It has been an eventful 36 hours for the New York Jets‘ backfield and the fantasy football implications for that group. The James Robinson trade is a direct consequence of the injury to Breece Hall and leaves fantasy managers with major question marks.
Let’s examine what the trade means for the fantasy value of Robinson, as well as the impact on Michael Carter and Ty Johnson’s fantasy value.
Fantasy Impact of the James Robinson Trade on Michael Carter and Ty Johnson
There is a lot to unpack about the Jets’ RB room following the arrival of Robinson. The situation this year had been extremely fluid before Hall’s injury. It started as a timeshare, with Carter having a slight edge. Nonetheless, it had shifted more towards Hall being the lead back.
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At the end of Week 7, Hall leads the teams with 80 rushing attempts and 31 targets. He was averaging an impressive 5.8 yards per attempt and 11.5 yards per reception. Hall had also found the end zone five times. In comparison, Carter has 66 rushing attempts and 24 targets but is averaging just 3.5 yards per rush attempt and 7.6 yards per reception.
Hall was clearly the lead back for the Jets before the injury; Carter was the secondary role. After the injury, Carter was the lead back but managed just 29 yards on his 13 rushing attempts. Carter’s unimpressive performances this year mean the door is wide open for Robinson to come straight in and be the lead back.
The difference in Hall and Carter’s numbers before contact was intriguing. Hall saw 4.6 yards per rush prior to contact on average, while Carter was down at 2.6. That number can change dramatically by one or two big runs where the back is untouched, but it is a big discrepancy over the course of 146 total carries. Interestingly, Carter has broken more tackles (five to three), but Hall has double the average yards after contact (1.6).
Robinson’s numbers are somewhat of a mix of the two backs. He has 2.7 yards before contact, similar to Carter, but 1.5 yards after contact (including four broken tackles). However, both of those numbers were lower than what Travis Etienne had produced in Jacksonville in the same offense.
Robinson is almost certainly a downgrade on Hall in the run game. Still, he has the potential to be an improvement on Carter. Per Next Gen Stats, he is averaging -0.04 yards below expectation per rush and is outperforming expectation on just 34.2 percent of his rushing attempts. While those numbers are significantly below the output of Hall, it is a step up from Carter (-0.68 and 33.9 percent, respectively).
Therefore, expecting Robinson to see the same success as Hall in the run game would be optimistic. He should be a capable backfield partner for Carter, but he should not outperform him so much that he can dominate touches as much as Hall was starting to.
Could Carter See an Increase in Targets Going Forward?
Robinson appears to be a significantly different back than Hall in the receiving game. Robinson has just 11 targets this year, catching nine passes for 46 yards. That is a significant drop from the 31 that Hall has seen. With the Jets’ backfield a big part of the passing game at times this year, that could present a huge opportunity for Carter if the Jets find themselves trailing in games.
However, the Jets have been a surprise package this year going 5-2. Of Carter’s 24 targets, 14 came in the first two weeks. Since then, he has seen a total of just 10, averaging two per game. Similarly, in going 1-2 in the first three weeks, Hall saw 21 of his 31 targets. In the past four weeks, he has averaged just 2.5 targets per game.
Therefore, even if Carter saw all the receiving work, we are only looking at around four to five targets per game. While that is useful work, it is not game-changing for his fantasy value, especially in non- or half-PPR formats.
Further complicating the picture is Robinson’s usage as a pass catcher — this year is somewhat odd compared to what we saw in past years. His 1.57 targets per game in 2022 is a considerable drop from the 4.29 and 3.29 he saw in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Robinson’s ability in the passing game should not be completely dismissed, further limiting Carter’s fantasy value going forward.
What Should Fantasy Managers Do With Robinson, Carter, and Johnson?
Let’s get Johnson out of the way quickly. While we expected a slight uptick in work after the trade, he still only has one rushing attempt and four targets on the season. The beauty of the timing of the trade for Robinson is that it stops Johnson from being a player fantasy managers targeted on waivers in Week 8.
Robinson is the player that sees a huge increase in fantasy value following the trade. In large part, it is because the emergence of Etienne had buried his value in Jacksonville. After seeing 51 rushing attempts and seven targets in the first three weeks, he garnered 32 rushing attempts and four targets in the following four weeks.
During that stretch, he played less than 50 percent of the snaps, culminating in just 12 snaps (17 percent) in Week 7. For all intents and purposes, Robinson had become nothing more than a handcuff to Etienne in Jacksonville. Now in a backfield with an underperforming Carter, his value as a fantasy asset is alive again.
The situation for Robinson is intriguing. The Jets’ next three weeks see them take on the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills before a bye in Week 10. The Patriots and Bills are tough matchups on paper, but we just saw the Chicago Bears find success against the Patriots.
Therefore, it will be hard to just throw him into fantasy lineups this week with uncertainty over his role. But that is also the case for Carter. A combination of uncertainty over the matchups and the role of Robinson makes this a tough backfield to judge in 12-team and 14-team leagues over the next two weeks.
Both Carter and Robinson should be rostered in all leagues. However, starting either in anything shallower than 16-team leagues will be tough this week. The messy picture that is the RB landscape may force some fantasy managers’ hands, but it will be hard to trust either fully.
Robinson could have the goal-line upside if he takes a portion of that role, but we have no idea how many points the Jets will score in the next two weeks. At this point, you are starting either of them as risk/reward plays and holding your breath to see how it goes.