Does Denard Robinson Have Fantasy Football Potential?

Denard Robinson doesn't like to tie his shoelaces, but can he still score fantasy points for your team?

As a fantasy football fanatic, I sometimes have to make compromises on Saturdays to be able to put in serious fantasy football time on Sundays. While I grew up in Cleveland and consider myself first and foremost a Browns fan and an Ohio State fan, my wife is a Michigan alum. So in spite of being the living embodiment of the ESPN College Football commercials, I often find myself watching more than my fair share of Michigan games on Saturdays. In a quick phrase, happy wife, happy life.

With that in mind, I'm sure you're questioning what my point is right now. Well, here it comes. I probably have seen more of Denard "Shoelace" Robinson's games than a lot of people and really saw him as an "athlete" or a change of pace back in the NFL. So when I was watching Robinson gash the Browns on Sunday for 127 rushing yards and a touchdown on a career-high 22 carries, I took a keen interest in the performance to see if anything can be gleaned from it. For someone who had 20 carries in 2013 and 28 carries before Week 7's breakout vs. the Browns, the volume and the performance was certainly eye-opening.

Was Robinson's Week 7 Performance Legitimate?

For the year, Shoelace stacks up fairly well among the 43 running backs with 50 carries or more in terms of our Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP):

PlayerGamesRushesRushing NEPRushing NEP/RushSuccess Rate
D. Robinson7500.73 (17th).015 (13th)48.0% (7th)

To paint a picture how good Robinson's Week 7 was, his Rushing NEP after Week 6 was -3.08 and now it is 0.73 - or 17th among running backs with 50 carries or more (his 50 carries just hit the threshold). That means that Robinson's performance versus the Browns resulted in a very solid 3.81 points for the week.

As Rushing NEP is a cumulative statistic, his overall rank of 17th shows three things. First, running the ball is very inefficient by its very nature, and adding 0.73 points over the course of a season isn't all that bad.

Second, this indicates how poorly other running backs have performed this season (I'm looking at you, Alfred Morris). Third, it also now gives Robinson both the volume and Rushing NEP score to be compared with a peer group featuring guys like Shane Vereen and Ben Tate.

The real question, in Week 7 was how impressive was Robinson's performance? And the answer, is not really. While I'm not discounting the yardage and the touchdown, the Browns defense ranks an abysmal 29th in Rushing NEP per carry after being adjusted for schedule strength. Prior to Robinson's Week 7 performance, Cleveland ranked 21st. Giving up a big day to the Jags, a very poor rushing team overall, has plummeted their rush defense metrics.

So while Robinson looked good in hitting the hole and cutting back to gain more yardage on his runs and played 46 of 74 offensive snaps, fantasy owners should take his performance with a big grain of salt.

Is Shoelace Worth A Waiver Wire Pickup?

While Robinson may have overcome my personal skepticism and Michigan bias this past week, whether or not you pick up for your fantasy football team this week depends on many factors in terms of how many teams are in your league, whether you are impacted by heavy byes coming up, how deep your roster and league are for starters.

To me, the deck is stacked against Robinson for many reasons, first and foremost the fact that the Jaguars are not very good at football. While they got their first win over a Browns team that clearly was overlooking them, they typically will be behind double-digit points in games, which will limit their ability to run the football. When you combine that with a rookie quarterback in Blake Bortles, and a potential logjam at running back or some sort of timeshare with the soon to be returning from injury Toby Gerhart, Storm Johnson, and third down back Jordan Todman, the chances for consistent success on a weekly basis for Robinson seems unlikely.

And even after a positive rushing day, the Jags still rank 28th in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play, so unless Robinson proves wildly better than the backs Jacksonville has used so far, finding production on a poor running team is going to be a risky bet.

Additionally, Robinson has 11 receptions for 37 yards in 2014 in 7 games (zero receptions in 2013), which makes it hard for him to stay on the field when the team is behind significantly, an occurrence that happens frequently for the Jags. For someone who is listed in Yahoo leagues as a wide receiver and is a former college quarterback, Robinson simply does not catch the ball very well. This limits him even further. However, this may represent an opportunity for you in Yahoo leagues to "game the system" if you are in need of a running back listed as wide receiver.


Our Week 8 Projections peg Robinson for 10 carries for 43 yards this week vs. Miami's tough run defense. For the rest of the season, we project Robinson to be the 34th ranked running back, with 91 carries for 398 yards and 2.6 touchdowns, which puts him as the best of a bunch of middling Jaguars running back options. My editor, agrees in his 15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 8, so if you need to "Go Blue" and grab Shoelace for your fantasy team, proceed with caution, especially when better options like Tre Mason may be available.