Rookie Rundown: RB James Robinson, Illinois State

Rookie Rundown: RB James Robinson, Illinois State

Fantasy Football Rookie Analysis

Rookie Rundown: RB James Robinson, Illinois State

By

(Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports)

Illinois State running back James Robinson brings a quiet, steady back to the NFL mix with versatility traits that are bound to get him on a team’s roster before all is said and done.

The Redbirds star entered the program in 2016 as the state’s all-time leading high school rusher with a shade over 9,000 yards, and Robinson ranked fourth in the nation for prep rushing scores at 158 when he graduated high school. After being used sparingly in his first two seasons at Illinois State, Robinson was given an opportunity to shine in 2017, and he never looked back.

Height: 5-foot-9
Weight: 219 pounds
40 time: 4.64 seconds

After leading the school in rushing as a sophomore, Robinson earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors as a first-team selection. He’d go on to become a finalist for the Walter Payton Award in 2018, also adding third-team All-American recognition to his second straight all-conference selection. His senior year concluded with honors for being all-conference yet again, and this time Robinson was voted to the first-team All-American squad.

Table: RB James Robinson NCAA stats (2016-19)

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2016
ILST
63
322
5.1
2
12
109
9.1
1
2017
ILST
165
933
5.6
12
9
75
8.3
0
2018
ILST
205
1,290
6.3
12
57
21
164
7.8
1
2019
ILST
364
1,918
5.2
18
77
16
80
5.0
0

Despite such an impressive resume and climb to national prominence in 2019, Robinson isn’t bound to be one of the first running backs chosen in the NFL draft. In fact, he may not hear his name called until late on Day 3, but there’s some potential for going as early as the late third round.

Pros

  • Dynamic ability to find lanes and make the necessary moves to get there
  • Excellent vision and feel for a play’s development — anticipatory senses are NFL caliber
  • Extremely productive three straight seasons and has three-down traits
  • Quality blend of burst, elusiveness, jump-cut ability and enough power
  • Known for his work ethic and reliability as a teammate
  • Patience is among the first things that jump off the screen, especially when he’s waiting for blockers to find their target
  • Capable receiver despite not being utilized much in this area
  • Played in a mixed offensive system that included elements of pro-style football
  • Among the better incoming backs at blitz pickup
  • Plays faster in the open field than he times

Cons

  • Ran through holes the size of Texas in college — will he have the quickness to hit the gaps in the NFL before they close?
  • Lacks breakaway speed in shorts
  • Considerable mileage with more than 600 touches in the last two years
  • Needs to address his tendency to bounce a play outside, which is a common issue and can be corrected via coaching
  • Limited skill set and athleticism that could expose him at times in the NFL

Fantasy football outlook

Robinson’s talents and determination will get him on the field in 2020, although how much is anyone’s guess. His landing spot wide open at this time, and the supporting cast will make a huge difference in what kind of workload one can expect from him.

The vast majority of scenarios put Robinson in a rotation or even riding the pine and hoping for a shot. For now, he’s roster depth fantasy football versions, but consider his value to be quite fluid given the significant range in teams that could pursue Robinson.

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