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-- Our offseason 'Rewind' reports are where we look at an individual player's previous season(s) of work--analyzing and researching it for clues on whether it was a 'blip' performance, or signs of future greatness...or signs of a mega-bust approaching. We try to do about one per week in the offseason post-NFL Draft. --
When the news broke during 2018 free agency that Allen Robinson had signed with the Chicago Bears, of course, I was excited. Robinson just naturally felt like the best WR available in free agency…a #1 WR for his former team...that big season in 2015 (80-1,400-14) despite playing with the awful Blake Bortles.
I think all of us have a positive Allen Robinson feeling. Unlike, with Sammy Watkins…where some are still holding out hope that the mainstream was right about Watkins all along – that he’s a top guy. While others of us have written Watkins off as just another decent, but overhyped wide receiver name. Robinson doesn’t come with the same performance negatives, it seems -- the only hesitancy is the fact that he’s coming off a 2017 ACL surgery. Talent wise most of us think ARob might be better than we realize because of the Bortles-soul-sucking-factor.
Because I’m into Mitchell Trubisky, and I believed that Allen Robinson was a pretty good wide receiver already – I just felt good about this pairing for the NFL and for Fantasy.
A few days later, after the free agency euphoria tied down, I caught myself in a little daydream driving in the car – why DO I think Allen Robinson is so good? What if he’s not as good as I think? What do I even think about ARob, today…really? It’s been three seasons since he was a star, and he followed that hot 2015 up by being one of the most disappointing fantasy high draft pick players in 2016… I mean, he devastated many 2016 fantasy owners who kept sticking by him waiting for the WR1 performer that never really materialized to justify his lofty 2016 ADP. In 2015, Robinson was unexpected gold after a decent 2014 rookie campaign prior. In 2016, people paid for price for that gold and it was fool’s gold mostly. Many of us expected/hoped for an ARob bounce back in 2017, but then he stepped on a banana peel in the first game of the season and was lost for the year before he could even get started.
Why is it that I remember 2015 so fondly and then just forgive 2016 with Robinson, and then further have no disregard for his non-contact knee blowout in 2017? In the past three years, two of those seasons Robinson has been a letdown…the two most recent seasons. So, why am I speaking so cavalierly about the weak 2016-2017 ROI seasons…or just ignoring them? Why am I putting such an emphasis on 2015…a season where Blake Bortles basically threw him jump balls in the fourth quarter of blowouts. Hell, even Sammy Watkins had one big year…and then a disappointing follow up to that…and then bouts with injury too. Watkins is almost running parallel life with Allen Robinson – but somehow, I’m dismissive of Watkins but pretty embracing of Robinson (and willing to ignore his non-contact knee injury).
Is my disdain for the way the media has promoted, pushed Sammy Watkins clouding my judgment? Is my love of Mitchell Trubisky clouding my judgment? Is my hatred of Blake Bortles clouding my judgment?
I knew what I needed to do… I needed to go back and get reacquainted with Allen Robinson to make sure that I had my bearings straight. So that’s what I set out to do.
I went back and watched tape of Robinson in 2015 and 2016. Going in, I felt remembered more about (the great) 2015, and it was his best year – so, I wanted to spend more time watching his 2016 (73-883-6). Why did he drop off the table so much? Was it him or Bortles…or other?
When I started watching random games in 2016, and especially focusing on the games he really died out in – the ones later in the season when he faced some of the top defenses/CBs (DEN-MIN-HOU), I found myself acquiring a new appreciation for Allen Robinson.
I went into the study respecting how much Robinson had to make up for how bad Blake Bortles was. In his big 2015 season, Robinson was pulling a lot of miracles on deep ball/jump ball bombs from Bortles – just floating balloons out into one on one coverage and letting Robinson make plays. That’s the Allen Robinson that exists in my head... or at least the one that did exist in my head until the study.
As I watched Robinson work in 2016, I saw a guy that was a really talented, a guy very quick off the snap that he knew what he was doing. He looked like and moved like a classic #1 wide receiver…not just ‘jump ball guy’. Sure, he can make the jump ball/deep ball plays…and that’s not easy, and it’s too his credit…but it shouldn’t take away from the notion that Robinson is pretty nice, classic go-to wide receiver. I saw his ‘classic’ skills in 2016 – Robinson was open right off the snap…a combination of quick feet, athleticism, and understanding where to go and how to get there…fast. However, he worked with Blake Bortles – and Blake Bortles is awful. I don’t have enough time to explain how truly awful he is. But I can tell you two things about the Bortles-factor after watching is 2016 work with Allen Robinson…
1) Allen Robinson can get open quickly with the best of receivers, but Blake Bortles is not the kind of quarterback to drop back in the pocket, survey the situation, and then quickly fire bullets on the mark to narrow window open top wide receivers. Robinson’s great ability off the snap went to waste with Blake Bortles.
2) Oh, and you could see it in Robinson‘s actions on the field -- he was not happy with Mr. Bortles. His frustration grew game by game. He knows, what everyone but Jaguars management know – Bortles is the worst. I’m not just picking on him…he seriously shouldn’t be a starting NFL QB. He’s a bad backup NFL QB. When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Bortles to a contract extension – it basically cost themselves their top wide receiver. There was no way Robinson was going to return back to that circus of a passing game/QB. Which shows you how smart Allen Robinson is.
When I watched Robinson work, even his toughest games like when he faced 2016 Denver with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris still near their peak together – Robinson found ways to get open/work them. But there was no way Bortles was going to smartly complete passes with Robinson against them. In fact, more than a few times, Bortles waited too long or stared down the Robinson option and the Broncos picked him off multiple times…one of them for score. It wasn’t Robinson’s fault that his numbers were weak against the top defenses…or even lesser ones. You could blame most all of it on Bortles.
And if I’m right… If Allen Robinson is kind of a more athletic DeAndre Hopkins type #1 WR (with lesser ‘hands’) – and if I’m right that Mitchell Trubisky is the next Aaron Rodgers… Are we about to have chocolate and peanut butter connecting with each other to make sweet fantasy candy goodness?
Even if you take the position that Allen Robinson does not belong in the conversation with DeAndre Hopkins or Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham, and I could see thinking that, would you at least say that Robinson is in the next tier down? Not an A+/A WR talent but in the A-/B+ range. If you sign onto that A-/B+ theory, and if Mitchell Trubisky is awesome-in-waiting, and Robinson was obviously brought in to be the Bears top WR...then how is this not something pretty great for fantasy 2018 and beyond? Why is ARob not more an assumed WR1 versus a cautious WR2?
I’ll tell you why…
Robinson is not going to get those lofty projections before preseason games hit because there’s not a single national analyst that agrees with me on how high the talent level is for Mitchell Trubisky -- right this second, not ‘someday, maybe’…I mean right now. The mainstream thinks Trubisky is nothing special…just like they thought Jared Goff was no big deal after 2016. I love Jared Goff…but he is no Mitchell Trubisky.
The Bears have an elite QB talent working with an experienced and talented #1 WR…and they’re both working with a new coaching staff, one that has the markings of pushing the offense up tempo versus whatever the hell John Fox was doing last year. All the markers add up to Robinson as a top 10 fantasy wide receiver projection but probably one you can buy for a WR2 price tag because no one really believes in Trubisky. Same people who didn’t believe in Jared Goff or Jimmy Garoppolo…until they did/were forced to.
I was impressed with what I saw from Allen Robinson as a ‘worker bee’ wide receiver on tape 2015-2016. I expected and appreciated his go-get-it/jump ball battler mentality and results on those types of throws from the past. What I didn’t fully appreciate is how good of a craftsman WR he is. I love everything about the surrounding circumstances for him and Trubisky. The only risk on the table is if Robinson’s knee is not getting up to speed quick enough. If he misses out on a bunch of spring and summer development time with Trubisky...then it might be a few games into the season before we see any magic starting to occur.
I wouldn’t sell my soul to acquire Allen Robinson, despite my enthusiasm. I am only excited about him if I can acquire him for a WR2 price tag right now. I’m willing to walk away otherwise…because I might be able to just wait a few games into the season for people to get frustrated and then I can pull the trigger. Eventually, Trubisky is going to fulfill his destiny and Robinson is going to be his #1 guy…whether that is Week 1 in 2018, or Week 7 in 2018 or takes into 2019. All the signs are there, it’s just a matter of when it happens. You want to be investing in that…but you want to take advantage of the anti-Trubisky marketplace, and in some instances and anti-Allen Robinson market because of the lack of respect for anything Jacksonville prior to last season.
Early fantasy redraft ADPs on Allen Robinson since landing in Chicago…WR18-24, averaging around WR22. Guys like Jarvis Landry, Alshon Jeffrey and Demaryius Thomas will sometimes get drafted ahead of ARob. Give me ARob among that lineup all day long…
There’s a window of opportunity currently on Allen Robinson. From what I see on tape…a #1 WR exists, for sure. The only question is his knee…but so far in the rehab there is no reason for over-concern on it. The Bears, obviously, weren’t concerned after their medical check…but they were also cool with Kevin White pre-Draft 2015 and he’s been a walking medical malady since they drafted him.
Rehab update from ARob (link):