Is David Cobb the Titans Running Back to Own in Fantasy Football?
Here's a name that will probably make fantasy football players angry: Bishop Sankey.
Sankey had things going for him entering the 2014 season. Even though he lasted until 54th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans liked him enough to make him the first running back off the board.
In reality, he had only an aging, plodding Shonn Greene to beat out for a sizable workload even on a not-so-great offense. Really, anybody with a semblance of athleticism and ability should have been able to return modest production for a sixth-round fantasy pick with a chance to be the go-to guy in an NFL offense.
He, of course, racked up only 702 total yards and 2 touchdowns.
We should have listed to head coach Ken Whisenhunt's concerns about Sankey's footwork.
In all seriousness, though, the team invested a fifth-round pick in David Cobb from Minnesota this year. Can Cobb do this year what Sankey couldn't do last year?
Comparing the Two
Sankey is a small back -- 5'9 and 209 pounds -- with some marvelous agility, according to his combine numbers. Despite the impressive agility scores, Sankey was, again, criticized for poor footwork by his coach. That either played a large part in his delayed role with the team early last year or was a convenient way to cover up a different problem.
Either way, Cobb doesn't seem to have those issues, and he is consistently hitting holes and making the most of his chances.
He also will be getting work with the first-string in the preseason, so we should get to see how that translates against other defenses -- even if it's just in exhibition play.
The good news for Cobb and his potential owners is that he's pretty much the opposite of Sankey in terms of size and athleticism. He's 5'11" and 229 pounds but has, really, no athleticism to go along with it. Funnily, he is built very similarly to Shonn Greene, who is his top player comparable, according to PlayerProfiler.com. Serendipity.
That's not exactly great news, but if Marcus Mariota can get the offense into scoring positions, odds are, Cobb will be the one seeing the goal line touches.
The bigger green flag for Cobb is that Sankey was just so, so bad last year.
According to our Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which indicates how a player performs compared to expectation level, Sankey lost the Titans 15.17 points of expected scoring on his 153 carries last year. That ranked him 37th among 43 backs with at least 100 carries.
On a per-carry basis, Sankey's Rushing NEP (-0.10) was better. It ranked 36th.
The Titans as a team ranked 23rd in our schedule-adjusted Rushing NEP per play metric, which isn't too bad considering Sankey's inefficiencies.
Did Greene fare any better? A bit, yeah.
Greene saw 93 rushes, so we'll drop our filter to running backs with 75 carries for these comparisons. Greene's Rushing NEP (-3.47) ranked 25th among 60 backs who saw that many carries or more. His per-carry mark, though, of -0.04 ranked him 30th.
Neither back flourished by any means, but the offense was kinder to Greene than to Sankey. We can also see this in their Success Rate numbers, which indicate the percentage of plays that added positively to the team's expecting scoring outcome.
Greene's 39.78% ranked 37th among the 60 backs. Sankey's 36.60% ranked 45th. Again, neither mark was impressive, but Greene's younger doppelganger could be set up for the offense better than the more agile Sankey with his straightforward approach and his ability to hit holes, which he has been showing in camp.
In 12-team standard mocks drafts on FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Sankey is being drafted in the late-eighth round (8.09). Cobb is being taken just a few picks later (9.02).
It's hard to fault those draft positions, as it's likely to be a pretty evenly-split committee.
However, Sankey didn't show too much last year, and unless he turns it around, he won't be contending for too many red zone touches. (Last year, Greene saw 16 and Sankey saw 14.) The Titans also ran just 116 red zone plays last year, which ranked 30th in the NFL.
Our algorithms currently expect Sankey to rush 128 times for 497 yards and 2 touchdowns as well as to chip in 24 receptions for 177 yards and 1 receiving touchdown. That would rank him roughly 38th among fantasy backs, which is pretty much where he landed last year. As for Cobb, they don't expect much more than the Shonn Greene role: 87 carries for 340 yards and 2 touchdowns and 27 catches for 214 yards and 1 receiving touchdown.
Drafting either back with hopes of getting a weekly starter out of the deal likely isn't the right approach -- even if it turns out to work that way at some point in the season. However, if the offense really does click this year, then Cobb's touchdown upside should give him the edge, provided that he cashes in on his opportunities near the goal line.