James Robinson Fantasy Football Stock Trending Upward

James Robinson Fantasy Football Stock Trending Upward article feature image

Dustin Satloff/Getty Images. Pictured: James Robinson.

James Robinson hasn't even been in the NFL for three years, and it's already been one hell of a ride.

Heading into 2020, most would have considered my take that he'd even beat out guys like Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo to be contrarian. Four months later, he had established himself as one of the best backs in the NFL and a top-10 fantasy asset despite playing for a 1-15 team.

By Year 2, he was losing snaps to Carlos Hyde under the nonsensical Urban Meyer. Just as Meyer was relieved of his duties and things were looking up, Robinson tore his Achilles against the Jets in late December.

Given the serious nature of his injury and the fact that it occurred so late in the season, Robinson was expected to begin training camp on the PUP list.

Apparently, Robinson had other ideas…

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Training Camp Noise

It's not quite Cam Akers-level stunning, but Robinson avoiding the PUP list roughly eight months after tearing his Achilles is still eyebrow-raising, and it forces us to reevaluate his fantasy prospects for 2022.

The reason this is a big deal is because prior to this news, there was seemingly a high likelihood that Robinson could start the regular season on the PUP list, which would mean missing at least four games.

In other words: This directly impacts his season-long usage projections.

Avoiding the PUP means there's a chance he will be on the field in Week 1, raising his fantasy ceiling.

Robinson is fighting for snaps in the Jaguars backfield under new head coach Doug Pederson. Robinson's main competition is 2021 first-round pick Travis Etienne, who himself is returning from a Lisfranc injury that ended his rookie campaign before it could even get started.

Although Etienne profiles more as a pass-catching back,  he was further along in his recovery than Robinson and seemingly had the upper hand to lead the backfield in snaps in 2022. Now, things are a lot murkier.

Pederson still hinted that Robinson won't be a full go in practice until at least mid-August, which suggests that while Robinson is farther along than anticipated, he's also not 100% and isn't expected to be for at least a few more weeks.

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Season-long Outlook

Like many players who are in danger of missing games this season (J.K. Dobbins, Chris Godwin, Michael Gallup, Robert Tonyan, etc.), I thought the market was way too high on Robinson at RB38 prior to this news. Not only was Robinson in danger of landing on the PUP list to start the season, but the history of running backs returning from Achilles injuries has not exactly been encouraging.

Best as I can tell, these are the RB who were on an NFL roster when they suffered a ruptured Achilles over the last 20 years.

D'Onta Foreman is the success story. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/vcxgLuIh7P

— Chris Towers Is In Baseball Season (@CTowersCBS) July 20, 2021

And while Akers returning as quickly as he did to as big of a workload as he did was a truly remarkable feat last season, let's not forget that Akers was objectively quite awful, rushing 72 times for 175 yards — a paltry 2.43 yards-per-carry average.

Ironically, now the market is dead on with Robinson, who has jumped from my RB51 to my RB36 with the news.

While Robinson now has lead-back potential over the course of a full season, his efficiency is still a huge concern given the track record we've seen from running backs coming back from the type of injury that he sustained.

And while it is true that Pederson touted Robinson's three-down potential in March, it's unlikely Robinson emerges as a major factor in the passing game as long as Etienne is healthy. On top of that, the Jaguars still have a below-average offensive line that ranks 26th in PFF's grades heading into the season despite the addition of guard Brandon Scherff.

Ultimately, given that Robinson should be ready to go at the start of the season, I still think it's fair to expect him to lead the team in carries, although he may be gradually ramped up to a full rushing workload over the first few weeks.

Right now, I have Robinson's numbers looking fairly similar to what he put up last season usage-wise, with a bit of regression in efficiency:

  • Rushing projections:  162 car, 680 yd, 4.2 YPC, 5.9 TD
  • Receiving projections: 31 tar, 25 rec, 171 yd, 6.9 YPR, 0.8 TD

Robinson is currently my RB36 in half-PPR (RB36 in standard, RB37 in full PPR), and I think he's worth drafting as a high-upside guy at his RB38 ADP, because barring injury, none of the RBs going after him — Alexander Mattison,  Ronald Jones II, Darrell Henderson, James Cook, Isaiah Spiller (who I do like), Chris Carson, Nyheim Hines, Raheem Mostert, and J.D. McKissic, to name a few —  have the same upside, carry-wise, heading into the year that Robinson does.

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