This series is called sophomore expectations, but there are going to be a couple of posts about guys who are technically third year players. It's about guys who are going to be in their second year of being on our radar as potential contributors, more or less. We start with a true sophomore, Randall Cobb.
When Randall Cobb was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, most of us didn't know what to expect. Through what we were able to ascertain through reading and highlight tapes, it was obvious that he was a player with great physical tools that had the potential to provide an immediate upgrade in the return game. He seemed like a guy who had a chance to develop into a very good NFL slot receiver, but most didn't expect him to impact the passing game too much in his first season.
Cobb raised everyone's expectations with his performance in the first game of preseason, then raised them even further with his two touchdowns in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints. Those would end up as his only touchdowns in the 2011 season, but he was impressive with 25 catches for 375 yards in a loaded WR corps.
For a rookie buried on the depth chart, Cobb's numbers were solid, but he'll be expected to do more in 2012.
Cobb's depth chart position in 2011 - No. 5 WR
Cobb's floor depth chart position in 2012 - No. 5 WR: There's a chance that James Jones and Donald Driver play well enough in training camp that Cobb does not see much more time on the field than he did last season to start the year. Something truly drastic would have to happen for him to fall behind any of last year's practice squad players. His job is, at worst, secure.
Cobb's ceiling depth chart position in 2012 - No. 3 WR: Obviously Cobb isn't going to take away a starting spot from Jordy Nelson or Greg Jennings, but I feel that there's a very good chance he could surge to the primary slot role, playing in all three-WR sets that don't include Jermichael Finley standing up and all four-WR sets, period. He has a chance to win this job in camp.
Cobb's stats in 2011 - 25 receptions, 375 yards, 1 touchdown
Cobb's floor stats in 2012 (assuming he's healthy) - 20 receptions, 300 yards, 0 touchdowns: There's an off chance that Cobb stays healthy and plays well, but that everyone else stays healthy and plays well and that he doesn't improve much at all in terms of statistical production. This could especially be the case of Alex Green gets healthy and is used frequently in the passing game.
Cobb's ceiling stats in 2012 - 45 receptions, 750 yards, 8 touchdowns: This is, admittedly, ambitious. That's why it's a ceiling. I arrived at this by looking at the production of some of the production of some of the NFL's best slot receivers. Ultimately, I think that the two starters and Jermichael Finley take too many of the targets for Cobb to put up numbers like this.
Projected stats for Cobb in 2012 - 34 receptions, 550 yards, 4 touchdowns: Finley is probably going to have a season as good as or better than his season in 2011. 55 receptions, 767 yards and 8 touchdowns was actually a disappointment for some, considering how dominant Finley looked. Additionally, there's no reason to expect James Jones to fall off a cliff. I like Cobb to put up numbers comparable to a middle of the road to slightly above average No. 3 wide receiver this season.