Can Randall Cobb still make a positive impact on the field?
The New York Jets have signed wide receiver Randall Cobb, Aaron Rodgers’ longtime teammate and close friend. It’s a move that makes plenty of sense off the field for obvious reasons. Cobb is a veteran with extensive NFL experience and he is extremely familiar with both Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett’s scheme. His presence can be hugely beneficial for the Jets’ offense, especially the younger receivers.
But what about on the field? How much does Cobb have left to offer the Jets? Is he a worthwhile addition to the team’s WR depth chart or is he just in New York for the intangible benefits?
Let’s dig into Cobb’s complete analytical profile to find out what the Jets are getting in the soon-to-be 33-year-old wideout.
In each of the first nine seasons of his career, Cobb averaged over 60% of the offensive snaps per game. His role was diminished over the past two years (both in Green Bay). Cobb had an average snap percentage of 47% in 2021 and dropped again to 44% in 2022.
Cobb’s teams have continued utilizing him in a pure slot receiver role, the same as his entire career. This past season, Cobb lined up in the slot on 80.1% of his routes. That ranked eighth-highest out of 115 qualified wide receivers. Cobb’s career average is 83.1%.
The Jets didn’t have this type of receiver on their roster. They have a multitude of guys who can play both outside and inside, but nobody who specializes in the slot. Mecole Hardman’s career slot rate of 53.2% was the highest of the Jets’ primary receivers. Cobb gives the Jets a traditional slot receiver they can call upon if needed.
While Cobb is a pure slot receiver in terms of alignment, his target diet is unique compared to the typical slot receiver. Even as a veteran who may have lost a step, Cobb is not restricted to underneath targets. Over the past two seasons, the Packers utilized Cobb as one of the most aggressive downfield-attacking slot receivers in the league.
In 2022, Cobb’s average-depth-of-target (aDOT) on slot targets was 11.6 yards, ranking fifth-highest out of the 44 receivers with at least 30 slot targets. In 2021, Cobb’s aDOT on slot targets was 11.2 yards, placing seventh out of 42 qualifiers.
The Packers also threw an occasional screen to Cobb. From 2021 to 2022, Cobb was targeted on 9 screens, representing 10.1% of his overall targets and an average of 0.36 screens per game. The results were typically positive as those screens generated 76 yards (8.4 per play) and 4 first downs (44.4% conversion rate).
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, here is a breakdown of Cobb’s route profile in 2022 compared to the average wide receiver. This shows the percentage of Cobb’s passing-game snaps in which he ran each route type (regardless of whether he was targeted):
Since Nathaniel Hackett was not the Packers’ offensive coordinator in 2022, it’s worth taking a look back at Cobb’s usage in 2021 when Hackett was still in Green Bay.
Cobb’s route profile under Hackett includes plenty of unique quirks. The first thing that stands out is his frequency of post routes.
Posts are the primary route type that led Cobb to those unusually high aDOT marks we discussed earlier. In 2021, Cobb caught 4-of-5 posts for 107 yards. While Cobb’s post route frequency was much higher under Hackett (15.7%) than in the following year (9.5%), Aaron Rodgers still looked for Cobb on those post routes in 2022, completing 3-of-5 posts for 53 yards and a touchdown.
The second thing that stands out from Cobb’s profile under Hackett is the occasional work he received out of the backfield. Cobb ran four total routes when lined up as a running back (3 screens, 1 angle). It’s a tiny sample and will not be a huge part of Cobb’s game, but it’s a wrinkle the Jets could keep tucked in their back pocket to catch defenses by surprise.
We know how Cobb has been used. But how well has he played?
Cobb is certainly not close to being the top-tier slot receiver he once was, but he remains an efficient, reliable pass-catcher who can execute with solid consistency on a low volume of snaps and targets.
Compare Cobb to the Jets’ backup slot receiver in 2022, Braxton Berrios. While Cobb will not offer nearly as much explosiveness and home-run potential as someone like Berrios, he will be much more consistent and sound when it comes to the basic fundamentals of the wide receiver position, like route running and sure-handedness.
Cobb still has a dependable pair of hands. He was only credited with two drops in 2022. With those two drops coming against 34 receptions, Cobb had a drop rate of 5.6%, which is slightly better than the 2022 NFL average for wide receivers (5.8%).
Cobb had just one drop from 2020 to 2021. Over the past three seasons combined, his drop rate is 2.9%.
The Jets will experience an upgrade in this department – one that should benefit them greatly. Berrios’ career drop rate is 7.0%, including a 10.0% mark in 2022 (two drops on only 18 receptions). Having a slot receiver on the back end of your depth chart who can simply come in and catch the easy ones is a luxury that cannot be overlooked (see the end of the Vikings game last year).
The volume of Cobb’s box-score production has gone down in recent years due to his diminished snap count, but on a per-route basis, he is still producing at a good level.
In 2022, Cobb averaged 1.70 yards per route run when lined up in the slot, ranking 17th-best out of the 53 wide receivers to run at least 150 routes out of the slot. The league average was 1.43. Braxton Berrios averaged 0.89 yards per route run from the slot (would’ve been seventh-worst if he qualified).
Here’s a way to visualize the value of this stat: Cobb ranked 33rd among WRs in routes run out of the slot (200) but 27th in receiving yards out of the slot (339). He outperformed his playing time.
Cobb was solid in 2021 as well, ranking 19th out of 51 qualifiers with 1.58 yards per route run from the slot. Cobb was 39th in slot routes (189) and 31st in slot receiving yards (299).
Staying healthy is a concern for Cobb. He hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2019.
Cobb missed the final six games of 2020 with a toe injury and then missed the final five games of 2021 (plus the playoffs) with a groin injury. He missed four games in 2022 with an ankle injury that required surgery, but he came back to finish the season. Overall, Cobb has averaged 12.9 games per season in his career.
Cobb should be a good pickup for the back end of the Jets’ WR unit
Many will write off the Jets’ addition of Cobb as nothing more than another nepotistic signing to please Rodgers. But that’s not entirely the case. Cobb is still plenty good enough to be a sufficient depth piece for the Jets’ wide receiver unit.
The Jets aren’t asking Cobb to be a starter. If they were, it would be a problem. All they are asking is for him to be the backup slot receiver and likely the fifth overall receiver in the pecking order. In that role, Cobb is more than qualified.
Cobb won’t do anything flashy for the Jets’ offense, but his soft hands, savvy veteran route-running chops, and familiarity with Rodgers and Hackett will make him a higher-floor player than most wide receivers in the league who are at the same level on the depth chart.
If Cobb is the backup slot receiver then who is the starter, Hardiman? Also, didn’t Moore play in the slot a lot of the time, sharing time with Berrios? If so, that would mean the Jets have taken a step back at slot receiver.
How do you figure? Hardman is leaps and bounds better than Berrios both in terms of production and talent, and surpasses Moore in terms of production, and arguably in potential with gadgets.
Cobb is a step back from Moore, but he also seems an upgrade from Berrios.
Also, neither is the starter. Look for Lazard and Davis to be lined up on the same side a plurality of the time when the Jets are in 11 personnel.
I have to believe they are trying to trade Davis? I think they will need his money?