When the Jacksonville Jaguars used their late first-round draft pick (inexplicably) on running back Travis Etienne, pairing him with college quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, it looked like the end of the fantasy football fairytale of James Robinson.
In their second preseason game, Etienne left the field with a foot injury. After the game, he was seen in a boot. After further testing, Etienne suffered a lisfranc injury that will require surgery. The Jaguars have placed Etienne on Injured Reserve, which will end his season according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Suddenly, Robinson sits back at the top of the running back depth chart. So, what do we do with the former undrafted free agent in fantasy football?
Robinson seemingly came out of nowhere in 2020
The Illinois State Redbirds product went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, despite leading the FCS level with 1,899 rushing yards during his senior season. At 5-foot-9, 219 pounds, he possesses a prototypical frame.
It still wasn’t enough to get drafted. Perhaps because of the prevailing “level of competition” argument handed to him, because he didn’t play against the top defenses in the country like the SEC and BIG10.
He latched on as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After the Jaguars moved on from Leonard Fournette, Robinson rapidly climbed the depth chart, and never let go of the job.
All he did was break records as a rookie, including setting the mark for the most all-purpose scrimmage yards (1,414) by an undrafted free agent, and finished 34 yards short of the UDFA rookie rushing record with 1,070.
He finished the season as the RB7 in PPR scoring.
So, now what do we do with James Robinson?
If it wasn’t for the Etienne draft pick, Robinson would be treated as a borderline RB1 heading into the 2021 season, and would likely be coming off the board in the second round of fantasy drafts.
Instead, his current ADP (which will skyrocket in the coming weeks) is the RB26, at 65th overall, according to FantasyPros.
Robinson demonstrated in his rookie season that he’s capable of handling a full workload, and that he can thrive in the passing game as well. He was targeted a very healthy 60 times in 14 games. Now without Etienne on the roster, Robinson should resume his role as the primary three-down running back in the Jacksonville offense.
Whether it’s Lawrence or Gardner Minshew under center, Robinson figures to be a focal point of the offense moving forward. The ascension of wide receiver Laviska Shenault and the addition of Marvin Jones lends some hesitation to Robinson maintaining his target total from last season, but his fantasy finish last year was on the back of only seven rushing touchdowns.
I feel very comfortable with Robinson having a similar fantasy season to the one he had last year. Robinson should comfortably be drafted as a high-end RB2 with a very good shot at an RB1 finish.
What will the Jaguars offense look like?
With Darrell Bevel now calling the plays in Jacksonville, it’s safe to assume that this team will run the ball a lot. This team, with a new head coach in Urban Meyer, a new offensive coordinator in Bevel, and an ongoing quarterback battle, still has to find their identity.
Last year, no team threw the ball more than the Jacksonville Jaguars, doing so on 66% of their plays. The fact that Robinson had an RB7 season on the team that ran the ball the least is wildly impressive. As Bevel brings his run-focused offense to Duval County, Jacksonville will aim to take pressure off the quarterback with an effective ground game.
There will be plenty of meat on the bone for Robinson to solidify himself as a strong fantasy option.
Robinson now becomes one of my favorite options in the second round of fantasy drafts. Ignore what that ADP says when you log into your draft room — it’s not yet accounting for the loss of Etienne. Draft last year’s fantasy darling with confidence, and reap the rewards all season long.