April 03, 2011
With the 2010 NFL season in the books (and a lockout battle now headed to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.
Over the next few weeks, we'll also be adding Pro Day data when relevant. But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.
We continue the second Shutdown 40 with Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb. A mobile quarterback in high school who actually started out at that position before moving to receiver in his freshman year at Kentucky, Cobb is one of the better and more intriguing multi-purpose players in this draft class. Cobb really hit elite level as a receiver in 2010, when he brought in 84 passes for 1,017 yards and seven touchdowns, but his versatility has always been a factor. Last season, he also threw three touchdown passes out of the "WildCobb" formation, and he broke the SEC single-season record for total yardage with 2,396.
In 34 games with Kentucky, Cobb caught 139 passes for 1,599 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also ran 225 times for 1,290 yards and 22 scores, completed 62 passes in 122 attempts for five touchdowns and five interceptions, returned 61 punts for 601 yards and two touchdowns, and returned 40 kickoffs for 980 yards. Where does that do-it-all athleticism fit at the NFL level?
Pros: Cobb is extremely quick in short spaces and he absolutely explodes upfield; defenders have to be aware of their spacing assignments against him in the slot, or they'll be waving goodbye after he takes one or two steps after the catch. Has a good nose to escape with defenders all around him, though he isn't big or physical enough (5-foot-10, 191) to blast through or around with anything but speed and quickness.
Gets excellent separation in the slot, but can also use quickness and elusiveness to beat press at the line. Has a very good sense of placement in zones or underneath coverages — Cobb is a high-quality route-runner with a particularly outstanding feel for slip screens and other quick passes. Incredibly dynamic runner who only needs to hint of a gap to slip though. Good hands — impressively for a guy with his speed, he doesn't let his body get ahead of the catch.
As a quarterback, he has a good feel for the read option and keeps the possibility of the pass going long enough to keep defenders at bay. As a returner, he shows elite burst and upfield quickness. Excellent teammate, leader, and all-around high-effort guy.
Cons: For all his quickness, Cobb isn't a threat to break tackles or make serious gains after the catch with a physical presence in his way; he'll often fall prey to arm- and ankle-tackles. He doesn't crumble when you touch him, but he may want to work on getting a bit stronger to enhance his skill set.
Conclusion: He's probably not big or strong enough to become an A-level receiver at the NFL level, but in a system that uses a lot of three- and four-wise sets with a specific need for a burner underneath, Cobb could really thrive. He will encounter more difficulty in blasting through tacklers with his sheer speed in the NFL, but this is the type of player who will always look for ways to succeed. Randall Cobb is not a jack of all trades and master of none; his versatility translated into impressive overall production in college, and there's no reason to believe that he can't do the same one level up. The question is whether the NFL will break him up; similarly-sized receivers like Donnie Avery(notes), Eddie Royal(notes), and Deion Branch(notes) have struggled to stay on the field in their pro careers.
NFL Comparison: Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams
More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina | #49 — Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona
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