Wide Receiver Spotlight - Allen Robinson II

By now, everyone knows Mitchell Trubisky was selected #2 overall by the Chicago Bears in the 2017 NFL draft, ahead of eventual superstars Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, and league MVP Patrick Mahomes.

Unfortunately for the Bears and their fans, when you miss on a quarterback in the first round, you're left feeling like you're on a sinking ship. Except in this case, the vessel never actually completely sinks. In trying to build around his quarterback's rookie contract, Bears general manager Ryan Pace unknowingly spent the lifeboats which could've potentially saved the sinking ship when they acquired Khalil Mack from the Raiders. The highly criticized trade for the defensive star left Chicago without much draft capital to correct their most pressing problem. The Bears remain metaphorically afloat thanks to a strong roster, but with a ship captain like Trubisky, there’s little chance they’ll ever find their way to land.

The Bears have always been a defensive powerhouse, and that trend will continue as long as they have arguably the best defensive player in the game. In the meantime, they needed to put a patch on their biggest hole.

Fast-forward to March 18th, 2020. Amid a nationwide pandemic, Chicago was able to orchestrate a deal involving Nick Foles from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal included a fourth round pick from the Bears. Reuniting Foles with a familiar staff. Bears head coach Matt Nagy was Foles' offensive coordinator when Foles was with the Kansas City Chiefs. So what does all of this mean? First and foremost, this means the beginning of the end for Trubisky. Secondly, it means the offensive weapons in Chicago will see a significant uptick in fantasy value and expectations. 

Allen Robinson since entering the NFL in 2014 has caught passes from:

Mitch Trubisky

Chase Daniel

Blake Bortles

Chad Henne

Before we look ahead at what to expect from Robinson in 2020, we must revisit what he's been able to produce with lackluster quarterback play. Since entering the league in 2014, Robinson has had four different quarterbacks, the best one being Blake Bortles. Bortles has his flaws, but he was serviceable. In fact, from a fantasy perspective, he was more than serviceable. From 2015-2017 he finished as QB4, QB9, and QB13. One can wonder how Bortles' last full season in a Jaguars uniform would look had Robinson not torn his ACL in 2017.

A new system, a new quarterback, and fresh off ACL surgery, Allen Robinson sputtered in 2018. Expectations were lower going into the season, but still finishing outside of the top 30 receivers was disappointing. It was apparent the rookie quarterback and veteran receiver were not yet in-sync. In 2018 Robinson received double-digit targets just once in 13 games. The fantasy drafts leading up to the 2019 season certainly reflected that disappointment as he was the 28th wide receiver taken on average, according to FantasyPros.com.

In his six-year career, Robinson has played a full season just three times. He eclipsed 150 targets in each of those three seasons. Despite the change in quarterbacks and play-callers, he has finishes of WR6, WR25, and WR8. Robinson and the Bears look to build off of his 2019 success when the 2020 season kicks off. In 2019, he set a career-high in targets (154), and in receptions (98). He averaged six catches on nearly ten targets a game, proving yet again Robinson's ability to produce at a high level despite his quarterback's limitations. I've highlighted some of Trubisky's limitations below and compared them to the incumbent starter Nick Foles. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, 18.4% of Trubisky's pass attempts have been poor throws. Essentially, this metric shows that every fifth Trubisky pass has been un-catchable.

Foles, on the other hand, can at least hit the broad side of a barn. A talent that will surely be received with open arms by the receiving core in Chicago. 

Chicago is left with only Robinson and Anthony Miller before the draft as wideouts who've been in their system prior to 2020. While newly acquired Jimmy Graham is a capable pass catcher and is sure to dip into each of Robinson's and Miller's target share, Graham's best years are long behind him. Anthony Miller seems to be the one who could make the most significant leap entering into 2020, and he seems to be depressing Allen Robinson's value at the moment. The Memphis Tiger product came into the league with high expectations, but he's struggled to stay off of the injury reports in his two years as a pro. After completing surgery on his dislocated shoulder after his 2018 rookie season, he started slowly in 2019, eclipsing a snap percentage of 70% just once before Week 7. Miller is undoubtedly capable of making the leap. From Weeks 11-15, he averaged 17.6 points per game. In that same time-frame, Robinson averaged 18.9. However, making the notion that Miller could drastically impact Robinson's production less likely is Miller will be coming off his second straight offseason shoulder surgery. The latest surgery requires 4-6 months of recovery time, and according to PlayerProfiler.com, Miller has a high likelihood of re-injuring that same shoulder. Yet, guys like Adam Theilen and Amari Cooper are being drafted ahead of Allen Robinson according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com

Foles' most recent team in Jacksonville boasted a lesser-known wide receiver corps, and he was able to feed their number one wide receiver at least. His campaign in Jacksonville couldn't have started any hotter than it did through the first quarter of Week 1 against Kansas City. D.J. Chark caught a 35-yard touchdown on what would be Foles' last play of the game. Who knows how their seasons could have played out had Foles not broken his collarbone on the play. In the two full games Foles played in after coming back from injury, Chark caught 13 passes on 21 targets and 142 yards, finding the end zone twice.

Nick Foles' 2019 campaign was cut short due to injury and then by #minshewmania - the latter ultimately costing him his job in Jacksonville. As we inch closer to the 2020 season, this could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for all involved. Minshew-Mania looks to be here to stay, Foles gets a chance to reunite with a familiar staff, Jacksonville rid of a massive contract, and Chicago gets a Super Bowl champion. Chicago fans are hopeful he can capture lightning in a bottle again as he did for the Eagles in 2018. I am just hopeful the NFL world gets to see the full capabilities of Allen Robinson II.

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