Just How Good Has Denard Robinson Been for the Jacksonville Jaguars This Season?

Even though the Jaguars are 1-9, is Robinson a reason for optimism for Jaguars fans?

After finishing 4-4 at the end of the 2013 season, some thought the Jaguars might actually have the talent to be competitive this year. Yet they have already secured a losing record on the season, sitting at 1-9 with the second-worst record in the NFL entering their bye week. Aside from a 24-6 win against Cleveland in October, nothing has been clicking for this Jacksonville team.

One of the few bright spots for the Jaguars has been second-year running back Denard Robinson. Robinson, who was a quarterback in college, was drafted in the fifth round by Jacksonville for his sheer athleticism. He was used sparingly in 2013 and early this year, but he became the team’s starting running back in their Week 7 win against the Browns.

How good has he been this year? And is there any reason to believe he can keep playing solid football?

A Shining Star Emerging?

Throughout the season, Robinson has put up some impressive numbers. In the four games in which he has started, Robinson has had 72 carries for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns. If you translated those averages into a full season, he would have 288 carries for 1,556 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those are RB1 numbers in fantasy football.

Although his raw production is good, his Net Expected Points (NEP) numbers haven’t been quite as good. NEP is numberFire’s very own metric that quantifies how much a player puts his team in a better position to score each time he touches the ball. To learn more about NEP and numberFire’s metrics, head over to our glossary.

Let’s take a look at how Robinson compares to the man whose job he took, Toby Gerhart, and where they both rank among running backs with at least 40 carries.

PlayerCarriesRushing NEPNFL RankSuccess RateNFL Rank
Denard Robinson1000.3619th (of 59)39%41st (of 59)
Toby Gerhart59-14.7757th (of 59)32.2%55th (of 59)

Robinson’s Rushing NEP is in the top third of NFL running backs, meaning that he was among the best at improving his team’s chance of scoring. That being said, his success rate was in the bottom third in the league. This probably indicates that his good runs were really good runs that greatly improved Jacksonville’s chance of scoring but that the majority of his runs were not doing the same. These numbers, though, are still solid for playing on a team whose offense is ranked dead last in overall NEP.

In the first five games without Robinson as the starter, the Jaguars were 0-5 and averaged 12.8 points per game. In the four games where he did start, they are 1-3 but averaged 19.3 points per game. Although it’s obvious that a running back doesn’t literally change the whole offensive output, but it’s interesting to note how the offense has evolved in the past four weeks.

Looking Back in Jaguar History

If you take another step back, Robinson has had the best running back season that we’ve seen in Jacksonville since 2010.

PlayerYearCarriesRushing NEPRNEP/Rush
Denard Robinson2014100 (through 10 games)0.360.00
Maurice Jones-Drew2013235-21.21-0.09
Jordan Todman201377-5.95-0.08
Maurice Jones-Drew201286-0.010.00
Rashad Jennings2012101-17.07-0.17
Maurice Jones-Drew2011344-3.01-0.01
Maurice Jones-Drew2010300-1.400.00
Rashad Jennings20108417.330.21
Maurice Jones-Drew200931223.180.07

As you can see, ever since Maurice Jones-Drew’s big 2009 season and Rashad Jennings’ 2010 campaign, Robinson has easily been the most productive running back for the team since Jones-Drew hit his peak and Jennings started to falter. That should at least leave Jacksonville fans with at least a glimmer of hope moving forward.

Fantasy Implications

The only thing holding Robinson back is that his team gets behind in games early. This is forcing the team to throw the ball, as evidenced by Jacksonville’s 1.7 pass to run ratio, good for fifth-highest in the league.

Ever since Robinson became the starter in Jacksonville, he has been the 12th-best fantasy player and fourth-best fantasy running back in standard scoring leagues, only behind elite runners Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, and Arian Foster.

The rest of the schedule looks very promising for Denard Robinson and the running game for the Jaguars, at least from a fantasy standpoint.

WeekOpponentAdjusted Defensive RNEPNFL Rank
Week 11Bye  
Week 12Indianapolis Colts6.1622nd
Week 13New York Giants13.4327th
Week 14Houston Texans-3.617th
Week 15Baltimore Ravens-26.914th
Week 16Tennessee Titans18.5729th
Week 17Houston Texans-3.617th

Of their remaining six opponents, only one ranks in the top half of the league in defensive Rushing NEP. With production unlike that of any other Jacksonville back in quite a while and a favorable schedule ahead, "Shoelace" has gone from a gadget play backup to a must-start running back in all formats.