James Robinson Avoids PUP List: Fantasy Football Outlook, Along With RB Travis Etienne
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images. Pictured: James Robinson.
After tearing his Achilles in Week 16 of last season, it was assumed that James Robinson would not be ready for training camp and that his Week 1 status was up in the air.
That made it a surprise when it was announced on Monday morning that Robinson will avoid the PUP list and will be a participant in Jaguars camp from the start. He worked off to the side on Monday, but it’s an encouraging sign for Jacksonville.
Robinson exploded onto the scene in 2020 with 1,070 rushing yards in 14 games to go along with 49 catches for 344 yards through the air.
Under head coach Urban Meyer last year, his efficiency stayed the same but the volume hugely decreased. Robinson’s yards per carry and receptions increased, but he saw a staggering 76 fewer carries and 18 fewer receptions in the same number of games.
The talk of camp last year was how Robinson would coexist with first-round pick Travis Etienne. Meyer indicated he wanted to use Etienne all over the field, with Robinson primarily serving as a runner.
That lasted only a few weeks, though, as Etienne suffered a season-ending foot injury in the Jaguars’ second preseason game.
Now, the duo is healthy with new coach Doug Pederson in charge, creating more optimism for both running backs moving into the 2022-23 season.
Fantasy Football Analysis
Sean Koerner: Etienne is apparently close to 100% and could be a true workhorse if Robinson misses any time. He’s a talented pass-catcher and already has chemistry with Trevor Lawrence from their time at Clemson. I have him pegged as about my RB20.
Robinson returning from an Achilles injury makes his production difficult to predict. His current ADP is around RB45, which still might be too expensive for a player who needs an injury to Etienne to really maximize his value.
Samantha Previte: I try to not make too much of guys starting camp on the PUP list since they can be removed at any point, but Robinson’s name is a noteworthy omission that could carry fantasy implications.
It appears that Robinson, 23, is trending towards being ready for Week 1 well under a year after suffering a torn Achilles in December of 2021. Robinson has been shockingly impactful since going undrafted in 2020 as the Jaguars’ top rusher in each of the last two years.
He finished as the RB4 in half-PPR formats during his rookie campaign, tallying 1,414 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns. In spite of an injury-shortened 2021 season, he still ended up as the RB23 with 14 games played and just shy of 1,000 scrimmage yards.
While this is good news for Robinson (and Zero RB truthers hoping to snag him at a value in later rounds), this news could muddy the waters for the Jaguars backfield. Robinson’s counterpart, Travis Etienne Jr., was one of Jacksonville’s first-round selections in 2021. The 23-year-old unfortunately suffered a Lisfranc injury during his second preseason game and has yet to make his NFL regular season debut.
In spite of this, Etienne is currently being drafted as RB24 in half-PPR with the expectation that he will still lead the Jaguars backfield while Robinson assumes a secondary role (current ADP of RB38).
That expectation is fair in light of a few things:
Although both are recovering from injury, Etienne’s occurred five months prior to Robinson’s. Achilles tears also carry the stigma of being one of the more serious — potentially career-ending — injuries. Health aside, Etienne is widely considered the more purely talented back based on his college performance and subsequent draft capital.
Achilles injuries can be particularly devastating, especially to players whose positions rely on burst. That said, Rams running back Cam Akers suffered the same injury during training camp last year and was able to make a surprising return to action by the end of the season. He appeared in Week 18, as well as the Rams’ four playoff games.
If both Robinson and Etienne are healthy come Week 1, the Jaguars could deploy a dreaded running back by committee in order to distribute the workload between the two — especially given their speckled health histories. I could certainly envision a scenario in which Jacksonville exercise even more caution with Etienne, whom they likely consider to be a more expensive asset long-term than their former undrafted free agent.
Etienne should still be considered a low-end RB2 entering draft season, but with the looming risk of a timeshare with a healthy Robinson.