Will Packers WR Cobb be next in line?
Mike Conklin, Packers contributor
Wide receiver Randall Cobb.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - At only 22 years of age, Randall Cobb is entering his third season in the NFL.
A wide receiver’s third year is often when he comes into his own. The jump from college to the pro game is big enough that it almost always takes time for receivers to truly blossom.
Pro passing offenses are much more complex than anything the players have to digest in college, and passing defenses are so much faster and more physical (even in today’s NFL) that it is unusual to see wide receivers become superstars within their first year or two in the league.
Randall Cobb bucked that trend last year and became a very good receiver in only his second season. He led all Packers receivers with 80 receptions. He was a dynamic playmaker when the ball was in his hands.
Does that mean he has already had his breakthrough season? How much more can the Packers reasonably expect from him? After all, he led the NFL (and set a Packers franchise record) in all-purpose yards.
A closer look reveals that although he did indeed have a great season in terms of all-purpose yards, the majority of that production was on special teams.
As a receiver, he didn’t even hit the 1,000 yard mark. In fact, Cobb surprisingly only played 58.3% of the offensive snaps.
That number could jump dramatically this season.
With Greg Jennings no longer on the team, Cobb’s playing time would figure to increase. The Packers seem intent on giving other players every chance to succeed in the return game, and if Cobb were to be relieved of his special teams duties it would in theory allow him to focus more on his role in the offense.
If Cobb were to see his numbers jump this year, he would not be alone among Packers wide receivers in recent history to make a jump in season three. Just over the last twenty years, consider the following players and their third-year production:
1994: Robert Brooks increased his reception total by a whopping 190% in his third season, and his receiving yards total increased 260%.
1997: Antonio Freeman’s receptions went up 46%, while his yardage and touchdown production also increased 33%.
2004: Javon Walker’s reception total jumped 117%, and his yardage followed suit at a 93% clip.
2008: Greg Jennings caught 51% more passes in his third season, and his receiving yards increased 40%.
2009: James Jones had 60% more catches and 61% more yards. Oh, and his touchdown total increased fivefold.
2010: Jordy Nelson more than doubled his reception total, increasing 101%. His yardage was not too far off that pace either, as he registered an 82% increase.
Does this pattern always stay true to form? Of course not. Donald Driver's numbers did not jump dramatically until his fourth season. And while Jordy Nelson’s numbers did increase substantially in his third year as mentioned above, he did not have his monster season until his fourth year. And if you go back a bit further, Sterling Sharpe’s numbers jumped in just his second season.
So while there may be exceptions to what we will call the “third-year rule,” the list above illustrates that most of the noteworthy Packers receivers in recent years excelled in their third seasons.
Could Randall Cobb be the next in line to see his production increase in Year Three?
His quest begins now.
Read more from Mike Conklin (@Packerpedia) on packerpedia.com, for which he is the founder and editor.