Each year there is at least one player that comes out of nowhere to become an elite producer for fantasy football. Early on in 2020, no one stands out more in that aspect than running back James Robinson.
Undrafted out of Illinois State, Robinson took the starting role of the Jacksonville Jaguars to the surprise of everyone. After just three games, Robinson clearly doesn’t have any plans to relinquish the starting gig, and as a result, has become a viable fantasy football option on a weekly basis. In fact, he’s become a must-start overnight in all formats. So what can we expect from Robinson in the Jaguars’ Week 4 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals and rest of season?
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James Robinson’s fantasy success to start 2020
If I am being honest, I wasn’t interested in grabbing Robinson prior to Week 1 when he was declared the starter. Full transparency, I had already become exhausted when it came to the Jaguars backfield on who was the RB to own.
All offseason, it was Leonard Fournette’s job with the thought process that the team would run him into the ground before moving on before 2021. Then, after Fournette was surprisingly cut, Ryquell Armstead was deemed the lead dog on first and second downs at least, while Chris Thompson would essentially receive all of the targets out of the backfield. There was also talk that Devine Ozigbo could be the back to own in Jacksonville.
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This had all the signs of a committee (an ugly term in fantasy football), even after Armstead was placed on the reserved list for a second time this offseason. By the time Robinson was announced as the surprise starter, I was looking at other options already.
Robinson, however, has proven through three games that this is his backfield and has catapulted himself to RB1 status in fantasy football. Through the first three weeks, Robinson is the RB5 in half-PPR formats. He’s combined for a total of 43 rushing attempts for 210 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. In addition, he’s added 10 receptions on 11 targets for 129 yards total.
Robinson was the lone bright spot for the Jaguars in last week’s Thursday night loss to the Miami Dolphins, where he caught six passes for 83 yards and rushed for two scores. Although still a small sample size, Robinson is averaging 19.0 fantasy points per game and 17.7 touches per game. That is exactly the kind of volume we seek from running backs in fantasy football.
Robinson gets another favorable matchup against the Bengals
The Bengals have surprisingly been a good defense thus far against the pass. They’ve held the likes of players such as Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Jarvis Landry, among others, to relatively underwhelming performances by their standards.
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However, Cincinnati remains vulnerable against the run, opening the possibility for another big day from Robinson. In the first three weeks, the Bengals have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. Against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, Cincinnati allowed 25.8 and 23.1 fantasy points to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, respectively. Last week, Miles Sanders totaled 107 yards from scrimmage, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the day.
The Bengals have allowed 181.7 rushing yards per game to the start the season. Only the Houston Texans have allowed more on average. Cincinnati is in a surprise position as the favorite in this matchup, although this game could go either way. The expected game plans for both teams is to run the ball heavily, meaning the Jaguars will again lean heavily on the Offensive Rookie of the Month for September.
Robinson’s fantasy outlook rest of season and beyond
It looks bleak for Robinson past the 2020 season, so it’s understandable if dynasty owners are cautious about the undrafted rookie anything after this year. However, Robinson is going to make it difficult for his team to move on from him so quickly should they choose to look in that direction.
For the rest of the season, Robinson is a locked and loaded RB1, at worst, RB2. In fact, I’ve already seen some trades involving Robinson along with some other heavy fantasy hitters. I’ve seen Robinson get traded for guys like Joe Mixon and Kenyan Drake straight up. Trades like that less than a month ago would’ve been deemed outrageous. However, now it could be argued that fantasy managers receiving Robinson are getting the better end of the deal.
From a redraft standpoint, Robinson has all the tools of someone that could be a league winner. With where he was drafted in fantasy football drafts (if at all) and the number of injuries we’ve endured across the NFL, Robinson is hands down the steal of 2020 fantasy leagues provided he can stay healthy himself.
While there might be the urge from some fantasy managers to move Robinson for a more proven player or two, I would hold onto him unless a deal blows me away. As I said, I think Robinson can be a league winner, and he’ll further show how valuable he is this week against the Bengals.