Colts Josh Robinson Fantasy 2015
Taken in a vacuum, Josh Robinson has fallen into an ideal spot for both his own career and his fantasy prospects. Drafted in the 6th round by the Indianapolis Colts, Robinson finds himself on one of the most talent packed offenses in the entire NFL. This unit is one that every fantasy owner should look to own at least one piece of, and with him going undrafted in most mock drafts the rookie could offer some real value, especially if you missed out earlier on. But just how appealing is Robinson, who isn’t even in our top 75 running backs? Let’s take a look.
Robinson enters the pro game after a 2014 college season in which he accumulated 1203 rushing yards for Mississippi State in the SEC (good for third behind Cameron Artis-Payne’s 1608 and the 1547 yards of Nick Chubb) at 6.9 yards per carry, finding the endzone 11 times. He added 28 receptions for 370 yards and a touchdown, showing that he’s no slouch in the passing game. He has very little wear on his tyres, having only started one year in college and never carrying more than 23 times in one game. This type of production, ie a compliment to the offense not the bell cow, is theoretically perfect for Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. The most any Colts running back toted the rock in 2014 was Trent Richardson’s 21 carries in week 2 (for 79 yards), and Ahmad Bradshaw showed the value of a good receiving back in Andy Luck’s arsenal, finishing with six receiving touchdowns last season. With TY Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Philip Dorsett, Coby Fleener AND Dwayne Allen to account for in the passing game, it would take a truly heroic (or idiotic) defensive coordinator to throw eight men into the box against Indy anytime soon. A running back like Robinson could carve out quite the little niche for himself, earning 10-12 carries a game and a few targets out of the backfield, putting him in RB3 airspace with eyes towards RB2 depending on touchdown production.
On paper, and in theory, Robinson has an awful lot going his way already. But when you consider that his main rival for playing time in the backfield is a 32 year old, you could be forgiven for scribbling his name atop (or darn near the top) of your cheat sheets. Since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970, only nine running backs aged 32 or older have rushed for 1000 yards, the last being Ricky Williams in 2009. Williams finished that season as fantasy footballs seventh highest scoring running back, but since the 2000 season the top running backs entering at least their age 32 season have conjured up an average of RB18. Williams 7th spot is the highest finish amongst these old dudes, while the Patriots Kevin Faulk could only muster an RB27 effort in 2008. Fantasy running back really is no country for old men.
At least, it hasn’t been.
In the case of Robinson and the Colts, the 32 year old in question is Frank Gore. History has already told us that older running backs don’t thrive in the modern NFL. There have only been 24 instances since 2000 of running backs aged over 30 recording 1000 yard rushing seasons…but two of these seasons belong to Frank Gore. He followed up his 1128 yard 2013 season with 1106 yards in 2014, despite facing base defenses on 81% of his snaps. If you stopped the run against the 49ers, you stopped the 49ers. Gore has gone from a situation where he was the focal point of an offense to being almost an after thought of opposing defenses. Even his advanced stage of life isn’t an insuperable barrier to Gore, with Sports Injury Predictor foreseeing no worries heading into the season. SPI have Gore ranked as the second least likeliest running back to miss time to injury in 2014. With Gore around in the backfield, Robinson has handcuff value at best, but we don’t really buy handcuffs around here. Should the unthinkable happen and Gore miss significant playing time (which he hasn’t done since 2010, which was also the last season he didn’t eclipse 1000 yards rushing) however, you MUST attack Robinson on your waiver wire. While it’s an oversimplification to say that ANY running back can have fantasy appeal in Indy (Trent Richardson, anyone?), you should consider the suitability of Gore in the offense. Writing for the Optimum Scouting Draft Guide, Austin Baumer theorised that if Robinson had a pro comparison, with his “solid burst, decent straight line speed through an open hole”, it was Frank Gore. Father Time is undefeated, and eventually Gore will listen to everyone who has spent the last five years writing him off and disappear. On that day, Robinson may well be THE back to own from the Colts. Until that day, he can sit and watch and hope for mop up duty, but that will help very few fantasy owners.
At the time of writing, Robinson is purely one for your dynasty leagues, and for your redraft waiver wire. If he is a sleeper, it may be best, for 2015 at least to paraphrase the words of Luciano Pavarotti, “Nessun Dorma” (let him sleep).