Fantasy Football: Is Allen Robinson Primed for a Bounce-Back Season?
Allen Robinson undeniably has a wide range of outcomes in 2019.
In 2015, Robinson topped 1,400 receiving yards and scored 14 touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars with Blake Bortles throwing passes to him -- one of the more impressive accomplishments by a wide receiver in recent memory. Robinson failed to top 1,000 yards in 2016, tore his ACL in the first quarter of his 2017 season, and then totaled just 754 yards in 13 games with the Chicago Bears in 2018 after signing a big-money contract in free agency.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism for the Bears' offense heading into this campaign -- from an expected third-year leap from Mitchell Trubisky, to the second year at the helm for coach Matt Nagy, to the addition of third-round running back David Montgomery (who is far more versatile than Jordan Howard). But there are still plenty of questions surrounding the offense -- such as whether Trubisky will actually take that step forward, to how the running backs will be deployed, to whether second-year wide receiver Anthony Miller will become more involved. And one of the the more pressing questions for fantasy football is whether or not Robinson can improve on his first-year production in Chicago and get close to the elite level he was once at.
In order to determine how to approach Robinson in 2019, a few key questions should be answered.
How Well Did A-Rob Play in 2018?
In a word, well. Robinson played well in 2018, all things considered.
The Bears featured seven players who were targeted 25 or more times, five of which saw more than 50 targets and three of which saw over 90 targets, Robinson included (the other two were Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen). Only two of the seven players in this group achieved a Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per reception clip of more than 0.90 -- Robinson (1.24) and Anthony Miller (1.28), but Robinson did so on almost double the number of targets than Miller had. Robinson's total also came on just four touchdowns, compared to Miller's seven total scores.
Robinson's Reception Success Rate -- the percentage of his catches that resulted in an expected-point gain -- of 90.91% led all receivers on the team (among those with more than 10 targets). Being an efficient receiver in the face of volume is one of the best indicators of true talent, and Robinson offered that in 2018. In order to ascend back into the elite echelon of wide receivers for fantasy football, all he needs is more targets and a bit of positive regression in the touchdown department.
For some context outside of the Bears' offense, Allen Robinson's 0.74 Reception NEP per target was on par with some of the game's top receivers, including Julio Jones (0.75), Davante Adams (0.75), and Antonio Brown (0.68). In fact, only 13 wide receivers with 100-plus targets finished ahead of Robinson in this regard. Only five receivers with more targets than Robinson had a Success Rate higher than Robinson's on their receptions, too.
This means that, in many ways, Robinson was among the most valuable receivers to his team in the real-world NFL. His output in terms of improving his team's position to score was on par with the elite receivers in the league, on a per-play basis.
So, the big question for fantasy players is how Robinson finished with only 11.8 fantasy points per game (in PPR formats), which was good for just 30th in the league.
What Caused Robinson's Struggles in Fantasy?
Well, for starters, Robinson played in only 13 games and did not crest 100 targets, which is well below the mark of the elite wide receivers in the game. Even on a per-game basis, Robinson was not seeing the targets he would need to rejoin the WR1 (top-12) cohort for 2019. He wasn't significantly far off, though, as his 7.2 targets per game puts him on pace for 115.2 looks on the year, which would have been good for 15th among wideouts.
With Robinson's efficiency, seeing close to 120 targets could be enough for a WR1 (top-12) finish as long as the touchdowns tick up. So it's pretty clear that target volume was not the only factor to blame.
The apparent cause is actually quarterback play. Robinson's Catchable Target Rate -- according to PlayerProfiler.com -- was just 68.1%, which ranked him 98th in the NFL. Trubisky accounted for 81 out of Robinson's 94 targets, so this rate is not based on the limited playing time of Chase Daniel. PlayerProfiler also recorded Trubisky's True Completion Percentage, which (when factoring out throwaways and drops) was just 68.5%, good for 25th in the NFL.
In short, Trubisky was not particularly good last season, and he happened to be even worse when he targeted Robinson than when he targeted other players, a trend that could be more random chance than a red flag.
What to Expect This Season?
At this point, we can probably say definitively that Robinson is good at football. His 2018 season was impressive efficiency-wise on his part, but it was marred by bad quarterback play. Robinson, entering his age-26 season, has a history of strong performance in his young career, though the counting stats may not show it.
In 2016, A-Rob recorded 1.17 Reception NEP per catch and 0.57 Reception NEP per target -- solid but not elite marks. Robinson's massive 2015 season included excellent clips of 1.61 Reception NEP per reception and 0.85 Reception NEP per target. Based on Robinson's track record, he's probably a very good wide receiver but not quite in the elite tier outside of his 2015 effort.
But his fantasy value isn't dependent on just him; his quarterback and his target volume play huge roles.
It's reasonable to assume that Trubisky will take a step forward in terms of accuracy in his third year in the league and that Robinson's targets will revert more toward Trubisky's average target quality. So, the biggest question is what kind of target volume Robinson can see in 2019.
Robinson saw a 21.6% target market share of the passes thrown in the 13 games in which he was active, and he logged a 21.9% target share of non-Chase Daniel targets during games in which both Robinson and Trubisky played. Projecting Trubisky's average attempts per game (31) over 16 games gives us 496 pass attempts, and if Robinson maintains a 21.9% share, he would see 109 targets in 2019. With the likely progression of Anthony Miller, the addition of David Montgomery, and no other big changes to the offense of note, Robinson will likely find it hard to steal enough targets to surpass that mark.
While A-Rob may not bounce back into WR1 territory, he should be expected to turn in another strong season in terms of helping the Bears score points on offense, and he's still a solid buy at his ADP of 76th overall in PPR formats, per Fantasy Football Calculator, with our models ranking him 66th overall.
At the turn from Round 6 to Round 7 in 12-team leagues, Robinson slots in nicely as a likely WR3 on your fantasy team, and the odds are good that he can outperform last year's WR30 finish on a per-game basis. Don't overthink this one if he's available that late in the draft.