Fantasy Impact: Allen Robinson to the Bears
One of the major bombs of free agency dropped while you were sleeping last night as the Chicago Bears landed former Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson, striking a three-year deal worth reportedly $42 million. The deal is said to have $25 million guaranteed, but on a three-year deal, the 24-year-old will likely make all of it.
The deal is cheaper than most would’ve expected as Pierre Garcon and the 49ers agreed to a deal during this time period last year, giving him 5 years and $47.5 million with $23 million in guarantees. Even going back to the prior year in free agency, Mohamed Sanu signed a five-year deal worth $32.5 million with $14 million in guarantees. If you’re a Bears fan, the Robinson contract should make you very happy. If you’re a fan of any of the other teams who were pursuing Robinson, you should be upset, because he was affordable.
As for what this means from a fantasy perspective, Robinson should remain in a similar tier to the one he was with while on the Jaguars. He saw a lofty 302 targets over 2015 and 2016, a number that only six other wide receivers surpassed in those two combined seasons, though those targets were far from what we’d call ideal. Blake Bortles and he connected on just 50.7 percent of those targets, but they did amount to 2,283 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The majority of those yards, specifically in 2015, were made on the deep ball, as Robinson caught 19 balls for 672 yards on passes that were thrown over 20 yards. It was the most in the NFL, with fellow free agent Sammy Watkins being the only other receiver to top 558 yards on deep balls that year. Among the 32 quarterbacks who attempted at least 30 deep balls in 2017, Mitch Trubisky had the third-highest quarterback rating when throwing the deep ball, behind only Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford. To know that he did that without anything close to a top-tier wide receiver is impressive, though it’s still a relatively small sample size.
Robinson will walk into an immediate No. 1 role with the Bears, who are currently project to start Robinson and Kevin White on the perimeter, with Cameron Meredith in the slot. Meredith is a former undrafted free agent who is coming off a slightly worse ACL tear than the one Robinson suffered, but it’s important to note that he’s a restricted free agent, and the Bears placed an original round draft tender on him, meaning they would have to match any offer than came in to retain him and get nothing in return. It doesn’t appear they value him as much as some thought. White, on the other hand, has seen a grand total of 40 targets in his career. The Bears may not be done in free agency and/or the draft when it comes to solidifying the wide receiver position.
Knowing their current state, Robinson likely landed in the optimal offense to succeed from a production standpoint. I mentioned this on the free agent primer podcast we did last week, saying that he wouldn’t have competition for targets with the Bears, whereas if he went to the 49ers, he’d be competing for targets with Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and even Trent Taylor at times. Not that he wouldn’t have been the leader in the clubhouse, but it wasn’t a clear-cut 120-plus target situation like it is with the Bears.
New head coach Matt Nagy is coming over from the Chiefs, where in 2017, Alex Smith tossed the ball at least 30 times in all but two games. By comparison, Trubisky hit that number in just 7-of-12 games. Even if we’re projecting Trubisky to hit just 500 pass attempts, giving Robinson a 25 percent target share would be easy to do knowing the other wide receivers and the fact that their top tight end is Adam Shaheen, who has played one season and seen just 14 targets. If Robinson is healthy for all 16 games, you can lock him in for 120-plus targets.
Looking back over the last five years, there have been 119 wide receivers who have seen at least 115 targets in a season. Of those 119 receivers, 56 of them (47 percent) finished as top-12 fantasy receivers, 94 (79 percent) finished top-24, and 112 (94 percent) finished top-36. That leaves just seven wide receivers who finished outside the “startable” range in leagues that start three wide receivers. Needless to say, Robinson is one of the safest wide receivers you can draft from a floor standpoint.
Bottom line, you don’t bring in a player like Robinson to be a decoy. If you’re worried about his ACL, don’t be, as modern medicine has proven to almost perfect the surgery so that it has minimal/if any effect on that player’s future production. If Trubisky is going to take a step forward in his career in 2018, Robinson is going to be a massive part of it. As of now, Robinson should be viewed as a high-end WR2 in fantasy, barring any other changes to the Bears roster.