Jacksonville Jaguars RB James Robinson has been a fantasy football cinderella story. He started for the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent last season and became a waiver wire legend. This season, however, fantasy managers have had a different experience. Thanks to new head coach Urban Meyer, the Jacksonville offense has looked quite different. Robinson himself has been inconsistent, leading many to question whether or not he should be in their lineup. The same goes for this week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
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James Robinson Start/Sit Week 4: Will he explode again this week?
As always, we’re here to help. Let’s review how the season’s gone so far and try to look ahead to see what makes the most sense. I’m a huge proponent of process over results, so let me walk you through my thought process this week.
Robinson was quiet to start the year
Looking at Robinson’s season should be done in two parts. The first section includes Week 1 and 2, where he failed to break into double-digits in PPR scoring each week. He scored 8.4 in Week 1 and 9.4 in Week 2. Neither week was all that impressive, and there are multiple reasons why.
Obviously, when RB Travis Etienne went down with a foot injury before the season, all eyes turned to Robinson to once again carry the load. He did it last year, and he can do it again, right? Well, not entirely.
RB Carlos Hyde got more carries in Week 1, forcing fantasy managers to reconsider drafting Robinson at all. In Week 2, Robinson outworked Hyde by a large margin, but he still didn’t do well due to the team struggling overall. Through two weeks, Robinson was looking like a bust, and he likely saw the bench in several leagues in Week 3 as a result.
Robinson comes back to life in Week 3
As we now know, benching Robinson in Week 3 was a mistake. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but his performance was certainly start-worthy. Robinson ran 15 times for 88 yards and a touchdown to go with 6 catches on 6 targets for another 46 yards, resulting in 25.4 PPR points in the loss to the Cardinals. So is he back or what?
Well, it’s hard to say just yet. Hyde himself saw 8 carries of his own, racking up 44 yards in the process. Clearly, Meyer has a soft spot for the former Buckeye, making it tough to start Robinson with confidence just yet. However, if Robinson keeps this up, he could finish the year as a top-20 RB in fantasy.
Unfortunately, the offense has struggled in all facets with QB Trevor Lawrence so far, and it’s hard to imagine them getting better overnight. Week 3 was a step in the right direction from a fantasy standpoint, but the Jaguars still lost. Thus, they could look at what they did as a negative and change it up again.
Robinson’s overall 2021 stats
Through three weeks, Robinson is the RB16 with 43.2 PPR points. If you just look at this, surely he’s a clear start tonight, right? RB16 is a solid RB2; why would you bench someone with those stats? Well, Robinson scored more than half of his total points last week. Can he do that again?
Through three games, Robinson’s Offensive Value Metric (OVM) in 2021 is a meager 4.49. This means that he’s not really doing much on his own to rack those points up. His score is around other RBs like Devin Singletary, Miles Sanders, and Mike Davis. While they all may be in lineups this week, they all have question marks.
Meanwhile, Hyde has a higher OVM through three weeks (albeit barely) at 5.21. This means that Hyde has technically done more to help the team than Robinson. It’s possible that the coaches see that too. While Week 3 could be the start of a new trend, it could just as easily be a one-time thing. It may be too soon to know for sure.
Cincinnati’s defense has actually been pretty good
All of that leads to Week 4 and the decision you’re faced with tonight. For starters, Cincy’s defense so far has been stout against running backs. They’ve allowed only 174 rushing yards on 58 carries through three games. That’s just 3 yards per carry.
Furthermore, the Bengals have allowed just 1 touchdown to opposing RBs to start the season, and that was to Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (who had to get lucky to even get the chance). If you recall, WR Justin Jefferson was called down just short of the end zone on a questionable call, giving Cook a chance to punch it in from the 1-yard line.
On average, the Bengals have allowed 24.53 PPR fantasy points per week to running backs. However, this is skewed slightly because it includes 14 catches for Steelers RB Najee Harris last week, the team’s leading receiver due to injury. Long story short, the Bengals are exploitable, but they’re not a cakewalk.
Should you start James Robinson this week?
Looking at everything, I’m probably starting Robinson in PPR leagues and benching him in standard formats. His inconsistent usage in the running game, combined with the Bengals only allowing 1 rushing TD all year, makes him too risky where that matters most. In standard leagues, I’d try to find better options.
On the contrary, he’s probably worth starting in PPR formats. He tends to see more passing game work than Hyde, and the Bengals’ defense seems okay with letting that happen. Either way, I don’t expect a huge game from Robinson. But you never know these days, right? Let’s just hope for a good, fun game with no injuries.