Who Is James Robinson And Why Does He Need To Be On Your Team?
Updated: Feb 9
(photo by Gary Vasquez)
Robert Stewart // Staff Writer // @drstew32
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson went undrafted in 2020, he didn’t play in the FBS in college and the Jags’ had Leonard Fournette, whom they drafted fourth overall three years ago, atop their RB depth chart.
The decision to release Fournette before the season started raised several eyebrows in the football world, but those who knew of Robinson’s potential were not surprised. He deserved a chance after illustrious high school and college careers, but he was a well-kept secret out of Rockford, Illinois.
The secret is now out. Robinson is the clear-cut starter and has put up anywhere between 10 and 31 standard PPR fantasy points in his first three NFL games.
“All I can tell you is what I see on the field,” Jags head coach Doug Marrone said of the rookie after the team’s Week 1 victory, “and I liked what I saw early on.”
But for anyone that has seen Robinson play before, this is nothing new.
Robinson attended Rockford Lutheran High School, where he put up insane stat lines year after year. His 948 points scored and 9,045 career rush yards are both Illinois high school records, the latter is among the top 15 rushing performances in American high school football history.
Despite his ungodly rushing yardage, his 80 scores and 15.5 yards per carry in his last two years, Rivals labeled him a two-star recruit, and he attended Illinois State University. But his poor recruitment didn’t stop him from being a star.
Robinson ranks second in ISU history in rushing and all-purpose yards (4,444/5,218) and touchdowns (44/46). During his four seasons with the Redbirds, he averaged over 5.5 yards per carry and just under 100 rushing yards per game. Last season, he finished second in the FCS with 1,899 yards and 126.6 yards per game.
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft, Robinson signed with Jacksonville. He clearly won Marrone’s favor during training camp, as he made the 53-man roster and earned the starting role, neither of which the once-coveted Fournette did.
Robinson did not waste any time proving that he was the right choice, eating up each of the Jaguars’ 16 carries Week 1 against Indianapolis. The 5’9”, 219-pounder rushed for 62 yards, the most by an undrafted rookie in any Week 1 ever, and added a reception for 28 yards. In starting, he also became just the fourth undrafted rookie since the AFL-NFL merger to do so.
He built on his initial success the following week against the Titans, once again picking up 16 carries, this time for 102 yards and his first career touchdown. He saw his catches increase as well, proving to fantasy owners that he could be a viable PPR starter from week to week with a rock-solid 23 standard points.
The Jags had a stinker of a Thursday night clash with Miami, but Robinson shined brightly from a fantasy perspective. He dropped 30.9 after grabbing six passes from Gardner Minshew and finding the endzone twice.
Through three weeks, he has consumed 43 of the Jaguars’ 67 carries, or 64%, and 91% of carries among running backs. Of all touches by running backs, Robinson accounts for 53, or 79%, with the other 14 going to Chris Thompson.
It is important to mention that Jacksonville is missing Devine Ozigbo and Ryquell Armstead, who are both on reserve lists right now. Both could return to the Jaguars this season and see some game action, but both players debuted last season and were unimpressive in comparison to James Robinson in 2020.
Ozigbo saw only 12 touches all year, accrued just 50 yards, and they all came in Week 17. Armstead dressed for every game last season, finding the endzone twice, and averaging just over three touches per game and 15.75 yards from scrimmage. He did finish strong in Week 17 with 15 touches, 85 all-purpose yards and a score, but while those were career-highs for Armstead, 17 touches and 90 scrimmage yards are career-lows for Robinson.
The backfield has been Robinson’s for three weeks and there is nothing to suggest that will change.
As of Monday afternoon, Robinson was available in 15% of Yahoo! leagues and 12% of ESPN leagues. How that number is not zero is absolutely criminal. If you are in one of those leagues, you should be punished if he is not your priority waiver claim this week. If you are not in one of those leagues, you need to think about trading for him because he has proven himself to be the real deal.
There was a lot of hype last week surrounding Minshew, who flopped, but that empty hype could be exactly what you need to land Robinson in a trade. Maybe the Jaguars aren’t everything people thought they could be after starting 1-0, but no matter how the team performs, you can expect James Robinson to be an elite fantasy play throughout 2020.