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November 2014
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Projecting The NFL Future Of Randall Cobb

It’s huge understatement to say that it was really cool for all of us in the Commonwealth to see Randall Cobb play so well last night in his first game in the NFL.

It has interested me to hear what former players Cobb gets compared to as the NFL community gets to know one of our all-time greats. It seems many like to pigeon hole him with the likes of Hines Ward or Antwaan Randle El. Guys who like Cobb, took snaps at quarterback in college.

That’s an easy angle for those who are familiar with little more about Cobb’s time in Lexington than his stint under center. Of course anyone who closely followed his career at Kentucky knows – much to the chagrin of some fans – that he only spent half a season playing primarily quarterback. Cobb worked hard after his freshman year to learn the fine points of playing wide receiver and was just as polished as anyone else at the position in last year’s draft class.

Another popular comparison is to Donald Driver, the venerable Packers receiver who at 36 years-old, is likely to bequeath his role to Cobb in the Green Bay offense in the coming seasons.

Comparing Cobb to Driver makes a lot more sense than lumping him in with the quarterback-turned-wide receiver types like Brad Smith of the Bills or Randle El and Ward. But the truest comparison for Cobb – and for the career he could wind up having as a pro – is to look at another veteran NFL wide receiver: Derrick Mason of the New York Jets.

Now before you point out that Cobb is around 1,534 times more athletic than D. Mase, remember that he’s one of the most grizzled players in the NFL at 37 years-old. He’s clearly lost a step, but there was a time when Mason was among the most dangerous players in the league. In fact, he holds the single-season all purpose yards record with 2,690 yards in 2000 with Tennessee.

In his prime Mason was not just a dangerous return man, he was a wide receiver capable of lining up all over the field and making plays. I have fond memories (*disclaimer: I’m a Titans fan) of him running a long dig route down the sidelines, stopping on a dime and spinning around toward the line of scrimmage just in time to pluck the ball out of the air. With the ball in his hands and the cornerback he just ditched bearing down on his back, Mason would blindly fake inside and spin outside, dashing up the sidelines as the cornerback grasped at air. It took quickness, a great feel for the game and the sort of football courageousness that borders on reckless.

Starting to sound a lot like our man Cobb, right?

Turns out, they’re also nearly the exact same size. NFL.com lists Cobb as 5-foot-10, 197 pounds and Mason at 5-foot-10, 192 pounds.

Throughout his career Mason has been lauded for his leadership, first with the Titans and then for six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. His fiery personality plus a high football IQ helps explains how he’s managed to stay productive going in to his fifteenth year as a pro [he had 61 catches for 802 yards and 7 TD last season] and why the Jets, despite all their other stars, jumped at the opportunity to bring him in for a fifteenth season.

Considering what he demonstrated with the Cats both as a leader and a playmaker, it is not difficult at all to imagine Cobb’s career following a very similar arc.

It would not surprise me if – despite the great performance in his debut – significant opportunities are likely to be few and far between for Cobb this year in Green Bay. The Packers offense is loaded and although Cobb housed his second catch of the game, he was rarely on the field for the offense.

Mason got off to a similar start in his career. Before his record setting campaign in 2000, he only had 49 catches in his first three seasons as a pro. Yet all these years later, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, his career stats [924 catches, 11,891 yards, 66 TD] stack up similar to the likes of Charlie Taylor, Lance Alworth, John Stallworth and Ward; three Hall of Famers and a fourth who is a shoe-in upon retirement.

Considering Mason has always played in offenses that are run heavy and Cobb plays for a pass-crazy offense with a superstar quarterback who is entering his prime, is it crazy to imagine that his numbers could wind up being even better?

The short answer is, yes! For starters, Cobb is only one game in to his career. Also, Mason’s longevity relied on him staying ridiculously healthy throughout his career. Few players are that lucky.

But yet in the wake of an extraordinary debut, it’s awfully fun to imagine the very best for one of our all-time favorites..so, why not?

Comments

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