Randall Cobb enters 2020 free agency as one of the best value options at the wide receiver position. This comes after a 2019 season with the Dallas Cowboys that revitalized his seemingly ailing career. Cobb signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Cowboys last offseason, which proved to be a bargain for Dallas as he finished the season with 828 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games.
As Dallas faces the prospect of potentially losing Amari Cooper, whom they traded a first-round pick for in 2018, as well as Cobb, it is the latter who looks like the more cost-effective option.
Cooper had 79 catches for 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. Such production will likely see Cooper command a lucrative contract. Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM), however, indicates Cobb had a more significant impact on the Cowboys’ offense in 2019.
Analyzing Cobb’s OSM grade for the 2019 season
OSM uses the NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to assess a player’s contribution to his offense’s production by looking at the factors only he could control.
In 2019, Cobb led all Dallas receivers with an OSM score of 35.42, indicating a ‘very good’ level of performance. Cooper earned a grade in the same range (32.78) and while he finished the year as WR46 per OSM, Cobb was WR17 of 93 qualifiers.
Cobb was also responsible for the two highest weekly OSM scores by a Dallas skill position player. He earned elite scores of 50.48 and 49.30 in Week 17 and Week 1.
The consistency and level of impact from Cobb will have come as a surprise to many, as he left the Green Bay Packers seemingly in decline. After finishing 2016 ranked fifth of 97 qualifying receivers by OSM and second of 93 qualifying wideouts in 2017, Cobb ended 2018 46th of 97 qualifiers at his position.
Though 2019 did not represent a return to his very best, it was a season in which Cobb demonstrated he still has the route-running ability and skills at the catch point to produce at a high level.
Breaking down Cobb’s film with the Cowboys
His concentration at the catch point was on show in Week 10 during the Cowboys’ defeat to the Minnesota Vikings, a game in which Cobb caught six of his eight targets for 106 yards and a touchdown.
On that touchdown, Cobb quickly got on top of Vikings cornerback Mackenzie Alexander on a downfield route. He bent his route slightly to the right to adjust to the flight of the ball from Dak Prescott, before looking in a low catch despite being crowded by Alexander, who had recovered well after Cobb initially gained separation.
The following week, in the Cowboys’ win over the Detroit Lions, Cobb did damage primarily with his skills as a route-runner. He had 115 yards and a touchdown on four receptions from seven targets, with 49 of those yards coming on a catch and run that saw him easily win his matchup with Amani Oruwariye.
Cobb embraced the early contact from Oruwariye, leaning his body into the Lions’ corner. Whereas Cobb demonstrated the change-of-direction ability to break back across the middle fluidly, Oruwariye was unable to stay on his feet. Oruwariye’s stumble gave Cobb the separation to make an easy catch and put Dallas inside the Lions’ 25-yard line.
Cobb then capped the same drive with a touchdown as a subtle fake step to the right forced Justin Coleman to open his hips and surrender inside leverage. The separation Coleman conceded over the middle was all Prescott and Cobb needed to connect, the former Packer attacking the football and holding on for the score despite an illegal hit from Will Harris.
Cobb can still make an impact in the NFL
Even in his ninth season in the league, Cobb provided significant evidence he can still make an impact in the NFL. The OSM data supports the tape and while Cooper is the younger and more talented receiver, the Cowboys’ front office may view re-signing Cobb as not only the more financially prudent move but also the more astute decision.
Mike McCarthy’s arrival could also influence the Cowboys’ decision, with their new head coach having worked with Cobb for eight of the wideout’s nine seasons in the league.
Should the Cowboys decide to let Cobb walk, then he will enter free agency as one of the more intriguing under-the-radar options on the market. Cobb’s contributions could not salvage a mediocre season for the Cowboys, but what he put on film may convince a contending team he can make a potentially pivotal short-term impact.