Fantasy
Breakout time for Cobb
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One of the running jokes on Arrested Development (I say one because there's a million of them) is that Michael Bluth can never remember the name of his son's girlfriend.

Her name's Ann but Michael still hasn't figured that out yet.

"George Michael, listen. Why don't you and Plant just wait in the stair car. I'm just gonna finish up here with GOB."

"I'm sure Egg is a very nice person."

"Make an appearance? No, no, it's okay. You be with Yam. It's fine."

"Annhog's coming? I mean I thought it would just be the two of us. Alright, just load her up in the car."

Packers wideout Randall Cobb can relate. He's been given the Ann treatment by fantasy owners for years.

Cobb was virtually ignored on draft day a season ago and for good reason. He was fourth on a receiving depth chart that already included Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Plus, the Packers were equipped with one of the top receiving tight ends in the league in Jermichael Finley.

All Cobb did in 2012 was put up more yards than any of them. The 80 catches Cobb reeled in were the most by a Green Bay receiver since 2008.

If Cobb hadn't sat out the regular season finale versus Minnesota, he probably would have reached 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career. Instead he settled for 954 yards and eight touchdowns, good for 18th-best among fantasy wide receivers.

Because of Cobb's slot tendencies and his short stature (he's only 5-foot-10), one might call him a poor man's Wes Welker. Personally, I think he's a rich man's Welker.

Sure Welker dwarfed Cobb in yardage (1,354) and receptions (118) last season but who made the most trips to the end zone? Cobb won that battle by an eight to six margin. In ESPN leagues, their point per game averages were almost identical (10.25 per game for Welker, 10.0 for Cobb).

That's an incredible bargain when you think about it. Welker came off the board in the second round in most leagues last season. Meanwhile, Cobb was still roaming the waiver wire for most of the first month. Fantasy owners finally started scooping him up around October and by the end of the season, Cobb was owned in almost 97 percent of leagues.

That won't happen again this year. ESPN already has him ranked as the 11th- best wide receiver in the draft (two spots ahead of Welker, if you're keeping score). Part of that has to do with the departure of Jennings, who inked a five-year deal with Minnesota in the offseason. That's one less player Cobb has to battle for targets.

For those of you who work better with Seinfeld metaphors, Cobb is following a similar career trajectory to David Puddy. Last year, Cobb was the mechanic who fixed the Packers' offensive engine when it stalled early in the season. Now he's in the showroom selling Saabs to customers.

So, Cobb has finally shed the grease monkey label ("I don't know too many monkeys who could take apart a fuel injector"). But is he really top-ten material?

I don't see why not. Yes, Cobb benefited from Nelson's injury struggles last season but who's to say that Nelson won't get hurt again? And why does Nelson's ceiling have to be as high as Cobb's? Aside from a breakout 2011 campaign when he hauled in 1,263 yards, Nelson has only averaged 503.3 yards per season.

And remember who's throwing to him. Mr. Discount Double Check was far and away the best quarterback in the NFL last year and there's no reason to think he won't be again in 2013. The 108.0 QB rating Aaron Rodgers posted a season ago wasn't just the best in the league. It was the 14th best of all-time.

The Rodgers/Cobb duo was sensational last season. Rodgers completed 76.9 percent of his throws to Cobb in 2012 and it would have been even higher if Cobb hadn't dropped nine of them (85.6 percent). Just to emphasize how remarkable that number is, here are the success rates of some of the other top quarterback/receiver combos from last season:

Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson: 112-for-164 (68.3 percent)

Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas: 94-for-141 (66.7 percent)

Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall: 118-for-194 (60.8 percent)

Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson: 122-for-205 (59.5 percent)

We know Rodgers will have no trouble delivering the ball to Cobb next season. What we don't know is how he's planning to use James Jones.

The 29-year-old was a red zone machine last season, finishing the year with a league-best 14 touchdown receptions. Considering Jones had never snagged more than seven touchdowns in a season before 2012, it's realistic to expect a drop-off. That could mean more touchdowns for Cobb next season.

Here's another thing people are forgetting. Cobb is only 22. He made huge strides last season and he should make progress again in 2013. The Packers have already said they're thinking about relieving Cobb of some of his special teams duties (he returned 38 kicks and 31 punts a season ago) so he can focus on catching passes.

It's time for everyone to learn Cobb's name. If you don't know who Cobb is now, you definitely will when he's beating your fantasy team in a few months.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.