The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Allen Robinson II
The latest edition of our “Path to a WR1” series features Allen Robinson II, who illustrates the classic “what if?” tale of talent squandered by inept surroundings. Yet another disastrous season for the veteran wide receiver, compounded with older age and stiffer competition, has forced many fantasy managers to write him off despite a move out west to greener pastures. But does a path exist for Robinson to reclaim his former glory? Let’s dive in!
2021 Season Recap
Oh boy, this was ugly. If you were one of the many unlucky folks who drafted ARob last season, then I completely understand why you’d want nothing to do with him anymore. He averaged a pathetic 3.2 catches and 34.2 yards per game en route to a WR86 finish in half PPR, finding the endzone just once. The only time he’s done worse in his eight-year career was in 2017, but that’s because he tore his ACL right after catching his lone target in the opener and was quickly ruled out for the rest of the season.
Robinson was a bona fide league-loser, playing 12 full games yet never once finishing in the top 25. He was a WR50 or worse for 75% of his games. In fact, his best performance was in Week 2 where he caught his lone TD on the season and ended with 9.4 points… but he was still only the WR45 that week, meaning there’s a great chance your league-mates had better starters in their lineups. There were literally zero weeks where he hit 10 or more fantasy points. It’s one thing when a highly drafted player gets hurt and is no longer playable, but Robinson’s vaunted history gave managers constant hope that “maybe this is the week he finally puts it together,” only to disappoint time and time again.
Laying Down the Path
Before we get into all the numbers and stuff, let’s first address the ugly, unqualified elephants in the room: Allen Robinson has suffered through some of the worst QBs and head coaches throughout his entire career. I mean, just take a look:
|2014||JAX||Chad Henne/Blake Bortles||Gus Bradley|
|2015||JAX||Blake Bortles||Gus Bradley|
|2016||JAX||Blake Bortles||Gus Bradley|
|2017||JAX||Blake Bortles||Doug Marrone|
|2018||CHI||Mitchell Trubisky/Chase Daniel||Matt Nagy|
|2019||CHI||Mitchell Trubisky/Chase Daniel||Matt Nagy|
|2020||CHI||Mitchell Trubisky/Nick Foles||Matt Nagy|
|2021||CHI||Andy Dalton/Justin Fields/Nick Foles||Matt Nagy|
Yikes. Per PFF, not a single one of his QBs achieved a passing grade higher than 65.0. But in 2022, he’ll enter perhaps one of the best situations imaginable with the reigning Super Bowl champions in the Los Angeles Rams, captained by gunslinger Matthew Stafford and masterminded by coaching guru Sean McVay. If he truly lacked motivation due to incompetence, then that’s sure to change with such a high-caliber offense.
Now, let’s get into the stats.
Robinson has typically been able to overcome lackluster QB play with an abundance of targets, having never seen below 21% of his team’s targets aside from last season (19.2%; 66 targets). If we only consider the four seasons he’s played 16 games in, then that target share jumps to an average of 25.4%. That’s 151.75 targets per year or 9.5 per game. He has always been the clear WR1 on his team, but we saw that hierarchy begin to shift with the rise of Darnell Mooney.
While Mooney is no longer in the way, there is an even larger shadow looming in the form of one Cooper Kupp. But with defenses honing in on the triple crown leader, along with Robert Woods‘ departure and Odell Beckham Jr.’s status up in the air (and unlikely to return until the end of the upcoming regular season anyways), Robinson has a great opportunity to capitalize on these 117 vacated targets against softer coverage.
And while the “vacated targets” argument is not a concrete indicator of upcoming usage, we have to keep in mind that Kupp just saw a whopping 191 targets from Stafford, a number his former flame Calvin Johnson has only surpassed once in his illustrious career. There’s a strong likelihood that Kupp will not be able to replicate his record-breaking 2021 stats (his previous target record was 134), paving the path for Robinson to see enough looks to resurge as a fantasy dynamo.
This has never been Robinson’s forte as he only caught 58% of his targets in 2021, which is the same percentage as his career average. But that’s because he’s always made his bread and butter with contested catches, leading the league in this category in 2019 (26) and 2020 (23).
2019-20 Allen Robinson II was incredible to watch. pic.twitter.com/1ta68loVXr
— Bears Nation (@BearsNationCHI) February 5, 2022
While we can blame poor QB play for his inconsistent production, this should be alleviated with Stafford at the helm, who has historically been one of the most aggressive QBs despite heavy coverage. This is the same man who’s made fantasy superstars out of not just Kupp and Megatron, but also Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones because of a willingness to launch dimes in tight windows to his tall receivers. It also helps that Robinson is now the Rams’ tallest WR.
Robinson only caught 38 passes last season, which is tied for 66th among all WRs. That was worse than the likes of Adam Humphries, Byron Pringle, and Quez Watkins, all of whom saw fewer targets than Robinson did. Even Woods (45) and OBJ (44) had more receptions. With an uptick in the number and quality of targets, ARob should certainly improve on this metric barring health.
Yards, Air Yards, and aDOT
Par for the course, Robinson also saw career lows in yardage, notching just 410 total yards in 2021. His air yards were also abominably low at 728. His aDOT, or average depth of target, was mediocre at 11.0, but that is surprisingly a slight improvement over his career average of 10.8. However, he only averaged 2.7 yards after catch per reception, which — combined with his low targets/receptions — undoubtedly limited his overall output.
Robinson only caught one measly TD last year despite being a known threat near the goal line. He saw 53 red-zone targets from 2018-2020, averaging 1.2 per game. That number drastically decreased in 2021, as he only saw 6 RZ targets or just one look every other game. Contrast that with Woods who saw 16 RZ targets in just 9 games, or OBJ who joined the Rams midway through the season and received 9 RZ targets in just 8 regular-season games. Woods nearly had more of these coveted targets in one single outing against the Texans (5) than Robinson did all year.
While predicting TDs is said to be a fool’s game, there’s no denying that Robinson has nowhere to go but up in this category. The Rams’ scheme and Stafford’s style of play are a perfect match for a bigger wideout who can overcome coverage. Stafford is a TD machine, averaging 6.8% TDs per attempt with 116 RZ pass attempts, the third-highest in the league. With the RB room already hobbled, there’s a decent chance Stafford will continue chucking it in the endzone in lieu of leaving it in his RB’s hands.
Every seasoned fantasy manager knows that Robinson is a talented receiver who hasn’t had the opportunity to truly thrive as he toiled in QB hell year after year. We all recognize that this will be the best team he’s ever been in, but the big question is whether he can still do it after all these years, especially coming off of his worst season yet. But these doubts are baked into his ADP as he’s currently being drafted 77th overall in ESPN and 82nd in Yahoo, making him a potential steal if he can remain healthy. Sure, age is always a concern, but it’s encouraging to know that he’s younger than both Kupp and OBJ.
Last season’s stats admittedly paint a grim picture for Robinson’s outlook, but we can either choose to believe that his best days are behind him, or we can believe the narratives that he was simply fed up with being underpaid and playing under subpar conditions. After all, this is the same guy who was petty enough to tattoo himself catching a jump ball over a CB two-and-a-half years after it happened and then proceeded to get into a Twitter fight with the same CB over it. What we do know is that Robinson is now motivated, Sean McVay is already impressed, and Stafford is fired up after years of watching Robinson dazzle in the same division. Even Kupp knows that ARob hasn’t actually had the chance “to showcase the player that he is” and expects greatness this year.
Though Kupp should retain his role as Stafford’s alpha target hog, there’s still room for his real-life WR2 to emerge as a fellow fantasy WR1. I’ve neglected to mention Van Jefferson, and while the Hitman likes him as a value pick, the team clearly views him as nothing more than a complementary WR3 as they felt it was necessary to bring in OBJ last year before Woods got injured. ARob is the ideal low-risk, high-upside player that fantasy championships are made of. Don’t let last year fool you, Robinson is still a beast and is a worthwhile draft pick that could carry your fantasy teams to a #FootClanTitle.