Welcome to The Sleeper Series, profiles designed to give an inside look into NFL prospects that are under the radar. Everyone that watches ESPN knows about Jameis Winston and Todd Gurley. Highlights of Marcus Mariota are on SportsCenter every week, and Amari Cooper is widely known as one of the best wide receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft. Here, we will meet the players that aren’t as well known, but may develop into superstars.
The 2008 NFL Draft was one of the best drafts in league history for running backs. Five were selected in the first round, followed by Matt Forte, Ray Rice, and Jamaal Charles. Although it's unlikely that many RBs will be taken in the first round, the 2015 NFL Draft may rival 2008 in terms of talent. It's one of the most talent-filled positions come April, and with so many studs available, there will be a few that will likely fall through the cracks and be drafted later than they might otherwise deserve. David Cobb is one of those players. The 5'11", 229lbs senior at the University of Minnesota jumped into the scene last year as a junior, when he became the first Minnesota running back to break 1,000 yards since 2006. This year, he shattered Laurence Maroney's single-season school rushing record of 1,464 yards, despite being hampered with to a hamstring injury. He has also been named this year's team MVP. Although not the most preeminent, Cobb may be the most underrated back in this year's draft.
Cobb was born on June 3, 1993, in Killeen, Texas. He has two older brothers, both of whom play football, so the sport came naturally to him. His father, Caesar Cobb, is a retired lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and a former professor of military science at Alcorn State University. He too briefly played the sport, also as a running back. Soon after, the family moved to Gloster, Mississippi. When Cobb was in elementary school, they moved again to Vilseck, Germany, where his father was stationed. It was in Germany that Cobb began playing, forming a tackle league with other kids. Eventually, they would return to Killeen, which is located near Fort Hood.
Although Cobb wasn't flooded with Division-I offers, he did receive interest from Stamford, and a few others. However, he found his home in Minneapolis with the Golden Gophers. As a late recruit, it took him some time to become the feature back for Minnesota. For the first two years, Cobb was buried on the depth chart. It wasn't for lack of talent on his part; there were simply a number of other good players in front of him. Cobb stayed on the roster playing special teams, and doing his best to mature for when his number would eventually be called.
Even though those days were trying times, going from star running back for a Texas high school football team to a backup, Cobb managed to keep perspective thanks to advice from his father, who assured him that his time would come. During the season opener his junior year, it was Cobb's turn. Donnell Kirkwood was the starting back, and was coming off a 926-yard season the year before. That opening night, against University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), Kirkwood sprained his ankle, and Cobb exploded onto the scene, and grabbed his chance for good.
To provide some context on Cobb's stats, let's take a look at them situationally. First, it's important to note that Cobb plays out of a power run game at Minnesota, where the goal is to run the ball. He isn't being used as some type of gadget back; everyone knows they're running the ball downhill. That's just what Minnesota does. Now, Cobb has only gone below 4.6 yards per carry in two games this season. In twelve games this season, he's had a 20+ yard run in five of them. He averages 5.89 yards per carry on third down, with a stunning 14.67 yards per carry on third downs with between 4-6 yards to go. His weakest down is first, although he still averages 4.93 yards per carry, and has had six of his thirteen touchdowns this year on first.
Day Three, rounds 5-7. Cobb compares favorably to Le'Veon Bell.