Allen Robinson Is a Risky Fantasy Football Pick at His Current Cost
Allen Robinson has certainly had an up-and-down career so far. He showed promise before breaking his foot as a rookie, had an incredible sophomore season, followed that up with a disappointing third year, and tore his ACL on his first target in 2017.
Now with the Chicago Bears, what can we expect from the talented receiver?
Robinson the Prospect
Because he has played just 43 games as he heads into his age-25 season, it's important to consider Robinson's college profile when evaluating his talent level as a whole. Robinson fell to late in the second round in the 2014 NFL Draft, but that was likely a function of the sheer quality of that loaded 2014 wide receiver class -- Odell Beckham, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, and Davante Adams.
Robinson suffered through fairly abysmal quarterback play at Penn State, including Christian Hackenberg, who has been traded for a conditional seventh-round pick and then cut. Despite that, Robinson, played well in college, posting a 75th-percentile college dominator rating, and 89th-percentile breakout age, per PlayerProfiler. Robinson was also a favorite of Matt Harmon's Reception Perception.
Robinson the NFL Player
Robinson has largely been able to succeed in the NFL level despite being very young for his level of NFL experience (most notably, he is younger than 2017 rookie Cooper Kupp).
Before being injured in his age-24 season in 2017, Robinson was on a historic start to his career. He actually ranks 11th in receiving yards and touchdowns accumulated through a receiver's age-23 season all-time. This was with Blake Bortles at quarterback.
Robinson's best season came in 2015, in which only the aforementioned Odell Beckham ranked higher in Receiving NEP per Reception among receivers with more than 60 receptions. Robinson also ranked in the top five in Reception Success Rate -- the percentage of catches that resulted in positive NEP -- that year.
With the strong prospect profile matching the level of NFL production, it is reasonable to conclude that Allen Robinson is, in fact, good at football.
Bears 2018 Outlook
But as we know, being good at football does not necessarily translate to fantasy points. One only needs to ask 2016 Todd Gurley owners that to find that out. So how will Robinson fit in with the Bears?
The success -- or lack thereof -- of fantasy-relevant wide receivers changing teams has to be noted. While the fantasy community tends to get excited about new landing spots, there's reason to be cautious.
There have been 48 WRs inside of the top-50 positional ADP that have switched teams over the past 10 years. Just 14 of those increased their PPG from the year prior and just 12 bested their ADP. pic.twitter.com/qNWouTa9ai
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) March 12, 2018
This is only complicated by the fact that Robinson is coming off a torn ACL and still isn't completely healthy. At least, he hasn't yet been healthy enough for valuable practice reps with Mitchell Trubisky.
Article notes Allen Robinson "missed almost the entire offseason program," still recovering from last year's ACL tear. #Bears "insist" Robinson will be ready for training camp: https://t.co/0O1mk9QFnE
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) July 2, 2018
The key for Robinson's fantasy success in 2018 will likely be his usage. Trubisky had a 105 passer rating over the middle last year, but this mark was just 71 outside the numbers. Robinson ran a mere 15% of his routes from the slot in 2016, his last healthy season, so the hope is new Chicago coach Matt Nagy will be more creative in using his best weapon.
Robinson is also one of the more sensitive wide receivers to cornerback matchups (meaning he feasts against poor cornerbacks and struggles badly against better ones).
The most matchup-dependent (non-slot WRs) in fantasy last year: pic.twitter.com/ztBNvMIf0W
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) August 18, 2016
And while the Bears have the fifth-easiest pass defense schedule as a whole this year, it doesn't project to be smooth sailing for A-Rob. He will have to square off against Patrick Peterson, Darius Slay (twice), Xavier Rhodes, Richard Sherman, Stephon Gilmore, and Aqib Talib, all of whom ranked in the top 50 in Pro Football Focus' cornerback grades. (The second Rhodes clash will be in the fantasy-irrelevant Week 17.) And that's to say nothing of Trumaine Johnson or Janoris Jenkins, who had down years in 2017.
With an average draft position in the late fourth round, per Fantasy Football Calculator, drafters appear to be buying in on Robinson as the central piece in "this year's Los Angeles Rams." But, as we've covered, there are reason to pump the brakes on A-Rob and earlier this offseason, our Jim Sannes looked at why the hype around this Bears' offense in general may not be warranted.
Based on Trubisky's struggles throwing outside the numbers last season and Robinson's lack of practice reps thus far, Robinson is likely best approached as a boom-or-bust fantasy asset for 2018, and he's a risky choice in the fourth round.