September 09, 2011
Green Bay rookie receiver Randall Cobb(notes) made at least two significant mistakes in his regular season NFL debut on Thursday ... and both gaffes resulted in Packers touchdowns. When stuff like that happens, you know we're either talking about a player who's uncommonly lucky or uncommonly skilled.
Near the end of the first quarter, with Green Bay driving at the Saints' 32, Cobb ran a quick-hit slant over the middle. On his initial cut, Cobb spun Roman Harper(notes) around like a top, then he embarrassed Malcolm Jenkins(notes) on his way to the end zone for a 32-yard score. Highlight here. There was just one problem with the play: Cobb was supposed to run a drag route toward the sideline.
"We didn't have off-season workouts," said Aaron Rodgers(notes) after the game, speaking with reporters. "But surprisingly I was able to read [Cobb's] body language there and he made a nice catch and run for a touchdown."
Ho-hum. It's nice to have an elite quarterback with improv skills, I guess.
In the third quarter, following a Saints field goal that narrowed Green Bay's lead to 28-20, Cobb took the kickoff deep in his end zone — 8 yards deep, where he's not supposed to bring it out. The Packers' in-house rule, apparently, is to take a knee if you're 5 yards beyond the goal line. Cobb either didn't know, didn't care, or didn't think the rule applied to Thursday nights.
The rookie elected to run back the kick, with spectacular results. Here's the clip. Cobb went the full 108 yards, tying an NFL record for the longest kickoff return TD. The first would-be tackler met him at the 7-yard line, but Cobb juked him to the ground. Then he ran through an arm tackle at the 20, and then ... well, I've watched the tape a few times, and still don't understand how he remained upright after the hit at the 23. But he did. After that it was a footrace, and Cobb won.
So that's two big mistakes, either of which could have had disastrous consequences, both of which resulted in TDs for the Pack.
Cobb only caught two passes on the night, but his game-changing ability was evident. At Kentucky last year, he caught 84 passes for 1,017 yards and seven scores, and he ran the ball 55 times for 424 yards and five more TDs. The Packers made him the last pick of the second round in the 2011 draft, and he already looks like a filthy steal. This is a talented player tied to a ridiculous offense; if you're a fantasy owner looking to make a post-draft investment in Green Bay's passing game, take a shot. Cobb is 14 percent owned as of this writing, but that number is guaranteed to climb. (He was at three percent on Thursday night, when I added him in the Friends & Family league mid-game).
Green Bay's receiving corps is obviously crowded, but — as NFP's Matt Bowen tried to tell us last month — the rookie has plenty of upside. Just think how good Cobb might be if he were to follow instructions. Or maybe he should keep freelancing; that guy definitely has a DeSean Jackson(notes) vibe.
Here are five more fantasy takeaways from Thursday's Nintendo opener...
1. Darren Sproles(notes) is plainly in line for a monster PPR season. It's crazy that he's just 54 percent owned; he could easily lead New Orleans in receptions this year. Sproles isn't exactly Reggie Bush(notes) — he's six inches shorter, several pounds lighter — but he's untouchable in space, a wickedly effective kick returner, and just a terrific pass-catcher. He delivered seven receptions for 75 yards in the opener, he found the end zone on a 72-yard return, and he had a significant red zone role, too. Sproles was targeted on Drew Brees'(notes) final pass attempt, the one that resulted in a PI penalty and setup the untimed down.
2. James Starks(notes) is a bad dude. Just in case you thought last year's playoff effectiveness was more of a fresh-legs-vs.-tired-defenders thing, watch this run from opening night. Goodness. That play was straight from the Best of Brandon Jacobs(notes) collection, a bruising run against a defensive alignment that gave the Saints little chance. In postgame comments to Yahoo! Sports Radio, Starks made the point that he and Ryan Grant(notes) are similar runners, stylistically. The big difference on Thursday, to my eye, was that Starks always seemed to gain a yard or two (or sometimes many) after first-contact. No matter what you projected going into the game, it's now tough to believe that workload split won't ultimately tilt toward Starks. He had 12 carries for 57 yards against New Orleans, while Grant had nine for 40. After the game, head coach Mike McCarthy said, "James did well, probably didn't have the attempts that he deserved."
3. Let's not pile on Mark Ingram(notes), because he had no shot in short-yardage against Green Bay — not on the game's final play, not on the earlier third-and-short. The Saints line was just destroyed on both runs. Ingram had a quiet night fantasy-wise, but he'll be just fine. He finished with 13 carries, and he'll get more work in games where the New Orleans D isn't giving up 40-plus. Not a bad fantasy trade target today.
4. When he wasn't fumbling, Marques Colston(notes) looked great. He finished with six receptions for 81 yards and made a degree-of-difficulty catch late in the fourth quarter. But he suffered a shoulder injury of unknown severity on the final drive, and went for X-rays following the game. Not good. At least he wasn't limping. You're all worried about his knees, but he can still separate (and he can box-out defensive backs when he doesn't). Let's hope the shoulder is OK. We may not get a straight story from the Saints right away.
Update, 4:50 pm CT: Jay Glazer just broke some bad news on Colston, via Twitter. Glazer reports that the injury is a fractured collarbone, which is clearly a mutli-week issue. A value bump follows for Graham, Lance Moore(notes) and Robert Meachem(notes). Moore missed the opener with a groin problem, but he'll have some bonus time to rehab ahead of the Week 2 match-up with Chicago. Glazer suggests that Colston will miss approximately four weeks, but that seems optimistic.
5. Green Bay corner Tramon Williams(notes) suffered a more obvious shoulder injury on Thursday, when he was inadvertently popped in the upper arm by Nick Collins(notes). No useful updates just yet. If Williams' injury is significant, that's a huge loss. He's a Pro Bowl corner, excellent in coverage, coming off a nice IDP campaign.
That's all I've got for now. (Oh, except this: Not really a dazzling game for tight end Jimmy Graham(notes), one of the buzziest names during draft season. His fantasy line was just fine, however, thanks to a walk-in TD off a nifty play design). If you've got something to share, based on Thursday's result, please tell the class in comments...
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