Randall Cobb's Fantasy Outlook for 2020
The Texans head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien kicked off this year’s free agency by leaving fantasy football players stunned by trading away four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick to the Cardinals. Houston received running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. The Texans received less than what the Vikings did when they traded Stefon Diggs to the Vikings.
Randall Cobb signed with Houston immediately following the news to a three-year, $27 million contract. Hopkins averaged 10.6 targets and 129 air yards per game since 2015. Both are up for grabs in Houston in 2020. Many expected that the Texans would enter 2020 with Cobb, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills as their top three receivers. Houston acquired receiver Brandin Cooks and a 2022 fourth-round draft pick in early April from the Rams for the No. 57 overall pick in this year’s draft. This article will discuss Cobb’s statistical career up to this point and his value in fantasy football in 2020 in the Texans wide receiver quagmire.
Randall Cobb’s Statistical Body of Work
Were you aware that Cobb had 470 receptions in his eight seasons catching passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rogers in Green Bay? The soon to be 30-year old veteran receiver resurrected his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 after signing a one-year contract.
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Cobb was the ultimate slot receiver with the Packers and many expect him to replicate that role for the Texans. What made his 2019 season in Dallas unique was that the Cowboys allowed him to threaten defenses vertically and expanded his route tree playing alongside Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. This resulted in Cobb finishing the season with his highest yards per catch (15.1) average of his career. You may be concerned about Cobb’s robust history of soft tissue injuries, age, and ability to separate from cornerbacks. He finished last season tied with Calvin Ridley for the 12th-highest target separation among wide receivers. This advanced metric available at Player Profiler measures a receiver’s average yards of separation distance from the closest defender back at the moment the pass target arrives.
Cobb averaged 1.8 yards of separation per target. He also averaged a respectable 2.05 yards per pass route. Cobb (7) did finish last season tied for the ninth most drops, but Gallup (11) and Cooper (8) also ranked in the top-10. Cobb also spoke highly of the Cowboys training staff for keeping him on the field last season. They recommended Cobb strengthen his hamstrings in the offseason workouts leading to the regular season. The irony was that the Packers coaching staff never mentioned that to him. Let’s walk through Cobb’s fantasy outlook with the Texans in 2020.
How Randall Cobb Fits With the Texans
It is impossible to replace a generational talent like Hopkins. The combined might of Cobb, Cooks, Fuller, and Stills will try in 2020. The departure of Hopkins is definitely a gut punch to quarterback Deshaun Watson. Since being drafted in 2017, the former Clemson quarterback has averaged an impressive 255.7 passing yards, 288.6 passing air yards, 24.6 fantasy points per game in 38 active games. Hopkins has averaged 89.5 receiving yards per game in 46 games since 2017. He has played in 110 games since his rookie season in 2013.
It is unclear if Cobb and Watson will be calibrated ahead of the 2020 season especially with COVID-19 altering the NFL offseason calendar. Cobb’s $18.75 million guaranteed implies O’Brien is banking on it. This dollar amount suggests he’ll be an every-down player and see a steady dose of targets from Watson. The biggest concern is that without Hopkins’s statistical production and durability, the warts of Watson’s current receiving core are more prevalent.
The Texans tried to provide Hopkins a solid No. 2 receiver in Fuller back in 2016. He’s unfortunately only been active in 42 games since then. Fuller’s miss extended time with injuries to his hamstrings, a torn ACL, and a broken collarbone.
Cooks has now suffered five known concussions in his six-year career. Keke Coutee has been a disappointment since the Texans drafted him in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s only played in 15 games averaging 5.1 targets, 3.3 receptions, and 36.1 receiving yards per game.
Stills is entering the final year of his contract and does have some experience playing from the slot. Cutting the former Saints and Dolphins receiver wouldn’t cost the Texans anything in dead money. Houston does have to pay $7 million to keep him on the roster.
These roster moves suggest the Texans will continue to attack defenses vertically with Cooks and Fuller on the outside. Watson (81) had the fourth most deep-ball passing attempts last season. The only quarterbacks with more were Jameis Winston (113), Aaron Rodgers (94), and Russell Wilson (83). Watson’s completion percentage (42%) on these passes was the highest among these quarterbacks. Cobb provides him with a viable underneath receiving option in addition to running backs David Johnson and Duke Johnson. I know that’s a lot to take in, but here’s the bottom line.
Cobb is someone you should target in the double-digit rounds of your fantasy football draft as a high-end WR5, assuming the Texans don’t add another wide receiver early in the NFL Draft. According to consensus ADP, he’s currently the WR71. Cobb finished as a WR3 or higher in 40% of his games last season in Dallas. Watson averaged 33 pass attempts per game in 2019. This trend should continue in 2020 considering the Texans have done nothing to improve their 28th ranked passing defense. Houston ranked 23rd in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last season. The situation alludes to an even distribution of targets, but Cobb has the potential for more if Cooks or Fuller were to miss an extended amount of time. He’s going to be the least expensive way to own a piece of the Texans explosive offense.