As the second round of the draft wound down Friday night, the offensive skill players started disappearing from the board.
The Packers remained patient, then added to that run at the “glamour spots” by taking Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb, who brings kick-return ability along with his pass-catching skills.
In a seven-pick stretch leading up to Green Bay’s spot at No. 64 overall, five running backs or receivers were selected after just two went off the board in the first 23 picks of the night. The board was deep enough at those skill positions, though, and Cobb is the kind of multi-purpose athlete the Packers were happy to take.
“We’re just fortunate,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “You talk about a player of his caliber, a guy who can kind of help you in a number of different ways, the way he’ll be able to contribute. We were fortunate to have a guy like that still around when we were ready to pick.”
Cobb played both quarterback and receiver at Kentucky before settling in as a full-time receiver in his third season, which turned out to be his last as he entered the draft a year early.
In his final year, he caught 84 passes for 1,017 yards and seven touchdowns as a receiver. He also added production as a runner (sometimes out of the “Wildcat”) and return man to give him 2,396 all-purpose yards, a Southeastern Conference single-season record.
“We love his versatility,” Bennett said. “He certainly has the ability to run after the catch. We always talk about ‘YAC,’ and that’s one of his strong suits. He stays on his feet, has tremendous balance and makes the most of his opportunities.”
Cobb averaged 9.8 yards per punt return, 24.6 yards per kickoff return and 11.5 yards per reception last season. Most impressive was how much Kentucky ran its offense through him, as his 6.5 receptions per game led the SEC and he threw for three touchdowns in limited attempts at quarterback.
He also has worked as a holder on place-kicks, a job former Kentucky teammate Tim Masthay currently handles for the Packers.
“I can’t wait to get hold of Tim so I can mess with him about that,” Cobb said. “I’m going to try to take his spot.”
Bennett was impressed with Cobb’s durability for how often he touched the ball, and he talked about his experience as a quarterback helping him learn a pro offense, an even bigger plus depending on how long the labor situation drags out.
Even Cobb admitted he’s still working to reach his potential. As much as the position-switching he did in college helped his team, he’s just begun truly focusing on being a wideout.
“I’ve only been playing receiver for two years, so I can still work on my route-running, just polishing it up and getting better at that as much as I can,” he said.
Young players are often able to contribute in the return game right away, and without a true breakaway threat in that area the past couple of years, the Packers will certainly look at what Cobb has to offer there. The ‘Wildcat’ would be a new wrinkle to the offense, too, but Bennett wasn’t going to speak for Head Coach Mike McCarthy in that area.
Neither was Cobb.
“If they’re interested, I’m definitely down to do it,” he said. “They’re going to make the best decision for the team, and if they don’t think it should be part of the game plan, then we won’t have to worry about it.”
Most important to Bennett is Cobb’s “high character,” which he mentioned several times.
“We’re certainly excited to have a guy of those qualities,” Bennett said. “Talking about putting him in our (receivers’) room with guys we already have in place, he fits what we look for.
“He can play and that’s the bottom line. You always want to get an opportunity to coach a guy that’s driven, a guy that has passion, a guy that loves football and a guy that has tremendous work ethic. It always starts with their attitude.”
That’s something about which Cobb remained positive, even as he watched all those other running backs and receivers getting picked ahead of him.
“I had to wait a long time, but it’s great knowing I’m coming to Green Bay,” Cobb said. “God works in mysterious ways, puts us in position to succeed. I was fortunate to still be on the board when Green Bay was picking.”