Around the League  

 

Randall Cobb's versatility an asset to Rodgers, Packers

As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. Next up: The Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers' roster is littered with young players that have already broken out. A team full of largely homegrown players selected by general manager Ted Thompson backed up a Super Bowl title with a 15-1 record in 2011.

A jarring playoff exit to the New York Giants doesn't erase the fact this is the most talented, cohesive depth chart in the league. In today's NFL, no team is especially likely to win the Super Bowl. But no team is more likely to win it this season than the Packers.

Making the Leap

Around the League will pick from each NFL team one player who's poised for a breakout season in 2012:

AFC East
Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
49ers | Cardinals | Rams | Seahawks

Making the Leap: Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb doesn't have an easy path to be this team's breakout player because the Packers' wideout depth chart is so stacked. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are the starters. James Jones and Donald Driver make terrific reserves. But Cobb is going to force the Packers to find room.

Cobb announced his presence as a rookie with two touchdowns in the season opener, but he barely played on offense that night against the New Orleans Saints. As late as Week 13 against the Giants, Cobb was an afterthought. His playtime and production gradually increased after that.

Cobb's three games with his most offensive snaps came in a row from Weeks 14-16, according to ProFootballFocus. It's hard not to notice Cobb's efficiency. He caught all 11 passes thrown at him for 158 yards in his final four games of the year, including the playoffs. For the season, Cobb caught over 80 percent of his targets. That was the highest number in the league for receivers with more than 15 catches.

Like a lot of return men, Cobb played mostly out of the slot. (He had his way with Javier Arenas against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15.) But the Packers also got him involved on the outside in some two and three-wide receiver sets. Cobb sometimes struggles to get off the line of scrimmage because of his size, but he creates space with his quickness and sharp cuts. When Cobb gets the ball in space, he makes people miss.

This Packers group is not easy to break into. Cobb's rookie stats were similar to Jordy Nelson's in 2008, but we don't think it will take Cobb as long to break out. His pure speed and ability to make defenders miss can make Cobb Green Bay's answer to Victor Cruz.

Cobb can run the ball. (Heck, he can throw the ball well as a part-time college quarterback at Kentucky.) He can line up all over the field. He can turn a five-yard pass into an 80-yard touchdown. Cobb brings skills to the table that Donald Driver and James Jones simply can't offer.

We've learned repeatedly that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers squeeze the most out of their receiver talent. They should find a way to use Cobb plenty in 2012.

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