How Early is Too Early to Draft Allen Robinson?

Earlier this offseason I wrote an article where I made the case for Allen Robinson as 2015’s breakout wide receiver. At the time, Robinson’s ADP was in the sixth round of redraft leagues, but it’s risen since, with Robinson now going towards the end of the fifth round. Many people are concerned about or suspect that his ADP will rise even higher if there’s positive hype in the preseason. I suspect these factors are what prompted the following question from Twitter user @joshualebeck:

My initial thought was, “I wouldn’t do that”. But then I realized that the subtext of my own thought was that I might not actually think it’s a mistake. So that raises the question: How early is too early to draft Allen Robinson?

Finding A Reasonable Starting Point

Like I mentioned earlier, Robinson’s ADP is currently towards the end of the fifth round. So I think we can say that it would reasonable to draft him in that area. But how much earlier can we go?

I turned to our composite staff projections, which you can find in the Cheat Sheet Calculator and Best Ball ADP App. First, I decided to look at WRs being drafted after Robinson. We currently have Robinson projected to finish as the WR261 and he’s currently being drafted as the WR25. There are three WRs being drafted after Robinson who are projected to finish ahead of him. Two of them are Breshad Perriman and Torrey Smith, who both have ADPs in the eight round. That’s far enough after Robinson that they shouldn’t really impact where you draft him. The third WR is DeSean Jackson, who is only being drafted a few picks after Robinson, and who I’m also targeting in drafts. I want to come back to him later.

Let’s look at the other side of the issue, WRs that are being drafted ahead of Robinson. There are four WRs being drafted ahead of the Robinson in the fifth round that are projected to outscore him: Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, Golden Tate, and Sammy Watkins. I think you can conservatively say that it would be reasonable to draft Robinson so long as all of those players have been drafted.

Should You Draft Robinson Over The Other Receivers?

Our composite projections aren’t the only way to compare these receivers of course. We also have the WR Similarity Score App, which gives us a situation-agnostic 2015 projection based off of the previous season’s production. Here is the low, medium, and high projection for Robinson and the aforementioned WRs:2

WR Low Median High
Allen Robinson 6.6 14.4 16.6
Keenan Allen 8.3 11.1 14.9
Golden Tate 12.2 16.1 17.7
Sammy Watkins 11 13.7 16
DeSean Jackson 9 12.9 14.3

While it’s true that Robinson has the worst low projection, his median and high projections trump everyone but Tate. And the projection doesn’t account for Calvin Johnson’s 2014 injury. If you remove the the three games Johnson didn’t play and the two games immediately before that when he played hurt, Tate’s median and high projections drop to 10.6 points and 14.5 points respectively. So I would actually feel comfortable drafting Robinson over any WR with an ADP in the fifth round.

What About the Fourth Round?

I can’t really ever fault someone for drafting a player if they are their highest ranked option and there’s a real chance they won’t make it to their next pick. Since Robinson’s ADP is in the fifth round, he might not make it back to you if you don’t take him in the fourth. So I personally don’t see price as a reason not to take him. But what are your other options?

There are four WRs who currently have fourth round ADPs: Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Matthews, Kelvin Benjamin, and Julian Edelman. Our composite projections favor all four of these receivers to Robinson. Here’s what the sim scores say:

WR Low Median High
Allen Robinson 6.6 14.4 16.6
Emmanuel Sanders 12.5 15.8 18.5
Jordan Matthews 11 13 14.5
Kelvin Benjamin 12.2 14.8 18
Julian Edelman 11.8 14.5 17.1

The app pretty clearly favors all of these WRs to Robinson, with the exception of maybe Matthews, but he does have a significantly higher low end projection.

There are three justifications I can see for taking Robinson in the fourth:

  1. The fourth round WRs are all off the board already, leaving Robinson as your best option.
  2. You place a premium on upside. I mentioned in my original Robinson article that his most optimistic comp was Josh Gordon’s 2013 season. If Robinson’s scoring increased as much as Gordon’s did between 2012 and 2013, he would score 25.9 PPR point per game. That’s probably unrealistic because no WR has even scored 25 points per game in at least the last 15 years. But it does make it clear that Robinson really does have what is essentially limitless upside. If you look at the most optimistic comps for the other WRs Benjamin comes closest with 23.4 PPG.
  3. Simple personal preference. Personally, as much as I love Robinson, I couldn’t take him over Matthews or Sanders. I recently drafted Edelman over him, but I’m not sure if I would or not going forward. I would draft Robinson over Benjamin because Benjamin was very reliant on a high number of targets as a rookie, and there’s a good chance he won’t get as many targets now that they have drafted Devin FunchessBut that’s just me. You could just as easily see Sanders’ admission that he expects his production to go down or Tom Brady’s suspension as reasons to draft Robinson over Sanders and Edelman.

So drafting Robinson in the fourth round is definitely aggressive, but I don’t think it’s necessarily too aggressive.

Ultimately, I think drafters are getting it right by drafting Robinson in the fifth round. I just think it should be the start of the fifth round instead of the end of it. But if Robinson’s ADP does manage to climb into the fourth round then we might reach a point where he’s no longer a value.

  1. If you haven’t read my original article, I’ll go ahead and say that I think that’s too low.  (back)
  2. With the exception of Amari Cooper, who the app can’t evaluate because he’s a rookie.  (back)