Cecil Shorts may have been the biggest surprise in the entire 2012 fantasy WR group. Finishing the season up as the 22nd highest scoring wideout in standard scoring leagues, Shorts surpassed everyone’s expectations by a long shot. Randall Cobb did some big surprising of his own in 2012 and finished as the 18th highest scoring WR in standard scoring leagues. I was shocked when I noticed Shorts was being drafted as the 37th overall receiver while Cobb was being drafted inside of the top 10 at number 9.
Let’s not forget what brought Cecil Shorts on to the radar of all fantasy football players in 2012. The former Cowboy, Laurent Robinson, suffered a concussion in week 4 against Cincinnati. Mike Thomas started ahead of Shorts during the following week, but after Jacksonville returned from their week 6 bye, Shorts had the starting job and he took off from there. For the purpose of comparing Shorts and Cobb, the first 5 weeks of Shorts’ season, where he only saw 86 snaps combined, will be extracted from his statistics. To get a better feel of how Cobb will perform in 2013, the games in which Greg Jennings, who is now a member of the Vikings, played in will be extracted. Because we are only using a sample of both players’ seasons, it only makes sense to compare both players using per game averages.
The two receivers put up very similar per game numbers last season, with the only large difference being Shorts averages a couple more targets and just a little over 26 yards a game more than Cobb, and that Cobb had a higher TD rate. Now let’s take a look at these numbers from a fantasy perspective.
Season Total Standard
Season Total PPR
The above chart puts emphasis on how much better Shorts played than Cobb did without Jennings, from a fantasy standpoint, after he got the starting nod. If Shorts had averaged the same per-game production that he averaged after becoming the starter in Jacksonville over 16 games, he would have been the 6th highest fantasy scoring WR in 2012. Randall Cobb would have finished 13th among the same group. Is it smart to expect Shorts to be a top 6 fantasy WR in 2013? Of course not. Even though Shorts did keep up his stunning production over a 9-week span (he missed week 14 due to injury), the chances of him keeping or bettering that pace are not something you should be willing to bet on by drafting him as a top 6 receiver. At the same time, these stats should leave you to believe he has incredible value as the 37th receiver drafted.
Randall Cobb is often compared to Percy Harvin for his run after the catch ability and elusiveness in space, but after Shorts was given the starting role, he averaged 31.56 YAC per game, while Cobb only averaged slightly more, at 32.22 YAC per game without Jennings. On a YAC per reception basis, Shorts averaged 6.17 YAC/REC while Cobb averaged 6.04 YAC/REC. Not only is Shorts closer to Cobb’s after the catch skill than many believe, but he is also more of a target for his team in the redzone, which is key to sustaining high touchdown rates. In 2012 Cobb was targeted only seven times inside the opponents 20-yard line while Shorts was thrown to 13 times in the red zone. Dating back to 2008, the average height and weight for the yearly top 5 fantasy recievers is 6’2’’ and 212 lbs. While Cecil Shorts, listed at 6’0’’, 205 lbs., is not close to the top five fantasy WR average, he is much closer than Cobb, who is listed as 5’10’’, 192lbs.
While the Jaguars QB situation is in limbo, Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are the two likeliest candidates to win the 2013 starting job. Both QBs were a part of Shorts’ great 9 game stretch with Gabbert starting four games and Henne starting the other five. Whoever wins the starting job will not make or break Shorts’ production. The NFL, for the first four games of the 2013 season, has suspended Shorts’ fellow wideout Justin Blackmon, so Shorts will likely see a rise in targets during the start of the year. New head coach Gus Bradley is a defensive minded leader, but he has already called Shorts a competitor and that he liked what he saw during the early days of mini-camp.
How a receiver performs inside of his division is a great place to start when determining strength of schedule because they play each of their division rivals twice a season. Neither Shorts nor Cobb played all six division games in 2012, but here is how they performed in the games in which they did play.
Shorts performed much better against division rivals than Cobb did in 2012. Not only did he outpace Cobb by more than 20 yards per game, but he also caught a touchdown in all three games while Cobb only scored once in the 5 regular season division games he took part in. Possibly the most telling statistic is at the end of the chart. In divisional match-ups Shorts nearly doubled Cobb’s fantasy output. Scoring at such a high rate of fantasy points in division games will go a long way in rising Shorts’ total fantasy score in 2013. While Cobb’s 8.66 points per game against divisional opponents is not awful, it cowers in comparison to what Shorts did against his division in 2012.
I ran Shorts’ 2012 games started and Cobb’s season through the WR Similarity Score App featured on RotoViz and was presented with the following fantasy projections in 2013. Also, I extracted the games Greg Jennings played in 2012 from Cobb’s sample and ran him through the Similarity Score app again to see how his fantasy predictions changed without Jennings.
|Cecil Shorts||Cobb w/ GJ||Cobb w/o GJ|
|Standard Scoring High||11.3||8.5||8.5|
|Standard Scoring Median||9.8||7||6.5|
|Standard Scoring Low||7.5||5.7||5.5|
|PPR Scoring High||16.7||13.4||13.7|
|PPR Scoring Median||15.1||11.1||10.5|
|PPR Soring Low||11.9||9.2||8|
The WR Similarity Score app agreed strongly with the stats I found earlier. Shorts has a higher predicted ceiling, median, and floor than Cobb, with or without Jennings, in standard and PPR scoring formats. While removing the games Greg Jennings played in from Cobb’s sample solidified or improved Cobb’s ceilings in each format, his median scores and low scores in both scoring formats dropped.
Grabbing Cecil Shorts at his ADP of 10.01 in standard scoring 10 team leagues, when he produced exceptionally in the 9 games he started in 2012, is robbery. Randall Cobb, who in 2012 produced at levels similar or lower than Shorts’ nine game starting stretch is going an entire six rounds ahead the Jaguar at pick 4.01. I will not be drafting Shorts ahead of Cobb in any of my leagues because Shorts’ sample size is still small and all signs point to Cobb having a increased role in 2013, but the two should be drafted much closer than they are being currently. Spending a 10th round selection on a guy with massive upside like Shorts is the type of move that can win you a championship, but can’t come close to losing you one. Drafting Cecil Shorts in the 10th round defines exactly what all fantasy players strive to find. Value.