Allen Robinson mystery

Where have you gone, Mr. Robinson?

Less than two months ago, Allen Robinson II was being drafted in the third or fourth round of every fantasy football draft in the country. A few weeks ago, the pundits were advising that you trade the Bears wide receiver for whatever you could get. After the game on Sunday, many are advising that you drop him for your favorite waiver wire flavor of the week.

Frankly, it’s hard to blame the detractors with Robinson averaging only 7.7 fantasy points per game (PPG). Midway through the fantasy season, Robinson is WR65 after finishing as WR9 in 2020. Part of the problem is the Chicago offense, which is dead last in the league in total yards per game and passing yards per game. They’re also third-worst in points scored per game.

But that was supposed to change on Sunday when the Bears arrived in Florida to play the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Bucs. No one expected an upset win, but there were many who expected Robinson to have his best game of the year. After all, the Bears would be playing from behind, and Justin Fields would be forced to throw the ball.

The rookie quarterback did throw the ball 32 times, but only four of those balls were thrown in the direction of the talented wideout. That’s only about half of the 24.2% team target share Robinson saw in the three previous weeks when the game script wasn’t as favorable. May I suggest that the problem is not Robinson but the first-round draft pick?

Fields, who was twice recognized as the Graham–George Offensive Player of the Year, was propelled into the spotlight last January when he made an appearance in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship. If you saw that game, you might recall that he was awful as his Ohio State Buckeyes lost 52-24 to Alabama on national television.

Fields’ poor performance was blamed on a hip injury he sustained in the semifinal game against Clemson. In that game, Fields was tremendous, throwing for six touchdowns. But it was his last good game. On Sunday in Tampa, he threw three interceptions and fumbled twice as the Bears were humiliated 35-3. He has topped 200 yards just once in four starts.    

But let’s get back to Robinson. Here’s what a CBS analyst wrote about him in a preview last August: “Robinson, a borderline No. 1 wide receiver, is a sure-fire starter who should rank toward the top of the league in targets if he can stay healthy. Robinson has earned at least 150 targets in each of the past four seasons that he’s played 16 games.”

Robinson has stayed healthy, playing in all seven games, so that’s not the problem. But where are all of those targets? After being targeted 11 times in the opener against the Rams, Robinson has been targeted only 29 times in the last six games. Why? Is he suddenly unable to run routes, or create separation from defenders? Let’s take a look at the situation.  

In addition to getting only half the number of targets in 2021, Robinson is also gaining only half the yards he did last year. Consider that the Bears wideout was averaging 78.1 yards per game on his way to a total of 1,250 in 2020. This year, he is averaging 39 yards per game. Fields doesn’t throw the ball much, and when he does it’s not going to Robinson enough.

The biggest issue for Robinson may be the entire construct of the offense. The Bears seem to be comfortable easing Fields into their playbook. The game script has also not usually been as favorable as it was in Tampa. In their three wins, the Bears led by two scores for most of the game. This has contributed to the Bears being the run heaviest in the NFL.

Before Sunday’s game, the Bears were running only 24.2 pass plays per game. Last season, they ran 38.4 pass plays per game. The run-heavy offense was a boon to David Montgomery before his injury, and it has been a boon to Khalil Herbert, who has rushed for almost 300 yards in the past three weeks, while averaging more than 18 carries per game.

If all of that is not bad enough for Robinson, Darnell Mooney may be emerging as the Alpha Dog receiver for the Bears, seeming to find chemistry with Fields faster than Robinson. Still, Robinson was being targeted a respectable 25.7 percent of the time before the drop off in Sunday’s game. But Robinson’s catch rate is only 57.5 percent.

In the interest of full disclosure, I traded for Robinson a few weeks ago in my home league, believing this was going to turn around. It hasn’t, and I now believe that it won’t turn around if Robinson remains in Chicago after the November 2nd trade deadline. If you still have him, don’t drop him before the deadline because a trade could change everything.

Frankly, the Bears would be wise to trade him. Robinson is in his walk year, and I can’t imagine him wanting to stay in Chicago after becoming the forgotten man. I think this is the last chance for the Bears to get something for the wideout. Three teams rumored to be interested in Robinson are New England, Philadelphia and Washington. I’m hoping for the last one.

The Football Team would be a great fit for Robinson. Except for Terry McLaurin, who continues to be great with 428 yards, the next best thing in Washington is Adam Humphries with 149. The Football Team has no viable second option. Robinson would clearly change that. He and McLaurin would form quite a duo, giving the team more explosiveness through the air.

I’m holding out hope for Robinson to be traded to our nation’s capital on, or before the November 2nd trade deadline. If not Washington, perhaps AR15 will land in a better spot than the Windy City. If Robinson isn’t traded, I will probably cut bait and drop him. In fantasy football, sometimes you have to admit your mistakes and just cut your losses.   

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.F

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