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Mark Story: If Cobb opts for draft after bowl, more competition awaits

As pure receivers, other juniors rate higher

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 7, 2011 

Randall Cobb ran from the Wildcat position against Vanderbilt. His ability to run and pass adds value to his NFL stock.

KEN WEAVER — Ken Weaver

News flash: Jerry Jones really likes Randall Cobb.

Just not that Jerry Jones.

"When it comes to the NFL Draft, way too many people don't look at (college) production in evaluations," says longtime draft analyst Jerry Jones. "What I really like about (Cobb) is that he's a tremendously productive player. And he's been a highly productive player from the moment he got to college."

As the University of Kentucky junior wide receiver weighs the decision on whether or not to make Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh his final college game by placing his name in the 2011 NFL Draft, the biggest issue he faces, Jones says, is the position he plays.

"The wide receiver position in this draft, the competition is awesome," says Jones. "And most of the guys are all juniors."

If they enter the draft, Georgia's A.J. Green, Alabama's Julio Jones, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Pittsburgh's Jonathan Baldwin are all expected to be first-round picks. Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles may have a shot as well. All are juniors except for Blackmon, a third-year sophomore.

"There isn't going to be much room (for receivers) at the very top because of those other kids," Jones said.

A pharmacist by training, Jones began doping the draft long before it became a national obsession. His "Drugstore List" of top prospects dates to the 1970s (you can find his analysis at Drugstorelist.com).

What the top four receivers projected to go in the draft have that Cobb doesn't is height. Baldwin is 6-foot-5, Green and Jones are 6-foot-4, Blackmon is 6-1. Cobb, like Broyles, is listed at 5-11.

What makes Cobb appealing as a pro prospect, Jones says, is the exact same thing that has made him one of the best players in UK football history: amazing versatility.

"At the NFL level, I think he could be a slot receiver in the Wes Welker mode," Jones says, invoking the New England Patriots star. "But he could do so many other things for you: Run end-arounds, throw some passes on trick plays, return kicks. That's an appealing package for one player."

Other than his lack of height, the big question one hears in next-level projections of Cobb is foot speed. Last year at UK's "pro day," Cobb was reported to have run a fairly pedestrian (by NFL standards) 4.55 in the 40-yard dash.

"He's not explosive, not a sprinter, but I think he has decent speed," Jones says. "The thing he does have, I think he's quick, even if he doesn't have blazing speed."

Kentucky fans probably won't want to hear this, but Jones says he believes that, if Cobb enters the draft, he could "be as high as a late second- or third-round pick because of his multiple talents."

If that projection is anywhere close to how NFL teams feel, no one should second-guess Cobb if he leaves.

I asked Jones for his analysis of some other draft-eligible UK players.

Derrick Locke. "I think he's got a shot to be drafted," Jones said of the speedy, albeit smallish (5-9, 190) running back. "Obviously, he's not real big, but he's got the speed, he catches the ball, he can return kicks and he's been a productive player. He's not going to go on day one of the draft or anything, but I think he'll get picked."

Danny Trevathan. "You look at his numbers, he had a really productive year," Jones says of the junior UK linebacker who led the SEC in tackles (130). "If it were me, because he had such a big jump in production, I'd advise him to stay (at Kentucky) and do it again. I think that would help his stock. Whether he's big enough (6-1, 223) to play linebacker on Sunday, I'm not sure."

Chris Matthews: "I like his size (6-5, 219), like his yards per catch (15.7) and the fact that he caught nine touchdowns. If I were guessing, I'd say he'd be a premium free agent, but I wouldn't be shocked if he snuck into the end of the draft," Jones said. "If not, he'll get an early phone call" after the draft.

Mike Hartline: "He was marginal, already, as a pro prospect," says Jones of the quarterback, "and the fact he's not playing in the bowl game (because of suspension) isn't going to help."

Reach Mark Story at (859) 231-3230 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3230, or mstory@herald-leader.com. Your e-mail could appear on the blog Read Mark Story's E-mail at Kentucky.com.

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