Green Bay’s Randall Cobb looks to define the NFL’s ‘four-tool’ player

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.

English: Green Bay Packers rookie wide receive...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does the NFL have its version of a “five-tool” player?

If you are a baseball fan, you know about the five-tool player. It’s that player who can hit for average, hit for power, has outstanding fielding skills, a great arm and fantastic speed.

Maybe the NFL doesn’t have its own version of the five-tool player, but the league may want to figure out what to call a player like Randall Cobb.

Cobb last season achieved something that had never been done before in league history: Cobb in 2012 had 10 rushing attempts, caught 80 passes, returned 31 punts and returned 38 kickoffs. No one had those number of touches in each of those four stat categories in the history of the NFL. It’s not uncommon to have heard announcers, Packers coaches, and his teammates refer to Cobb as a player that “needs to have the ball in his hands.”

To get a look at other players who may have approached what Cobb did last season, I dropped the number requirements down a bit to see how many players would fit in the category of 10 rushing attempts, 50 receptions, 20 punt returns and 20 kickoff returns. What I discovered was that Cobb was the ninth player to reach these numbers. Here’s a look at the players who fit those stats:

Player with 10 rushing attempts, 50 receptions, 20 punt returns, 20 kickoff returns in a season, years
Terry Metcalf, St. Louis, 1974
Bruce Harper, New York Jets, 1980, 1981
Lionel James, San Diego, 1985
Vance Johnson, Denver, 1985
Gary Anderson, San Diego, 1986
Dave Meggett, N.Y. Giants, New England, 1991, 1995
Glyn Milburn, Denver, 1994
Darren Sproles, San Diego, New Orleans, 2010, 2011
Randall Cobb, Green Bay, 2012

Cobb in 2012 amassed 132 yards rushing, 954 receiving yards, 292 punt return yards and 964 kickoff return yards. With his 2,342 yards via rushing, receiving and kick returns, Cobb became the 34th player in NFL history to have over 2,300 all-purpose yards in a season.

In addition, Cobb became the seventh player in NFL history to have over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and over 1,000 yards in kick return yardage in the same season. Those players:

1000-plus yards from scrimmage and 1000-plus yards in kick returns in same season
2012: Randall Cobb, Green Bay (1086 yards from scrimmage, 1256 kick return yards)
2011: Darren Sproles, N.O. (1313 yards from scrimmage, 1383 kick return yards)
2011: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (1149 yards from scrimmage, 1062 kick return yards)
2009: Fred Jackson, Buffalo (1433 yards from scrimmage, 1083 kick return yards)
1975: Terry Metcalf, St. Louis (1194 yards from scrimmage, 1245 kick return yards)
1974: Mack Herron, N.E. (1298 yards from scrimmage, 1146 kick return yards)
1963: Timmy Brown, Philadelphia (1328 yards from scrimmage, 1197 kick return yards)

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