Randall Cobb was the consummate do-it-all weapon for much of his time with the Green Bay Packers, who at his peak embodied the model slot receiver every NFL franchise covets.
At a compactly-built 5’10”, 195 pounds, the 2011 second-round pick was a raw route runner when first donning the Packers’ uniform, but presented a set of skills that saw him quickly emerge as a go-to target.
Cobb’s fluid hips allowed him to quickly get in and out of his breaks while maintaining his balance and often leaving his defenders guessing.
Similarly, his lateral shiftiness helped him achieve clean releases off the snap, preventing any sort of disruption from an opposing defender.
As a route runner, Cobb wasn’t asked to run nuanced patterns during his three seasons as a Kentucky Wildcat outside of standard drags and curls. However, the converted college quarterback would go on to add to his repertoire by masterfully executing double moves as a pro. No. 18 was particularly effective at forcing defensive backs to bite in off-coverage.
One area where Cobb — and many of his other receiver brethren for that matter — gets overlooked is in his blocking prowess, as he wouldn’t think twice about taking on bigger opponents to spring a teammate open on a downfield block.
Another hallmark that made the SEC product arguably one of the great Packer wideouts of all time was his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers when it came to his awareness in reading defenses and sniffing out blitzes. It’s the same type of non-verbal communication that often takes place between No. 12 and Davante Adams and was always there with Jordy Nelson.
Yes, Cobb’s eight seasons in Titletown went by quickly, but it’s time for the organization to forge ahead and find his successor. Last year’s failed experiment in lining up Geronimo Allison in the slot proved that expecting any ol’ big and athletically gifted receiver to excel as Rodgers’ primary inside target is foolhardy.
While the Packers may very well end up with multiple wide receivers in the upcoming draft, the priority should be to identify a prospect with those Cobb-like traits, who can ultimately make their 36-year-old starting quarterback’s life easier as he prepares for his final handful of seasons in green and gold.
Here are seven matches who have the ability to replicate the current Houston Texan’s success to varying degrees.
Though a faction of fans has been pining for Green Bay to pull off an improbable — and financially untenable — trade for Brandin Cooks, GM Brian Gutekunst may as well set his sights on a younger, cheaper version of the Rams’ deep threat sans the recent history of concussions.
Reagor was clocked at 4.47 in his 40 time at the Indy combine, but the former TCU Horned Frog plays even faster than that. His instant acceleration on bubble screens is nothing short of a nightmare for oncoming defenders, who had to contend with the speedster’s facility in changing directions by sinking his hips and exploding out of his cuts (see 2019 Oklahoma State matchup).
Moreover, the 21-year-old features the versatility to be used on jet sweeps and in the return game.
In terms of his hands, Reagor has proven he is fully capable of making downfield catches in traffic, as well as possessing strong mitts when he impressively highpoints the ball and tucks it away from his adversary.
And though he didn’t have the most varied route tree in Fort Worth, the 5’11” playmaker successfully ran stutter-and-go and slant-and-go patterns, where his penchant for executing double moves was on grand display.
On the negative side, Reagor did have ball-security issues at TCU and had some catchable passes bounce off his hands.
But overall, this Texas torpedo has the upside of being the next Cobb and the explosiveness to perhaps someday exceed the 10th-year pro’s achievements as a Packer. If Reagor is there for the taking at the 30th pick, Gutekunst should seriously consider adding him to the roster.
Although the 5’9” speed merchant never ran his 40 at the Indy combine due to a hamstring tweak, one can easily get a sense of how much faster and shiftier Hamler is than most of the players around him.
Once the dynamic slot man gains a step on you, it’s usually curtains for the defense, as the former Nittany Lion can turn on the jets much like Desean Jackson did for so many years as a member of three NFL organizations.
Hamler flashes the ability to create instant separation out of his breaks and has those short-area quicks to start, stop and get right back up to top speed.
On downfield throws, the Pontiac, Michigan native masterfully tracks the ball, extends his body and shows the discipline to protect the ball with defenders closing in.
In addition to being blessed with a pair of fast feet, Hamler’s hands are just as quick with the way he reels in bullets from close range. However, the man with the No. 1 jersey isn’t immune to occasionally bobbling catchable balls that need to be promptly tucked away.
The one major knock on him is his lack of size at about 176 pounds. Hamler’s scrawny frame makes him a non-factor as a downfield blocker and could result in the aspiring rookie being overpowered by bigger, stronger NFL defensive backs in contested situations.
Much like Reagor, though, Hamler is equipped with those unique attributes to turn any little screen into a highlight-reel score from any part of the field.
In sizing Hamler up to Cobb, the former has the advantage in terms of straight-line speed but isn’t nearly as sturdy as the latter, who as a Packer played bigger than his size.
Depending on how quickly wideouts are taken in the draft, Hamler may be available anywhere from the late first-round through the bottom of the second round.
Unlike the first two receivers on the list, Jefferson presents a bit of a larger frame at 6’1”, 202 pounds, not to mention remarkable length in the form of 33-inch arms.
The first word that comes to mind when watching the senior in action is “tough” in that he isn’t shy or hesitant about sitting down on a shallow route and taking hits from multiple defenders.
The productive junior (see 111 receptions in 2019) was Joe Burrow’s main target due to his ability to contort his body and come up with a multitude of tough catches outside his frame, even if that meant bodying up his cover man.
Jefferson was known as a zone beater, who knew how to get behind linebackers and in front of safeties and also had the presence of mind to come back to his quarterback when the pressure was on.
The underclassmen is among the most sure-handed receivers in this year’s draft class, who doesn’t fight the ball and often secures it cleanly in his hands.
Speed-wise, Jefferson ran an unexpected 4.43 at the Indy combine. But that number will certainly help his draft stock, the Louisiana-born pass-catcher doesn’t play fast considering that he typically didn’t generate a ton of separation in his routes. On that note, many of his completions were of the contested variety.
Two of Jefferson’s distinguishing attributes are his agility and body control to sell out and go airborne in his all-out pursuit of moving the chains or hitting paydirt.
The former LSU Tiger shares some similarities to Cobb in the way both are better underneath weapons than deep threats. The one-time SEC standouts are also known for their willingness to play hard, break tackles and block on running plays.
Jefferson — like Hamler — should be drafted in the late-first to late-second round range.
Hill makes up for his 4.6 straight-line speed with his tremendous route-running skills.
As an Ohio State Buckeye, he routinely ran slant/arrow, corner and drag routes with the utmost precision. To that end, he knows how to set up his routes by using double moves and gaining leverage on the opposition.
Often referred to as a “steady senior” during national telecasts, the 6’0” slot target adjusts to low passes, along with being elusive both off his release and after the catch. And when he can’t shake his opponent, Hill won’t have any reservations about outmuscling defensive backs by employing the stiff arm.
Hill is a lot like Jefferson in the way he craves contact over the middle when making plays in traffic. The 22-year-old’s muscle-bound physique matches his on-field tenacity.
Where Hill comes up small is in his blocking. He takes on a very lax approach to this part of the game, as evidenced by how he frequently pretends to engage the oncoming defender and then decides to just let him go.
Hill and Cobb are a lot alike in their penchant for coming up with big plays, especially in contested situations.
As a Texas Longhorn, Duvernay ran a ton of simple, straight forward routes, including a heavy dose of drag patterns, where his team relied on him to churn out tough yards in congested quarters.
At 5’11”, 210 pounds, Duvernay is a legit 4.4 athlete, who can outrun an entire defense if he finds and/or creates an opening.
The former 100-meter Texas state champion shows great footwork along the sideline and in the corner of the end zone, as well as adjusting well to balls thrown behind him.
To boot, the blazing dynamo does a credible job of selling his routes on running plays and puts in an honest effort in carrying out his blocking assignments.
Where Duvernay falls short is that while fast, he isn’t as fluid at changing directions as Raegor is, as he tends to gather himself when making a cut. Unlike Reagor or Hamler, he’s not a natural start-and-stop runner.
In terms of his physique, Duvernay looks like a carbon copy of Cobb and similarly refuses to go down easy after the catch.
Although he caught 106 balls in his senior year in Austin, Duvernay lacks polish as a route runner. So, not much should be expected of him as an NFL rookie, which explains why he’s generally viewed as a Day 3 prospect.
6. Donovan Peoples-Jones
DPJ is a versatile hands catcher, who thrives when bodying up on defensive backs and has the strength, determination, and all-out spunk to win battles at the top of his routes.
The 6’2” prospect is a flat-out ballplayer who excels at absorbing hits over the middle, as well as taking great pride in contributing as a physical blocker.
Peoples-Jones also has the speed and elusiveness to make plays as a deep outside target who can track down balls and come down with acrobatic receptions.
Further, the prolific collegian runs a varied route tree, specializing in slants, fades, and posts. What helps him get open on those routes is his lateral quickness off his release, along with how he utilizes his powerful hands.
Peoples-Jones’ do-everything skillset is one quality he shares with Cobb, but overall the two are quite different. The ex-Wolverine is a long-strider who isn’t as quick or shifty as the former Packer. In fact, DPJ more closely resembles ex-Saint Marques Colston.
The big-bodied wideout has the tools to play inside or outside in the pros, but he’ll need to run better precision routes if he banks on being a long-term starter.
Look for Peoples-Jones to most likely be drafted before Duvernay, but for this piece, the latter profiles a lot more as the sort of athlete who could someday take over the Cobb role.
7.Lynn Bowden Jr.
This jack-of-trades baller shares a lot in common with Cobb from the school he played for (Kentucky) to the fact that he also lined up as both a quarterback and running back as a collegian.
Most of Bowden’s production in the SEC came from the line of scrimmage, where 6’0” jitterbug delivered an intoxicating mix of change-of-direction skills, start-and-stop quickness and the ability to instantly turn upfield with the ball in his hands.
As far as pure speed is concerned, Bowden is a 4.3 runner, whose numbers translate to the field with how he can blow by a crowd of defenders as a passer, running back, receiver and return man.
When given the opportunity, the electrifying Wildcat also showcased his deep-ball prowess, while giving his fans a sampling of his ability to adjust to off-target throws and keeping his feet in bounds in tight spaces.
Any creative NFL offensive coordinator would literally be licking his chops at the myriad of plays that could be called using this electrifying weapon in multiple formations both as a decoy and the designated target or ball carrier.
But the fact that Bowden so willingly agreed to play quarterback due to injuries at the position may have retarded his development as a wide receiver. As such, the underclassman enters the draft as a multi-faceted, but raw work-in-progress.
The right coaching staff should be able to ease Bowden into a full-time role as slot receiver by Year 2, but don’t expect the moon overnight.