Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson was one of the biggest fantasy football out-of-nowhere surprises in 2020. Originally buried on the depth chart, the undrafted free agent finished the season as the RB7 and was the catalyst behind several fantasy championships. Despite the success, the fantasy world is in disarray after General Manager Trent Baalke said that Jacksonville is looking to add another running back.
While the headline might sound like a kiss of death to Robinson’s future, a deeper dive shows that fantasy owners shouldn’t be too worried. If anything, now is the time to buy low on a young running back that should still be a strong fantasy asset next year.
Fantasy Football: Go Buy James Robinson
Read the Quote, Not the Headline
One of the biggest offseason traditions is for the community to overreact to a headline without reading the whole quote. Even though Baalke had a lot to say to the media on Wednesday, everyone focused on his quote about Jacksonville needing to “take some of the carries off of James”. Seeing as Jacksonville leads the NFL in cap space, some assumed that the Jaguars are destined to add a running back like Aaron Jones, Kenyan Drake, or James Conner. However, reading the full quote shows that this is pretty unlikely.
During the rest of his press conference, Baalke said that Robinson is “tough” and that he’ll “take a step forward from where he was a season ago”. Head coach Urban Meyer added that he hopes to build around Robinson, and all this makes it sound like the undrafted free agent will continue to be the top option in the backfield.
Robinson saw an absurd workload last year, and that was never going to repeat. The team cut Leonard Fournette just before the season, Ryquell Armstead missed the entire campaign thanks to COVID-19, and Devine Ozigbo hardly played thanks to injury. Robinson saw the largest touch share of any running back in the league, and that was never going to happen again. The Jaguars will bring in another competent running back, but it will probably be someone like Carlos Hyde rather than Aaron Jones.
The Situation Is Improving
Even if Robinson won’t receive the same massive workload, he should still be the top option in a much better situation. More than any other position, running back production is largely a product of the offensive line, play calling, and quarterback.
It’s hard to be a good fantasy running back on a bad football team, and the Jacksonville Jaguars were terrible in 2020. Bad teams have a tough time reaching the endzone and extending drives, and teams that are trailing tend to throw the ball to get back in the game. This is a terrible combination for running back performance, and Robinson had to deal with all of this last year. The fact he finished as the RB7 in 14 games is nothing short of spectacular.
The Jaguars probably won’t compete for a championship in 2021, but they should be a much better team. Trevor Lawrence should be a massive upgrade over the trio of Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon, and Jake Luton, so that will lead to longer drives and more scoring opportunities. Additionally, Jacksonville will probably try to improve the offensive line for the incoming franchise quarterback, which will also create easier rushing lanes for Robinson.
Robinson’s snap percentage might decrease in 2021, but that should easily be offset by the improved situation. He should still be a low-end RB1 next year, and you should be able to buy him for pennies between now and the start of free agency.
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