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Fantasy Trends: Victor Cruz vs. Randall Cobb

How do NYG's Victor Cruz and GB's Randall Cobb stack up in Fantasy?
How do NYG's Victor Cruz and GB's Randall Cobb stack up in Fantasy?

Coming into the year now a full-blown NFL superstar with his own Campbell’s Soup commercials, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants was a hot commodity in fantasy drafts, where most had him ranked a top 10 or 15 player at his position. Cruz mostly lived up to those expectations, finishing the year as the 14th receiver in standard fractional scoring.

But what makes fantasy football so exciting year-to-year is the promise of a couple of sleepers who will rise to the level of guys like Cruz, and perhaps above it. Green Bay Packers sophomore receiver Randall Cobb was one of those surprise picks of 2012, finishing 17th in points. In the first edition of Fantasy Trends, we’ll break down the numbers and take a look at who was really better, Cruz or Cobb.

Targets: What Were They?

Victor Cruz Randall Cobb TargetsVictor Cruz Randall Cobb Adjusted Targets Per GameTargets-Per-Game: Looking at the targets-per-game in 2012 for Victor Cruz and Randall Cobb is a curious case, because the 144-104 disparity in targets doesn’t quite tell the full story. Because Cobb wasn’t realistically involved in snaps for the offense until week four after Greg Jennings went down, and because he sat the final game of the season, it turns out the true targets-per-game is much closer.

When adjusted for the games Cobb wasn’t a full participant in, the target disparity notably shrinks between the two receivers, with an apparent trending increase in targets for Cobb, and an apparent decrease in targets for Cruz (likely due in part to Eli Manning’s late-season failures). The result is a fascinating stat: Over the their last nine games played, Cobb averaged nearly a full point higher in targets-per-game (7.7), than Cruz (6.8).

To put those kind of numbers into perspective, Cobb’s final nine games were in fact higher than his end-season average, while Cruz’s were a considerable 24% lower than his final marks. That means Cobb was targeted more as the season went on, while Cruz was targeting much less. This could be due to a number of factors, such as the increase in opportunity for Cobb, and the decreasing opportunity for Cruz as Eli began to struggle.

Snaps: How Did They Change?

Victor Cruz Randall Cobb Offensive Snaps Per GameVictor Cruz Randall Cobb Adjusted SnapsOffensive-Snaps-Per-Game: Knowing how much time a player is actually on the field is an incredibly important, and yet incredibly overlooked statistic. For players like slot receivers, this sort of information can be invaluable as it essentially tells you how often a team has them on the field.

In this particular case the snaps are interesting because it demonstrates an incline in snaps over the season for Cobb, and a decrease for Cruz. Despite the fact that Cobb was largely limited to the slot, he actually got as much playing time as Cruz did down the stretch. In fact, over their final eight games, Cruz’s average dropped from his season-ending mark to 52-per-game, while Cobb’s marks once again surpassed his concluding numbers, with 49-per-game.

If it’s not clear already: Cobb’s performances over the second half of the season brought his averages up in many aspects, while Cruz’s diminished a hot start. While snap trends don’t mean too much for Cruz, who you can expect to continue to be very active in the Giants offense next season, it’s certainly a welcomed trend for Randall Cobb, particularly because even with the presumed departure of Greg Jennings, Cobb should still be expected to occupy most of his time out of the slot.

Catch %: Who Was Efficient?

Victor Cruz Randall Cobb Catch PercentageVictor Cruz Randall Cobb Catch PercentageCatch Percentage: Targets are a useful indicator in fantasy for finding out who is getting paid attention by their quarterback, but catch percentage is a sneaky stat that can help you find out whether or not those targets will be sticking around for long.

For Victor Cruz and Randall Cobb, the total catch percentages were found by taking the total number of targets, and discovering what percentage of receptions they had associated with that. In what might be shocking to some, we learned something quite interesting: Cobb hauled in nearly 77% of the passes thrown his way, while Cruz only managed to gather 60%.

Keep in mind, however, that catch percentage is in relation to targets, and not actually the quality of the pass. In this scenario, one could imagine how Aaron Rodgers greatly influenced Cobb’s catch percentage, while Cruz may have been considerably hindered by Eli down the stretch.

Regardless of whether either receiver’s quarterback helped them out here, it’s important to remember that in the bottom line of fantasy, it doesn’t matter how they get the production, just that they do. And with a near-77% catch percentage, you can bet Rodgers has a lot of faith in Cobb next season.

Receiving Yards: Who Racked Up Points?

Victor Cruz Randall Cobb receiving yards per gameVictor Cruz Randall Cobb Receiving Yards Per Game TotalsReceiving-Yards-Per-Game: Receiving yards may not be the “big points” you look for each week out of you receiver (those would be called Touchdowns, in case you didn’t know), but they account for a large portion of a receiver’s fantasy value, and should always be taken into account.

When looking at the total receiving yards of Victor Cruz and Randall Cobb, it’s important to understand the significance of the adjusted values: Because Cobb didn’t truly play in the amount of games that Cruz did, we extrapolated his average over 12 games out to the remaining four. When we did this, we came to an interesting result: Cobb not only had more receiving yards than Cruz, but his additional rushing totals pushed him firmly above the Giants wideout.

If pure final results weren’t convincing enough, you only need to look back at the final six games of both players: Cobb averaged 75.5 yards-per-game over that span, while Cruz lagged behind at 69.1 yards-per-game. While this difference isn’t wildly significant, it is very interesting, once again, when you take into account Cruz had more total opportunities over the same span of time than Cobb. If you presume both players healthy next season, it’s hard to argue with the production of Cobb.

Yards-Per-Reception: Who Hit it Big?

Victor Cruz Randall Cobb Yards Per ReceptionVictor Cruz Randall Cobb Yards Per Reception TotalsYards-Per-Reception: When you’re talking about yards-per-reception, what you are effectively talking about is how a team is using a player in an offense. The higher the yards-per-reception, the more explosive a player typically is within an offensive scheme.

While Cruz and Cobb may be very different receivers in a lot of ways, they’re pretty much identical when in comes to yards-per-reception. Cruz’s slight edge of 12.7 to Cobb’s 12.4 certainly isn’t anything substantial to write home about, but it is interesting to note that after leveling off from a strong start in yards-per-reception, Cobb put together a six-game string to close out the season where he increased his YPR totals in each successive contest.

For Cobb, his strong finish allowed him to accumulate 13.8 yards-per-reception over his final six games (more than a yard higher than his average), while Cruz’s numbers dropped from 12.7 to 12.1 for comparison.

While I don’t think this is particularly indicative of anything for Cruz, I do think this signals a vote of confidence in Cobb’s down-the-field abilities and on-field chemistry with Rodgers.

TDs-Per-Game: Who’s in The Endzone?

Victor Cruz Randall Cobb Touchdowns per gameVictor Cruz Randall Cobb Touchdowns Per Game TotalsTouchdowns-Per-Game: Now here’s a fantasy stat fans care about. When breaking down the touchdown prowess of both of these players, it’s important to keep in mind that Cobb actually scored an additional TD in a game that wasn’t counted, since he didn’t have enough snaps to qualify.

While Cobb only scored eight receiving touchdowns on the season, he did so with what was only twelve games of significant playing time, and he added a ninth as a returner on special teams. When adjusted, Cobb actually out-paced Cruz in TDs-per-game, despite overall less targets, less snaps, and a significant amount of redzone opportunities taken away by teammate James Jones (14 TDs). Now in fantasy, it’s less about efficiency and more about volume, however efficiency often leads to more opportunities for players, which can translate to volume in the right circumstances.

If there was a knock on Cobb’s touchdown production, it might be that half of his receiving touchdowns came in only two games in the middle of the season, and he had no touchdowns at all in six of his twelve substantial starts. Meanwhile, Cruz continued to find his way into the endzone consistently throughout the season, save for a dry three-game dry spell in the middle.

Fantasy Points: Who Really Scores?

Victor Cruz Randall Cobb Fantasy Football Points Per GameVictor Cruz Randall Cobb Fantasy Football Points totalsFantasy Points: Take all the numbers, all the stats, all the graphs and roll them into one little ball and this is what you get: Randall Cobb doesn’t just outpace Victor Cruz, but he skyrockets up from #17 to #7 in receiver scoring for ESPN standard leagues.

Cobb’s adjusted 11.6 points-per-game is good enough to slip into this past season’s top 10 receiver group, and is a full point higher than Cruz’s 10.5-per-game average. Even if you don’t fully believe in extrapolating out games based on a player’s average for adjusted results, just the fact that Cobb in a “true” per-game average was more than a point more effective than Cruz is incredibly interesting.

Perhaps numbers like these are part of why Matthew Berry ranked Cobb ahead of Cruz in his “way way too early” Top 200 fantasy players of 2013 list. Despite finishing the season below Cruz, it’s clear many fantasy gurus are already projecting him beyond what Cruz will be able to produce for the Giants this upcoming season.

But… that’s just how we view the data. Which receiver do you like heading into 2013, and what makes them so darn important to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • GoMadden

    I think I still might rather have Cruz next season. I think with a healthier Hakeem Nicks he’ll get back to where he was a season ago.