Can Allen Robinson Still Be a Fantasy Football WR1?

Can Allen Robinson Still Be a Fantasy Football WR1? article feature image

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Allen Robinson

  • Allen Robinson looked like the next big thing in 2015. He flashed big-play ability again in 2018, but can he be a fantasy football WR1?
  • Ian Hartitz analyzes the outlook for the Chicago Bears wide receiver.

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.

The Chicago Bears’ first season with head coach Matt Nagy couldn’t have gone much better. The offense managed to increase its points per game from 16.5 to 26.3, good for the third-best improvement among the 59 instances in which play-callers have been replaced over the past five seasons.

The continued development of Mitch Trubisky is the franchise’s top priority entering 2019. The front office has at least done a good job surrounding him with competent weapons: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton are all formidable pass-game options.

We’ll focus on A-Rob in the following breakdown and analyze just how high his fantasy football ceiling could be this season.

Allen Robinson Has Flashed Elite Fantasy Football Ability

A-Rob didn’t exactly ball out in 2018, catching 55-of-94 targets for 754 yards and four scores in 13 regular-season games.

Still, his performance during the Bears’ wild-card loss to the Eagles demonstrated the heights he’s capable of reaching: He caught 10-of-13 targets for 143 yards and a score, regularly breaking loose against Philadelphia’s over-matched cornerbacks.

Robinson also got loose for 133 yards and a pair of scores against the Lions in Week 10.

Still, we should keep in mind that the Eagles finished last season as the league’s single worst defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA vs. No. 1 wide receivers, and the Lions didn’t have stud cornerback Darius Slay during A-Rob’s breakout performance.

Those were pretty much the only two instances last season that Robinson resembled the same guy who posted an 80-1,400-14 line as a 22-year-old with Blake freaking Bortles under center back in 2015.

Allen Robinson Has a Separation Problem

We haven’t seen A-Rob function as an elite No. 1 receiver since that 2015 campaign. The good news is that last season’s version was at least on the right track.

Note that Robinson suffered a season-ending torn ACL during Week 1 of the 2017 season.

Part of Robinson’s struggles has been a consistent inability to separate: He ranked among the league’s bottom-five receivers in average separation per target (Next-Gen Stats) in 2016 and 2018.

Tossing the ball up into tight coverage isn’t always a bad idea when the intended target is a 6-foot-2 and 220-pound contested-catch artist like Robinson…

…but it’s understandable that some quarterbacks might shy away from attempting too many of these types of high-risk passes.

Luckily for A-Rob’s future fantasy football potential, Trubisky hasn’t shied away from attempting high-risk throws to this point. Only Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Sam Darnold, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen attempted a higher percentage of their passes into tight windows last season (Next-Gen Stats).

We have to be wary about targeting Robinson in matchups against top-tier cornerbacks who have the ability to match up with him physically, but he still looks like the best bet for fantasy football success in the Bears’ crowded passing offense.

The Bears Have a Number of Capable Weapons on Offense

Robinson will compete with a number of talented options for touches in an offense that possesses sneaky upside.

  • Quarterback: The No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 draft worked as fantasy football’s QB7 from Weeks 1 to 11 last season before suffering a shoulder injury. Trubisky will need to improve upon his mediocre average of 7.3 adjusted yards per attempt (18th among 32 quarterbacks with at least eight starts in 2018), but his rushing upside (30.1 yards per game) is exactly what late-round fantasy football enthusiasts like to see.
  • Running back: Tarik Cohen led the Bears in receptions last season with 71 and ranked third among all running backs with 6.9 yards per touch. He’s joined by talented three-down rookie David Montgomeryever-elusive free agent signing Mike Davis and generational-talent Cordarrelle Patterson.
  • Wide receiver: Taylor Gabriel’s game-breaking speed must always be accounted for. Anthony Miller found the end zone seven times as a rookie despite dealing with a severe shoulder injury from Week 2 until the end of the season.
  • Tight end: High-priced 2018 free agent pickup Trey Burton ranked 10th among all tight ends in receptions (54), 13th in yards (567) and tied four fourth in touchdowns (6). Backup Adam Shaheen has played just 19 games in two seasons, but the 2017 second-round pick possesses freaky size (6-foot-6 and 278 pounds) and athleticism (78th-percentile SPARQ-x score).
  • Offensive line: The Bears ranked seventh in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate last season, although they dipped to 28th in adjusted line yards per rush. They should benefit from further continuity in 2019, as they’re one of only eight teams expected to return all five of their offensive line starters (per Thomas Emerick).

Robinson managed to emerge as the offense’s No. 1 target during his 12 games with Trubisky under center:

  • Robinson: 7.8 targets per game
  • Gabriel: 6
  • Cohen: 5.5
  • Burton: 5
  • Miller: 4
  • Shaheen: 2.7

A-Rob is certainly capable of providing high-end WR2 value with a projected target total of 125. Intriguingly, he’s currently the PPR WR32 in average draft position despite working as the WR35, WR8, WR33 and WR30 in PPR per game among all wide receivers in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018, respectively.

Robinson is currently being drafted at his floor over the past half decade. There’s plenty of room for growth if Trubisky manages to mature as a passer, and it’s currently not costing drafters a pick inside the top-80 selections to nab what looks like his No. 1 receiver.

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