Cobb may have the best situation of any receiver in the game. He is an upper-echelon, young wideout catching passes from an elite, in-his-prime quarterback with an offensive guru as his Head Coach – hard to beat that. It’ll be that way for the foreseeable future, too, as Cobb inked a brand new deal this off-season to keep him with Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy and the Packers through 2018. Barring injury to himself or Rodgers, Cobb can sleepwalk his way to 80-catch, 1,000-yard seasons over the next couple years. He’s one of the safest bets out there.
Even if Cobb was just an above-average talent, his situation alone would allow him to be a productive fantasy stud. Cobb, however, has turned himself into one of the best receivers in the game.
While his counterpart is praised for the way he has quickly adapted to playing receiver, the position is far from old hat for Cobb. Coming out of Kentucky, Cobb was a do-it-all weapon. As a Wildcat, he played receiver, quarterback, running back and returned kicks. The Packers immediately put his 4.54 speed to use as a rookie, featuring him in the return game, as he transitioned to a full-time receiver.
Cobb initially broke out in 2012, catching 80 balls for 954 yards and eight scores while starting just eight games. A broken leg cut his 2013 short before he exploded for a 91-1,287-12 line last fall. It’s hard to believe, but 2014 was the first season in which Cobb started more than eight games with the departure of James Jones clearing the way for him to start opposite Jordy Nelson.
Speaking of Nelson, getting to play with another of the game’s top receivers should help keep defenses from dedicating too much of their game plan to halting Cobb.
Despite his 5-10, 191-pound frame, Cobb has had no trouble scoring touchdowns, finding the end zone once every 9.08 receptions and 25 times in 28 career starts. His touchdown-per-reception ratio is barely behind that of Calvin Johnson’s (8.69) and light years ahead of Antonio Brown’s (13.93).
As far as negatives go, I can only really find one – and it’s a stretch. Weighing just 191 pounds and spending a lot of time in the slot (which requires him to venture into dangerous areas) Cobb could be a injury risk. Other than missing 11 games with a broken leg in 2013, however, he’s only sat out one contest due to an ailment (2011, groin).
Evans went bonkers in 2014, ripping off highlight-reel big plays on the way to a historic rookie campaign. In the face of some brutal quarterback play, he racked up 68 receptions for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns – great numbers for anyone, let alone a rookie who just started playing organized football in 2010.
No one knows how rookie quarterback Jameis Winston will play this year, but it’s hard to imagine him being worse than Josh McCown and Mike Glennon were in 2014. If Evans did that much damage with poor quarterback play, what kind of numbers could he put up with a capable passer?
Still, even by the most optimistic projections for Winston, Evans’ situation will be, at best, average for the next couple seasons. Vincent Jackson is hitting the old-man wall, and the Bucs desperately need Doug Martin and/or Charles Sims to step up and rescue a woeful running game. It’s a bad offense that can really only make the leap to good if Winston ends up being a stud.
Having a great quarterback certainly isn’t a prerequisite when looking for a top-end receiver, but it definitely helps. Scanning the top 15 PPR receivers from 2014, only four (Alshon Jeffery, Jeremy Maclin, DeAndre Hopkins and Evans) did it with below average quarterback play. In 2013, however, that number jumps to seven.
Even though he caught just 68 passes last season, Evans finished as WR11 in standard leagues. That’s absolutely astounding. Sixty-eight catches were just two more than Fred Jackson had and three less than Rueben Randle hauled in. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans was able to dominate in spite of the low reception total thanks to his big-play ability and red-zone prowess.
Those two things, though, can also be viewed as weaknesses.
Still raw as a route runner, Evans is over-dependent on the deep ball. He gained 55 percent of his yards on passes of 20 yards or more. As great as Evans is in this area, long throws are less likely to be successful compared to safer underneath routes. Being just 22, Evans will have ample opportunity to improve all aspects of his game, namely his route tree, and better quarterback play should help him catch more than a measly 54 percent of his targets, which was his rate from a year ago.
It’s also going to be hard — not impossible, just unlikely — for Evans to sustain his touchdown rate. Tampa Bay only had 30 total touchdowns last season, 21 of which came through the air. Evans had over one-third of the team’s total scores and over half of the receiving touchdowns. For even the best red-zone weapons, touchdowns can be a random, fickle mistress. Megatron had touchdown totals of eight, 12, five and 16 over the past four years, and he’s only missed four games in that stretch.
For me, Cobb comes out on top. This verdict contrasts with the current perception in the dynasty community. Going by July ADPs, Evans is the fifth player off the board while Cobb is No. 12. It also differs with our Top 100 rankings, which has Evans 10th and Cobb 12th.
Simply put, I think Cobb is a better receiver right now, with his pristine situation in Green Bay serving as icing on the cake. I understand why Evans, 22, is one of the hottest commodities in dynasty, but with Cobb just 25, the three-year age difference isn’t enough for Evans’ youth to overtake him. For me, personally, I want to eliminate as much risk as possible with my early picks, and I think Cobb is about as safe a bet as anyone out there. He belongs with the elite receivers and is worth a first-round pick in startups.
Who would you choose? Let us know in the comments below!