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The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
For eight years, Allen Robinson was asked to haul in passes from the likes of Matt McGloin, Christian Hackenberg, Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Mitchell Trubisky, and Nick Foles. Despite that horrid quarterback play, Robinson consistently churned out valuable fantasy production. He drew at least 150 targets in every healthy season. As recently as 2019 and 2020, he posted consecutive seasons with 1,100-plus yards and six or more touchdowns.
His most recent outings were marred with injuries, lack of effort, and unspoken contract tensions. And now, getting a fresh start with the reigning Super Bowl champions, his range of outcomes is as wide as any receiver. He was blessed with the quarterback upgrade we’ve desired for so long. But at age 28 and with eight pro seasons under his belt, is it too late?
I believe there is still tread on his tires and many reasons to expect a bounceback in 2022. Not only was last year a horrific culmination of unfortunate circumstances, but his landing spot with the Rams lends plenty of reason for hope. The upgrade at quarterback could tap into a potential we’ve never seen. Currently getting drafted as the WR22, there might not be a better value in fantasy football this year.
What happened to Allen Robinson last year?
After seemingly locking in low-end WR1 production yearly, Robinson finished as WR81 last year in PPR scoring. He missed five games with injuries and was limited in others. At times, he appeared to be outplayed by second-year receiver Darnell Mooney. He struggled with drops, failed to break tackles, and his abilities after the catch were non-existent. Towards the end of the season, he was giving up on routes and stopped attacking the ball at the catch point. After years of being a high-motor guy, the newfound issues appeared mental.
"Although poised for another elite season, there is a potentially concerning undertone worth monitoring. Robinson has been frustrated throughout his time in Chicago, although it has never broken as a significant story. From lousy quarterback play to the lack of a long-term contract extension, there’s been an unspoken tension."
As the offseason progressed and camp reports started, the tension translated to the practice field. Despite signing his franchise tag, there were reports about him leaving practices early and putting in minimal effort. Adding to the offseason drama, Justin Fields took almost no reps with the first team, and Robinson never worked out with the second team. The writing was on the wall for a fallout, and I changed my tune about a month after my article came out, speculating that troubles could surface when Fields got the starting gig.
As good as Allen Robinson is, he’s never been much of a separator (ranked 74th last year). While Andy Dalton might trust him to make plays in tight coverage, I don’t know if Fields will.— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) August 17, 2021
Additionally, I expect the entire scheme to lean more run-heavy once Fields takes over.
While an unpopular opinion at the time, it proved to be very true.
Causes of struggles in Chicago
In Week 1, with a healthy Andy Dalton playing a complete game, Robinson pulled a team-high 11 targets for a 27.5-percent target share. Darnell Mooney saw just five percent of the targets in that game. In Weeks 3-9, with Fields under center, Robinson’s target share dipped to 20.3-percent. Mooney, who had plenty of offseason reps with Fields, saw his share jump to 25.6-percent.
You can logically surmise that Fields and Robinson didn’t have strong chemistry due to their lack of off-season work together. There were countless plays where Robinson would position himself in a tight window for a catch, but Fields would look to the guys he had an established rapport with. In hindsight, we can blame that on Matt Nagy’s head-scratching decision to keep them separated through camp.
Another layer to Robinson’s down year is that he picked up a hamstring injury in Week 9. Before this injury, Robinson was an iron man in Chicago, missing just three games in the previous three years. The staff and media often lauded him for his tenacity and work ethic. After this injury, he sat out mid-week practices. He missed three games, returned in Week 14, played a limited role with lacking effort, and then sat out the next two weeks. He returned for the final two games of the season. He played less than 70 percent of the snaps in both games and only had six receptions.
Looking at the season as a whole, it’s easy to understand why he saw a dip in production. He was forced to play on a franchise tag that he didn’t want to be on. He played with a rookie quarterback who he had no chemistry with. The Bears were out of playoff contention midway through the season. And, of course, he dealt with injuries. He was 28 years old, about to hit free agency, and on a team that made it clear that he wasn’t a part of their future plans. Understandably, his effort and perseverance were lacking toward the end of the season.
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