Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:00

Upside vs. efficiency: Should you draft John Brown or Randall Cobb?

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Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb (pictured here) and Arizona wideout John Brown are two players that stand the chance to outperform their current ADP. But which one should you draft? Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb (pictured here) and Arizona wideout John Brown are two players that stand the chance to outperform their current ADP. But which one should you draft? Elvis Kennedy/Flickr

Giana Pacinelli of the the Huffington Post and 2QBs.com joins George Banko of Fantasyfootballhelpers.com to debate which receiver to draft, Randall Cobb or John Brown?

Opening statements

George: Randall Cobb is coming off a season where he scored his lowest touchdown total (4) since 2013. It was also the first time since that same season he failed to play in all 16 games. Here's why we can expect a bounce-back season from the seven-year Green Bay wide receiver.

Giana: John Brown was set to have a breakout year in 2016, following his first 1,000-yard season. Instead, Brown had a disappointing 39-517-2 stat line through 15 games. His struggles had a lot to do with his diagnosis of sickle cell and a cyst on his spine. With both injuries reportedly under control, expect a second-go at a breakout season for the Arizona Cardinals WR2despite his slow return from a quad injury he suffered in practice at the end of July.

Beginning arguments

George: John Brown is an electric player when healthy for sure. Still, there are some things about Cobb's situation that I love. For one, he plays in a pass-happy offense. The Packers threw the ball on 64 percent of plays last season, second only to the Baltimore Ravens. They might not pass THAT much in 2017, but Aaron Rodgers is what makes that offense go and will still throw plenty. Cobb had over 100 targets last season and didn't play in three games. He will have a lot of scoring opportunities based on the offense he plays in.

Giana: While Cobb has more years on Brown in the NFL and a top-tier QB to match, he's competing with the likes of Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams for targets. For Brown, more opportunity exists. Brown is playing second fiddle to Larry Fitzgerald, who is 34 this month. While there is no question Fitz is still a top receiver, his production value has faded down the stretch the past two seasons. In the second half of both 2015 and 2016 seasons, he scored double-digit fantasy points in a standard league only once. Alongside Fitz, Brown saw over 100 targets in both 2014 and 2015. As Fitz fades, the targets will reallocate to Brown. While there’s no doubt JJ Nelson, and perhaps Jerod Brown, will see some production value from it, this is the year Brown could rack up WR1 numbers as long as he can stay healthy.

 

George: While Brown will get a lot of big plays in the offense, I like Cobb's chances for consistency. He's been a reliable touchdown target, catching three scores in three games last postseason. While postseason games don't typically count for fantasy, coaches value them and Cobb's ability to perform in big moments will only lead to more targets in the offense this year. Davante Adams finally broke out in 2016, but it's likely he won’t have another 12-touchdown season with Cobb healthy. Cobb should rack up 2-3 more touchdowns this year without difficulty.

Giana: Yes, Brown had a disappointing 2016. But in reality, the Cardinals had a disappointing season overall, finishing 7-8-1. In the case of determining Brown’s value, it’s best to look at the Cardinals three-year average of 592 pass attempts and 416 rush attempts. Despite their unsatisfactory year, Cardinals are prolific in the passing game (ProFootballFocus ranks them #6 overall). Carson Palmer threw the third most TDs (21) on quick passes (aging suits him) and Fitz tied for second most receptions (63) from the slot. Although they struggle with the deep pass, efficiency is what will win them games. If Brown can increase his yards per route, the Cardinals passing game will be a brutal force in 2017. Another thing of note is that this off-season Brown added an extra 13 pounds of muscle to the chip on his shoulder, showing he’s ready to come back from an injury-ridden season to reinvigorate the offense.

George: Great points on the Cardinals passing attack, but I want to delve deeper into Cobb's reliability. With an average depth of target at six yards last season, Cobb won't score long touchdowns like Brown will, but he will make up for it with consistency. Cobb's catch rate of 71% (per playerprofiler) ranked 14th among wide receivers last season. He was reliable inside the 20-yard line, with 10 red zone receptions and we all know the Packers throw the ball a lot near the goal line. These numbers translated to 11.4 fantasy points per game. That's solid and consistent production for a WR2. Cobb might not score you 33 points in game like Brown could, but he won't be the reason you lose either.

Giana: Agree with Cobb being a safe, consistent pick, but the opportunity for him to get his share of the targets still concerns me. I have no concerns on whether he can deliver, just if he can get the ball. While the sample size for Brown’s production is much thinner than Cobb’s, his consistency is still evident. In the three seasons of his career, he’s averaged a 56 catch percentage and 14 yards per reception. Brown excels at forcing safeties to play deep, opening up the middle of the field. And despite playing alongside Fitz and Michael Floyd, Brown saw 17 red-zone targets across 15 games in 2015. Even more inspiring is his handle of the ball, with just two turnovers on his career. I can’t stress it enough, there’s a major if in the health category that causes Brown’s ADP to suffer. Don’t overthink it – Brown is going to be a beast come September.

George: Agree with you on Cobb lacking targets, but the coaches have a lot of confidence in him as does Rodgers. Since 2012, Packer QB's have had a 116.2 rating when targeting Cobb, according to Pro Football Focus. Not only will he likely see more targets as mentioned earlier, he also has scoring upside. Rodgers has thrown for over 30 touchdowns per season and Carson Palmer has only accomplished that feat twice in his 13-year career. Those factors will lead to Cobb getting more targets in the end zone and his touchdown numbers should increase as a result.

 

Giana: I’ve danced around it a bunch in previous arguments, but here it is. Brown’s disappointing 2016 season was largely caused by the injuries he dealt with related to his sickle-cell trait. Brown claims he is “back to normal” and knows how to manage the trait. And since Denver has been known to heighten symptoms of the sickle cell trait (Tevin Coleman was unsure he could play in Denver last year) it’s important to note that the Broncos are not on the Cardinals schedule this season. This leaves little doubt that it would be a lingering concern into 2017.

Now, onto the quad injury Brown suffered at the end of July. While Brown was able to practice in team reps after a few days, he was incredibly slow to return to the field. It seemed Brown was not going to push himself to return until he felt ready, regardless of Coach Bruce Arians expressing that he was 'concerned' when Brown didn't return until the third preseason game. But when he did return, making a pair of touchdown catches, quarterback Carson Palmer had these positive words to say about his receiver through text: "Wide receiver's impact clear when he's on field — he just needs to be on the field."

Even with the slight uncertainty, Brown is not deserving of his current ADP – falling between the ninth and twelfth rounds in standard leagues. He is only one season removed from a 65-catch, 1,003-yard, seven-touchdown season. It’s hard to argue that stat-line and convince me he’s not worth more than a ninth-round pick. While that might be his ceiling, it doesn’t warrant him being the 44th wide out on the board. But if that's where he'll reside, don't settle or reach for Cobb — steal a starting wide receiver in the second half of your draft instead.

Closing arguments

George: With a strong postseason last year, Cobb will see more targets in 2017. He also has considerable touchdown upside given the quarterback he plays with. He's a great value at his current ADP and worth drafting as a WR2/3.

Giana: The 2016 season is not a benchmark for Brown’s potential. At 27 years old, he is still in his prime and will look to see more targets in 2017 in one of the league's top passing offenses. Brown has the potential to be the most productive receiver per-target this season. He’s an undervalued sleeper in his current ADP and is worthy of your WR2/3 slot.


Giana Pacinelli contributed to this article. She is the author 'Women in Fantasy Sports,' a series featured in the Huffington Post. She also contributes to TwoQBs.com 

Follow her on twitter @Gianaaaa 

Link to original photo.


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Last modified on Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:57
George Banko

George Banko started talking about fantasy football shortly after graduating college. He started as an intern at FFChamps.com before working as a staff writer for Fantasy Knuckleheads. He currently contributes to the Fantasy Hot Read podcast, which is available on itunes. He also educated himself on player evaluation and is a graduate of The Scouting Academy in 2015, which is an online course run by former NFL Scout Dan Hatman. He started Fantasy Football Helpers as a blog in 2011 and converted it to a full-scale website in 2014. Read more.

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