In part 1 of our fantasy face-off series, Charles Kleinheksel laid out his argument for T.Y. Hilton over Allen Robinson. In part 2, you get my side of the argument advocating for Allen Robinson.
This time last year, Allen Robinson was the third wide receiver selected in dynasty startups and had a higher trade value according to our dynasty ADP app than Odell Beckham Jr.
He was coming off a monster season in which he played all 16 games and turned 151 targets into 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Allen finished as the overall WR7 in PPR leagues. Combine his production with age (22) and you have a top dynasty asset heading into the 2016 season.
Regression was expected after 14 touchdowns but the giant step backward by Blake Bortles is what caused Robinson’s 2016 season to come up short of expectations. Much was made of his mechanics being the reason for his inaccuracy but we also learned on January 2, that he played through two shoulder separations and wrist tendonitis. Bortles is not Andrew Luck, but perhaps he is better than what he showed in 2016. Using our staff projections, Bortles comes in at QB16 and only 13 passing attempts behind Luck. As Anthony Amico mentioned in his 3 Quarterback Targets for 2017, “The 2017 outcome for Bortles probably lies somewhere in between his 2016 and 2015 seasons…”
If that’s true, then we should also expect a rebound in Robinson’s performance.
The Dallas Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth pick of the 2016 NFL draft. The Jaguars drafted LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. That’s where the similarities end for those running backs. Elliott landed in Dallas with a dominant offensive line while Fournette must run head-on at NFL defenses behind a much lesser unit. If we compare them using adjusted line yards from Football Outsiders, Dallas finished fifth at 4.30 while Jacksonville was 27th at 3.80. True, Jacksonville did select offensive lineman Cam Robinson from Auburn in the second round but otherwise made no additional improvements. Those selections, paired with new head coach Doug Marrone and executive vice president of football operations Tom Caughlin, has led to the expectation that Jacksonville will be a run-first or at least a more balanced offense. I agree that they will try, however, I think the run game will be ineffective due to their line deficiencies and the potential impact on Allen Robinson is currently being overstated.
Using our WR Similarity Scores App on Robinson’s 2016 season gives us the following comps:
Robinson finished as the WR9 in 2015 and despite a down 2016, boasts several impressive comparable N+1 seasons. Braylon Edwards and Dwayne Bowe were both PPR WR5’s and Larry Fitzgerald was WR3. Keenan Allen had 67 receptions, 725 yards, and four touchdowns before he suffered a kidney laceration in 2015. Overall, similar players tended to increase their fantasy scoring following a season like Robinson’s 2016.
As for Hilton, the outlook is the opposite. The closest comparable seasons (Holt, Brown, and Mason) produced overall WR2, WR1, and WR5 performances. However, the bigger issue is that over half of Hilton’s comps are negative. Overall, similar players experienced a significant drop in production the following year.
Why Not T.Y. Hilton
Allen Robinson will begin the 2017 season as a 24-year-old who just led the league in air yards. In consecutive seasons we have likely seen his ceiling and his floor. Because 2016 was a step backward from his dominant 2015, his price has dropped by over 30 points according to our dynasty ADP trade calculator and he is now going as the WR9 in startup drafts. Robinson is an elite talent with a discounted price and a positive outlook using our sim score app. Conversely, Hilton’s price has finally caught up with his production, which appears to have peaked, given the regression seen in his N+1 comparable seasons.