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There’s a fantasy-relevant workhorse running back where there once was none.
Denard Robinson, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback-turned-running back, got his turn this week on the merry-go-round that is Jacksonville’s backfield, and made the most of it, seizing the gig with 127 yards on 22 carries (5.7 yards per carry) in the Jags’ win over the Browns.
Scraping around the edges of a terrible Jaguars’ offense is probably not the most appealing exercise for fantasy footballers looking to save their seasons in the coming weeks, but I think Robinson is well worth a look as a guy who could maintain week-to-week value in an offense looking for any way to take the pressure off their rookie signal caller.
Jacksonville coaches have long discussed Robinson — known as Shoelace — as a player who can — and has — been impressive in space. What was so impressive about Robinson’s Week 7 performance was that he didn’t just rack up yards on pitches or screen passes or reverses; he chewed up a lot of his 127 yards between the tackles.
That’s important because it’s a more sustainable model than having to run myriad gadget plays. Percy Harvin, Tavon Austin, and Cordarrelle Patterson owners will tell you how fickle fantasy production can be when said production hinges on trickery and gadgets.
You might ask: Why didn’t Robinson emerge as a go-to option in the vast wasteland of the Jacksonville backfield before Sunday’s win against Cleveland? For one, lingering nerve damage in Robinson’s elbow meant he couldn’t feel parts of his arm and hand. It wasn’t until the end of this rookie year that he could properly grip the pigskin. It was only then that the converted quarterback could begin learning the intricacies of the running back position instead of relying solely on his instincts.
“I didn’t know how to do it — how to make the right steps to come off, how to block a guy or anything like that,” Robinson said in an ESPN interview. “I had to work on how to get the ball in the backfield because I was used to getting the ball from the gun [as a quarterback]. It’s a big difference.”
Here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote about Robinson’s NFL usefulness shortly after the Jaguars drafted him in 2013.
An argument leveled against Robinson’s fantasy value often begins and ends with someone labeling him too small. That, for lack of a better term, is incorrect. Robinson is 5’11” and 199 pounds, the same height and eight pounds heavier than Chris Johnson, who has had a little success at the pro level. … RotoViz analysis has given some credence to the (less than popular) theory of Robinson as an NFL running back. When comparing Robinson’s size, average carries per game, yards per game, and yards per carry, he proves similar to runners like David Wilson, Kendall Hunter, and to a much lesser extent, Jamaal Charles.
It’s plainly obvious that the Jaguars want to run the ball more — a decidedly good thing for anyone who takes a shot on Robinson in the coming weeks. They had averaged just 21.9 running plays per game through six weeks. Only four teams averaged fewer totes per contest. Toby Gerhart poses no threat to Robinson’s workload, though Storm Johnson might take short-yardage and goal line carries here and there.
No matter. I think there’s a better-than-decent chance that Jacksonville coaches get Robinson involved in their oft-deployed screen game to go along with lead back duties. Expectations for Robinson’s fantasy contributions should be held in check, though he’s shaping up to be a capable runner who could see reliable volume for the rest of 2014.
Here are a few other tidbits from Week 7…
- Ryan Tannehill‘s new-found rushing prowess completely changes his fantasy prospects. Tanny, with his little-used athleticism finally deployed in a solid Miami offensive attack, goes from a desperation spot starter to a signal caller who could be a top streaming option going forward. Tannehill, who showed his rushing abilities in the final weeks of his rookie campaign, has now run the ball 4.7 times for for 44 yards over this past three games. This not only tacks on critically important Konami Code points to Tanny’s fantasy totals, but it keeps opposing defenses off guard and enhances Lamar Miller‘s appeal despite his maddening timeshare with Daniel Thomas. When Tannehill takes the ball on designed quarterback runs, good things happen, as one Dolphins beat writer pointed out in Miami’s demolition of the Bears.
- Travis Kelce is still a part-time player, whether we like it or not (we don’t). He ran just 22 pass routes in Kansas City’s Week 7 win, as Anthony Fasano continued to dominate tight end snaps for the Chiefs. Kelce caught all for of his targets, which is all well and good. I hesitate to call Kelce a no-brainer fantasy starter while he runs fewer than 28-30 pass routes on a weekly basis. It may sound nitpicky, but 6-8 pass routes per game adds up. That’s upwards of 128 routes over the course of a season. If fantasy success is one part talent and one part opportunity, Kelce only has half the ingredients needed for reliable production. He’s still somehow fantasy’s No. 10 tight end through seven weeks.
- Bryce Brown will be the waiver wire pickup de jour this week, and rightfully so. When he’s not carrying the football like a loaf of bread or sprinting to the sideline for no apparent reason, Brown has been a fantasy marvel. He rushed for an incredible 348 yards in his first two games as the Eagles’ starter in 2012 before flaming out during the season’s stretch run. Still just 23 years old, he’ll presumably take on a timeshare (at worst) in the injury-ravaged Buffalo backfield. It might be inconvenient, but Anthony Dixon was higher on the Bill’s running back depth chart as of this week. That’s not likely to change. Brown will be running behind a Buffalo offensive line that Pro Football Focus grades as fourth worst in the NFL. I’d tread lightly.
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