowns, team-worst 11 dropped passes, team-best 16 forced missed tackles; 25.37-yard kick return average, zero touchdowns; 9.42-yard punt return average, one touchdown

Best game: Week 7 win at St. Louis (eight targets, eight catches, 89 yards, two touchdowns; one rush, 19 yards; 2.5 PFF offensive rating; one kick return, 23 yards; one punt return, 15 yards)

Worst game: Week 3 loss at Seattle (two targets, one catch, one drop, minus-1 yard receiving; one rush, 20 yards; minus-1.0 PFF offensive rating; one muffed punt; three punt returns, 12 yards; one kick return, 23 yards) season rating: 13.0 on offense (third-best on Packers; best among Green Bay wide receivers; No. 11 out of 105 NFL receivers); 4.2 on special teams (No. 20 out of 40 NFL kick / punt returners)

Expectations at the start of the season: Medium

Expectations were … Exceeded

Looking live: Where would the Packers have been this season offensively without Cobb? Cobb had a small impact in his rookie season in 2011, and it seemed like coach Mike McCarthy didn’t quite know how to best use him in the offense in training camp this season. In the first four weeks of the regular season, Cobb wasn’t on the field often, standing on the sideline for at least half the plays in those games. Despite the somewhat limited opportunities, he still caught nine passes in Week 1 and seven passes in Week 4. At that point, it became obvious to McCarthy that it didn’t matter where he put Cobb as long as the young, dynamic playmaker was lined up somewhere. Cobb played in at least 50 percent of the offensive snaps in every game after that. With the exception of Week 17, Cobb stayed healthy all season and became Rodgers’ go-to receiver in the process, leading the team in targets, catches and yards. On special teams, he wasn’t as good in the return game this season as he was a year ago. His averages dropped and his only touchdown was one that the replacement referees should not have allowed given an obvious block in the back by Green Bay that wasn’t called.

Upon further review: At 5-foot-10, 192 pounds, Cobb is undersized by today’s standards for NFL wide receivers. The league’s top five receivers this season are all at least 6-foot-3. But what Cobb lacks in size he more than makes up for in route-running and speed. A former quarterback early in his college career, Cobb knows how to get open with an ability to quickly analyze defensive coverages. It also helps that he’s quicker than most players on the field. Even as defenses began to see more film on Cobb and game-plan for him as the season progressed, he still continued finding holes and getting the ball thrown his way. This was a star-making season for Cobb. If he can avoid injuries, there’s little doubt that he’ll be a multiple-time Pro Bowl selection in his career. The one problem in Cobb’s game right now is that he’s prone to drop passes. For all his accomplishments this season, he led the team in drops and had the eighth-worst drop rate in the entire league, dropping 12 percent of catchable passes. That number will need to decrease in order for him to keep Aaron Rodgers’ trust in big moments.

Overall 2012 grade: A-minus

Status for 2013: 100 percent chance of being in the Packers’ starting lineup in Week 1. Cobb’s emergence this season has made the almost certain loss of Greg Jennings much less problematic. Cobb and Jennings have very similar physical attributes and both excel as a slot receiver. With Jennings likely gone from Green Bay, Cobb will get even more chances in the offense in 2013. Plus, with a year of extensive film to study now, McCarthy will create even more plays that will best maximize Cobb’s skills. All of this adds up to the high probability that Cobb surpasses 1,000 receiving yards next season and becomes one of the NFL’s 10 best wide receivers. However, from a special teams perspective, there’s only a 20 percent chance that Cobb will be back as the Packers’ returner.

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