This article is written by a new Member Corner writer for us, Bryan Murphy. We welcome Bryan to our Member Corner and look forward to seeing more of his work in the future!
If I gave you $50,000 to go purchase a car, would you rather have a 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo with 100,000 miles or a 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged with 35,000 miles? That’s a pretty tough decision, isn’t it? They are both very nice vehicles and will likely keep running until they hit at least 150,000 miles. All things equal, the Porsche is the more expensive and more desirable automobile. Both are probably horrible on gas. The Porsche is faster and has that “sex appeal,” but the Range Rover is better to pull your boat with and seats five comfortably (of course you have a boat too, this is hypothetical). The Range Rover is newer and it should last longer than the Porsche, but when you can go zero to 60 in three seconds, are you really thinking about five years from now? Have you made up your mind yet? Well, while you’re debating that, I’m going to take a look at a similar debate that dynasty owners have to make a decision on. All things equal, do you prefer Randall Cobb or Calvin Johnson?
Looking at July’s ADP data, Cobb has an ADP of 13.33, while Johnson had an ADP of 14.33. Cobb was taken over Johnson in five of the six mocks. When did Cobb pass Johnson in ADP? Let’s take a look. Here is a graph of their ADP’s from November 2014 to July 2015:
As you can see, Johnson had an ADP of 3.5 less than nine months ago and now sits at 14. Cobb on the other hand, shot up from 19 to 13. Cobb’s jump in ADP likely stems from his solid 2014 production and the new four-year deal he signed with the Packers in March. Why did Johnson’s ADP drop? That’s a great question. I can only assume it’s due to his age. This ADP data would lead you to believe that the average dynasty owner now prefers Cobb to Johnson – but not so fast my friends, I have more data for you.
Glancing at DLF’s Dynasty Top 100, I noticed Johnson had an average overall ranking of 8, while Cobb came in at 12. I also checked out the dynasty WR rankings (note that different writers ranked the players in this section) and Johnson was in the 7th spot and Cobb in the 10th. This seemed very interesting to me, so I went on a few other dynasty websites and checked more rankings and ADP. I found Johnson 9th and Cobb at 15th at one, while Johnson was 13th and Cobb 19th at another.
[inlinead]So, is it just fantasy football writers who prefer Johnson to Cobb? Nope. It appears the dynasty community is just truly split on this, with several variables swaying decisions one way or the other. Is it a contending team or a rebuild? PPR or non PPR? What does the rest of the team look like, young or old? And the list goes on.
Let’s examine four major categories that dynasty owners typically use to evaluate players. The categories are as follows: production, age, injury risk and situation/usage.
Speaking strictly in terms of their ability and career production, I don’t think anyone is going to debate Cobb is a better overall NFL or fantasy receiver than Calvin Johnson. However, allow me to show you some statistics. On a per game played average, Johnson has averaged 5.4 receptions, 88 yards and .63 touchdowns for his career, with Cobb averaging 4.4 receptions, 63 yards, and.48 scores. The rushing stats for both players were pretty comparable the first four years, although I expect Cobb to continue to receive around ten carries per year going forward, only adding to his production.
Now let’s take a look at more recent production because I think it is a better comparison, not only in helping to determine their future dynasty prospects, but also due to the fact Cobb wasn’t really a full-time player in his first two seasons. Over the last two years, Johnson has averaged 10.5 targets, 5.7 receptions, 95 yards and .74 touchdowns per game, while Cobb has averaged 7.8 targets, 5.5 receptions, 78 yards, and .72 scores. In Cobb’s two years as a starter (on a 16-game basis), Johnson has outpaced him by 43 targets, three receptions, 272 yards, and .3 touchdowns per year. To boot, Johnson was used as a decoy in two games during 2014, only receiving three total targets in those two games. If you take out those games, his averages jump to a ridiculous 11.2 targets, six receptions, 102 yards, and .8 touchdowns per game – that is equivalent of 20.75 points per week in standard PPR league. Excluding the two decoy games, in 25 games over the past two seasons, Johnson has scored 20 or more points on 13 occasions (52%) and 30 or more on seven occasions (28%). Think about that for a second. If you started Johnson, there was a greater than 25% chance that he would erupt for 30 or more points.
In 22 games, Cobb scored 20 or more on nine occasions (41%) and 30 or more on just one occasion. Obviously, you can see the week-to-week advantage Johnson provides. I will say I was impressed Cobb scored over 20 in 41% of his games though. Another thing I would like to throw out there is Cobb was in a contract year last year when he had his best statistical season. I’m not saying Cobb won’t continue his production, but he wouldn’t be the first contract year player to fall off a little bit after getting paid.
Johnson will turn 30 shortly after the 2015 season begins (September 29th) and Cobb will turn 25 in a few weeks (August 22nd). This is an obvious advantage for Cobb in this debate and one of the main reasons I’m writing this article. With that said, I’m not worried about Johnson’s age. As recent receivers such as Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin and Reggie Wayne have proven, players at the receiver position can still produce consistently well into their 30’s. Andre Johnson put up two of the best statistical seasons of his career during his age 31 and age 32 seasons and with better quarterback play he might have continued that last season. Calvin Johnson reminds me a lot of Andre and I see Calvin’s career taking a similar path (Calvin having better production, though).
The other thing I would like to point out is the fact Cobb only signed a four-year contract with the Packers. Why is this relevant? It’s a reminder Cobb is not guaranteed to play the rest of his career in Green Bay and is also not guaranteed to continue his production should he leave Aaron Rodgers. Remember when everyone freaked out because they thought Cobb was going to Oakland this off-season? So, while Cobb is five years younger, I only recommend evaluating him over that four year period. I actually don’t recommend evaluating anything outside of a three year window in dynasty. Johnson will only be turning 34 when Cobb’s contract expires and 33 if you are looking in a three year window.
The main knock I have heard on Johnson lately in the dynasty community is “he is getting old and the injuries are starting to pile up.” To those people I say this, “Johnson has missed five games in the past two years and nine total games in his eight year career.” Cobb has been in the NFL four years and has missed 12 games. Admittedly, the hit Cobb took on his knee was brutal and there wasn’t much he could do about missing those ten games. I just think people need to pump the brakes on suddenly calling Johnson injury prone and conversely I think people need to keep Cobb’s history in mind when evaluating him.
I don’t see either player’s situation changing drastically over the next three to four years. Both teams have a solid young core on offense. Obviously it’s a safe bet Cobb has Aaron Rodgers throwing to him for the next four years and while I could certainly understand the Lions moving on from Matthew Stafford, I think it’s a pretty safe bet he is still throwing balls to Johnson four years from now. While I think the presence of Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Ameer Adullah will help things open up for Johnson and provide him more quality targets, I think the days of him seeing 170 – 200 targets are gone. I’d expect him to be pretty steady in the 150 range. Another positive is that last year was Johnson’s first in Joe Lombardi’s offense, so he should only be more comfortable over the next couple years.
As far as Cobb goes, I don’t see Jordy Nelson going anywhere for at least the next two years and I also don’t see Cobb being Aaron Rodgers’ true number one target until Nelson is gone, which is somewhat of a negative for Cobb. This is straight from the “conspiracy theory” file, but based on Jordy Nelson’s age and the way his contract is structured (along with other Packers players), I think there is a solid chance the Packers cut him or trade him after the 2016 season. Unfortunately for the decision makers out there, we won’t know if I’m right until then. I can also see rising second year receiver Davante Adams stealing some targets from Cobb going forward, which could limit his upside consider he only saw 127 targets last year. There is also room for his role in the backfield to grow, potentially minimizing Adams’ impact. Cobb has been very productive on a per target basis though, evidenced by his 72% catch rate and his WR8 finish, despite only 127 targets.
Let me preface this by saying I love Cobb as a player and think he will be a solid dynasty receiver for years to come, but I’m taking Johnson here with no hesitation in almost any situation. The only situation I wouldn’t take Johnson in is a complete rebuild because I don’t think it’s wise to invest in a 30 year old receiver in that situation because value is not likely to increase much over the next two to three years. Looking out any further than a three year window in dynasty may be very dangerous and during that three year period I fully expect Johnson to outproduce Cobb.
Even if Cobb can equal Johnson’s overall production (which I think is unlikely), Johnson represents the higher week to week upside to help you win games which is evidenced by his 28% rate of scoring 30 or more the past two seasons – that’s what fantasy is all about right, winning games? The thing that really hurts Cobb is that he is not a true “WR1” in the NFL. He is a talented receiver, but I also think he is situation dependent to a certain extent, whereas Johnson has proven to be an elite stud no matter who is throwing him the ball. You will likely get more years out of Cobb but will those years actually be better? Will you even have Cobb on your team four years from now?
This situation reminds me of the off-season heading into 2012 when Victor Cruz rose up draft boards following his magical 2011 season and eventually passed long-time stud receiver Andre Johnson. Cruz was the 24-year old and Johnson was the “old and injury prone” 31-year old. What happened next? Over the next two seasons, Johnson amassed 221 receptions, 3,005 yards and nine touchdowns, while Cruz mustered only 159 receptions, 2,090 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Much like the 2007 Porsche in my original question posed, I’ll take Calvin Johnson because he is still the better product. He isn’t close to reaching his peak mileage, and he will get me to the finish line quicker!
So, who would you take and why? Let us know in the comments below!
Follow me on twitter: @bryan_j_murphy.
- Chicago-style Deep Dish - October 18, 2015
- An Approach to Auction and Salary Cap/Contract Leagues - August 20, 2015
- Calvin and Cobb - August 9, 2015
I have to disagree. I see Cobb outproducing Calvin over a 3 year period. I just flipped Calvin for Cobb plus, so I thought I’d give it a read. I’m still happy with my decision. As much as I love Calvin, I find most of the DLF crew over value him, but it’s subjective, of course, nobody knows what will happen.
I think the resale window on Cobb is longer, as well. 2 years from now, Cobb should be able to net you more in a trade. That Cruz/AJ scenario is possible, but it’s also possible Calvin goes the way of Roddy White, being constantly nagged with injuries, and losing his top end production. Larry Fitz is another example of what could happen. I don’t think it’s realistic to think Calvin will be a WR1 for the next 3 years…..he may, but it would be against the odds, I would think.
I have no problem with getting Cobb + for Calvin, because they are pretty close in my book. Straight up I’m taking Calvin. Yes Cobb “should” have a better resale value 2 years from now, but fantasy is not about resale value it’s about winning games. I think Calvin gives you the best chance to win over the next couple years. Also, what happens if Cobb only throws up 85/1100/7 this year? I think his value goes down. In my opinion there is a better chance Calvin remains a WR1 in fantasy over the next 3 years vs Cobb being a WR1.
An excellent way to win games is to improve your team, and the best way to improve your team is increasing its overall value. Cobb will probably score close to Calvin in the short term, so why wouldn’t we take his long term value?
I have to agree with the Freak. Also consider how Green Bay has managed their rosters over the years by not over paying aging veterans. In 2019 both Jordy Nelson and Cobb become FA’s. Jordy will be 34 and let go and Cobb will be 28 / 29 and a Packer WR1.
I think there is a better shot that Adams (or another WR in the future) takes over the WR1 from Nelson. As a slot guy I think Cobb will always be either the 1B or #2
Cobb had the best season of his career last year and will not come close to Calvin’s production in a three year window. Im shocked to read the comments above. Actually, I lied. Im not shocked. This is a what have you done for me lately world. Calvin will be back to his dominant self and Cobb will revert to what he truly is. A WR2 with a good QB. The person who traded away Calvin for Cobb made a huge mistake. Hopefully he was in full rebuild.
I agree completely. Calvin is an elite future Hall of Famer. Cobb is the WR2 on his own team and coming off a TD dependent big contract year. We might have seen Cobb’s career best season last year. Sell high now if you have him.
I totally disagree. Cobb signed a 40 million dollar contract, he’s going to be used. Nelson has an injury history, and is 30 years old. Cobb is in an Aaron Rodgers led offence, that should rack up 35-40 passing TD’s on a yearly basis. I believe Calvin is going to regress starting next year, and I would be very surprised if he’s a WR1 for those 3 years. Regardless of Cobb’s TD’s, he had 91 catches and 287 yards. Besides, the year before, Cobb had 4 TD’s in 5 and a half games. His 2nd year on the team he had 8 TD’s in 15 games. He gets in the end zone regularly. I am certainly not selling him. He is locked into one of the best offences for the next 4 years, and he has a really high floor for production. I also said I got Cobb PLUS for Calvin. It wasn’t straight up, and no, it wasn’t a full rebuild. I am one of the favourites to win….I also had some older players, one of them being Calvin. I needed to get younger, and I think Cobb PLUS was a great deal for my team.
1287 yards, sorry.
We shall see if it’s a mistake in 3 years, not before then.
Cobb had the best year of his very young career. Calvin is still a stud but discounting Cobb is a big mistake. The difference between Megatron and Cobb is easily covered by the difference between Rodgers and Stafford IMO.
Discount me all you want. This year you will see just how BIG the difference is. I was learning a new offense last year and running for my life every other snap. I had few weapons to throw to with Bush/Calvin both banged up. Ebron was still learning on the job and I still managed to put up a top 15 season. This year, we are healthy, better at O-line, and learned in the offense. (As my boy Tate has been saying, Ebron is going to be a MONSTER this year. Just wait and see.) Cobb is what he is. A WR2. People are so quick these days to throw away aging vets. In a three year window, my man Calvin will blow away the competition. Sorry Cobb fans. This is a fact. Watch us.
Actually it’s not a fact at this moment in time, what it is is your speculation.
In dynasty/keeper leagues it’s Cobb. For redraft I would take Megatron because I think he has a higher ceiling.
Truly special WRs can last an improbably long time. Jerry Rice sets the bar with a 92/1211/7 line in his 2002 season with Oakland (@ 39 years old!). T.O. had a great final year with the Bengals and he was 37 or 38.
I think it’s entirely probable that Calvin puts up 5 more years as a WR1 – sure, he’ll have competition, but if he’s healthy, there’s no way I’m betting against him. He’s a monster in every sense of the word.
Cobb is a great WR, but as someone else mentioned above I don’t know if he ever takes over the Packers’ WR1 role when Jordy loses a step or is released/leaves. I do think he peaked this year, production wise. The running game will gain more importance as Rodgers ages, and more talent will come through the doors (Adams, and at some point a TE is going to be relevant in that offense).
Gimme Calvin, period.
Obviously based on my article and my comments above, this is where I am at as well. The one thing that I omitted in the article is that based on Calvin’s attributes there is no reason he shouldn’t produce for the next 3 – 5 years. Some WR’s are speed dependent(Deshaun Jackson or Mike Wallace are good examples) and lose that over time, however Calvin is the total package with speed, height, and leaping ability. Even if he loses some burst later in his career, he should still be a solid possesion/intermediate guy and still be a stud in the red zone.
Thanks for reading
Had Megatron last year in regular fantasy.(This year 1st time dynasty) Got BURNED in the decoy games and not making the playoffs. When you get burned by a player you tend to stay away from them.
Once Bitten Twice Shy !!!