It would be fair to suggest that Allen Robinson’s first season with the Chicago Bears, while not exactly a disaster, was far from a rip-roaring success. He did lead the team in targets and receiving yards, after all. But his numbers were far less than his big-money contract would have led fans to hope for. 2019 may be different, however. This makes Robinson something approaching a post-hype sleeper…at least in my opinion.
Not So Humble Origins
Robinson was, of course, a member of the much-heralded wide receiver class of 2014. This group also included players like Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, and Davante Adams. Like Landry and Beckham, Robinson is no longer with the team that originally drafted him. He signed a three-year contract with the Bears in 2018 after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Jaguars.
Robinson “broke out” in his second season in the NFL in 2015. He caught 80 passes for 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns that season, all the while having to deal with Blake Bortles at quarterback. He hasn’t come close to hitting those heights since, as you can see below.
Indeed, that season stands out in every conceivable way when we look at the rest of Robinson’s time in the NFL.
Bear with Me
After a lost season due to an ACL injury in 2017, Robinson arrived on the Bears for the 2018 campaign. He saw a team-high 94 targets, which he converted into 55 receptions for 754 yards. Robinson also scored four touchdowns. These figures led to his posting 11.8 PPR points per game, a tally exceeded by 29 other players in 2019. He did show signs of being back to the player we knew and loved during the playoffs. Robinson took 10 receptions for 143 yards off the Eagles in the Bears wild card loss. This included a 45-yard reception, his longest play since 2015.
Robinson’s debut season with the Bears has done little to excite fantasy drafters in 2019. He is currently going off the board in FFPC drafts as the WR28, with his overall ADP holding fairly steady over the last month.
This is one spot higher than his place on our redraft rankings. However, I believe that there factors in play that makes him a candidate to outperform his current ADP.
Happy and Healthy
When the season begins, Robinson will be exactly two years removed from his ACL surgery, and thus likely to be fully fit and healthy. Medical science has come a long way, especially with regards to knee injuries. ACL tears would, at one time, have been career-ending. Now, we are not at all surprised to see players back on the field in short order. But this does not necessarily mean that they are automatically the player they once were. For some, the additional healing time may be required, and WR bouncebacks from injury are far from common anyway. Robinson could very well never return to the player he was before the injury.
Lean on Me
There is the hope that Robinson will benefit from the development of his QB. Mitchell Trubisky, while producing some worthwhile weeks as a fantasy starter in 2018, was still somewhat inconsistent. Another year under the tutelage of Matt Nagy should lead to a further cleaning up of Trubisky’s fundamentals. This is great news for a player who would hope to command a bulk of the targets. Another year into their partnership, Trubisky and Robinson would be hoping to establish a more robust partnership than they had last season.
It’s worth noting that the Robinson/Trubisky partnership, despite its flaws, was more efficient than Robinson’s hookups with Bortles.
Bears Through the Air
The new season is likely to lead to a few changes regarding the Bears offensive mindset. Robinson’s share of the targets last season was 21.9%. This is not a terribly high number among stud WRs, of course. But it is far from awful. That being said, it’s far from awful if you are a team that wants to pass the ball a lot. The 2018 Bears did not. They attempted 545 passes last season, the 27th most in the NFL. They also had the sixth lowest pass to run ratio, with just 1.16.
Having a true shut down defense can lead to a team taking the air out of their offense, of course. But generally expecting great defenses to repeat can be fraught with danger. Just ask the 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars. If the Bears defense takes a step back, the offense may be forced to pass more than they would otherwise hope. This is a further boost to the leading member of the receiving corps.
The Bears schedule is also something to factor in when assessing the value of the skill position players. According to Sharp Football, the Bears have the 10th easiest schedule in terms of pass defenses in 2019. By contrast, they have the 17th ranked rush defensive schedule. Rookie David Montgomery is still something of an unknown at running back. He has the generally uninspiring Mike Davis, most recently of the Seahawks, for company, while Tarik Cohen, an electric playmaker to be sure, is far from a workhorse running back. The Bears offense may have to run more through Trubisky than it did last year. This is more good news for Robinson.
Here’s to you, Allen Robinson
Robinson is not the only offensive weapon on the Bears roster. But he is the only one with a proven track record of consistent weekly production. To expect him to repeat his 2015 heroics would seem to be a tad foolish, as there are many who expect this Bears team to be . . . well, good. That Jaguars team was a trainwreck. But if we believe that Trubisky is capable of improving and that Robinson is finally healthy again, then there will be weeks in which Robinson will be among the top-12 fantasy WRs. This ceiling, if allied to a fairly safe floor, makes him a solid WR2 option on fantasy teams in 2019.