Should We Be Buying Allen Robinson in Fantasy Football?

Allen Robinson was a trendy pick this year, but we may want to temper our 2015 expectations.

Week 1 was full of surprise performances and duds. One notable dud was Allen Robinson’s one-catch, 27-yard performance against the Panthers. 

According to FantasyPros, Robinson was drafted, on average, as the 62nd player overall in PPR formats this summer, and was most likely a starter for teams in Week 1. With owners looking to buy low or sell high on Week 1 performances, Robinson presents an interesting case. Should we be buying him? 

Let’s review his performances, the Jacksonville Jaguars' offense as a whole, and upcoming schedule.

Allen Robinson’s Performances

The preseason optimism around Robinson was partly due to his 2014 rookie campaign. The sample size for Robinson games is relatively small, as he only appeared in 10 games due to a season-ending broken foot. 

Here at numberFire, we use Net Expected Points (NEP) to determine player efficiency by comparing the players’ production to league expectation level. (Check out our glossary for more information on NEP.) 

With Robinson, he didn't produce at an efficient rate last year, finishing with a Total NEP of 41.2, which was 73rd among all wide receivers. He was hurt, though, so season-long volume really wasn't there.

But even on a per-target basis, Robinson wasn't all that efficient. Among all receivers with 50 or more targets in 2014, Robinson ranked 75th of 87. The worst in the league was Cecil Shorts, Robinson's teammate, which does give some optimism that the situation just wasn't very good. And we know that to be true, as Blake Bortles was the least effective quarterback in the NFL last year.

But Robinson was able to produce based on volume last season, with six top-36 weekly wide receiver PPR performances in his limited time. The chart below diagrams Robinson’s weekly wide receiver PPR rank and number of targets received:

Week Weekly PPR Rank Targets
1 107 3
2 27 6
3 26 10
4 47 7
5 37 11
6 31 9
7 19 7
8 17 10
9 47 8
10 32 10

Flash forward to 2015. Based on recent performances -- and no, not just Week 1 -- Robinson has been ineffective. In Week 3 of the preseason, which is considered the dress rehearsal game for most teams, Robinson caught just 2 passes for 14 yards on 7 targets in one half of action. During this half, he briefly exited the game due to a shoulder injury. 

In Week 1 of the regular season, Robinson produced his one catch for 27 yards performance on six targets. According to our Total NEP metric, Robinson’s 1.71 Total NEP was good for the 76th best ranking among Week 1 wide receivers. And on a per target basis, he was one of the worst in the NFL.

All of this is to say that, so far, he's been inefficient as a pass-catcher. But there are other reasons to be a little afraid of his outlook, too.

The Jacksonville Jaguars' Offense

The Jacksonville offense is simply not good. In 2014, the offense as a whole ranked bottom three in passing yards, total yards, passing and receiving touchdowns, and total points. And it was worst in Net Expected Points.

There was hope coming out of preseason that Blake Bortles would be improved and the overall offense would take a step forward. However, the improvements that we saw in the preseason did not translate to Week 1. Based on Passing NEP, Bortles’ -19.9 Passing NEP ranked him dead last in Week 1. We should note that it’s early in the season and one game shouldn't sway our judgments on a single player, but we’ve seen this narrative before with Bortles, where he followed a promising 2014 preseason with a disappointing regular season.

In examining the Jaguars' offense further, one can make the case that Allen Robinson isn’t even the best “Allen” to own in this offense. There's an argument to be made that Robinson has been outplayed recently by teammate Allen Hurns. Once again, the track record is small, but during preseason Week 3, Hurns produced a 4-48-1 stat line in one half of action. In Week 1, Hurns once again outperformed Robinson, producing 5-60 and a total NEP of 2.46, which ranked 61st overall for wide receivers. This Total NEP was not great, either, but it was stronger in comparison to his wide receiver counterpart in Week 1.

Robinson backers are hoping a lot of this has to do with Josh Norman coverage against the Panthers. But it's certainly something to watch moving forward.

Upcoming Schedule

Since we have only one week of data to draw from and a single game can swing a team’s overall defensive ranking, it would be hard to judge team defensive stats from the current season. Although not perfect, we can use 2014 to estimate a team’s defensive performance against wide receivers. Before their Week 8 bye, the Jaguars play Miami, New England, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Buffalo. According to our numbers, only Tampa Bay -- and perhaps New England, depending on how things shape up -- present a favorable matchup for A-Rob. 

Should We Buy?

Should we be buying Allen Robinson? Based on his recent performance, the Jaguars' offense as a whole, and the upcoming schedule, it would be hard to recommend buying Robinson at his original sixth-round average draft position price tag. 

If there was an owner after Week 1 who dropped Robinson, or one who's asking for a low return, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get Robinson and stash him on your bench given the talent he brings to the table. While the evidence at the moment may seem against Robinson, we should keep in mind that the underwhelming performances have come in small sample sizes and there is a chance that he can see an uptick in targets, especially when game flow calls for it.

Overall, though, we may have set the bar too high for Robinson. He needs more volume before we can crown him a start-worthy wideout.