One of the NFL’s better stories in 2020 was the emergence of Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson, who went from undrafted rookie free agent to the team’s No. 1 back, effectively pushing current Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette out the door. Robinson would go on to finish his rookie season with 1,414 total yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing the final two games of the year with an ankle injury.
Jacksonville went through major changes during the next offseason, most notably the hiring of a new head coach (Urban Meyer) and the drafting of Clemson’s Travis Etienne with the 25th overall pick, though Etienne would suffer a foot injury during the preseason and miss the entire 2021 campaign. Despite that, Robinson didn’t see the consistent heavy usage in his sophomore season — he averaged 20.6 touches per game as a rookie but just 13.9 last year.
Tired of losing your league every season? Be sure to sign up for The Huddle today to gain an award-winning edge on the competition! We have 26 years of experience online building fantasy football champions.
For the second consecutive season, Robinson finished the year injured. This time it was as an Achilles tear in Week 16. Already a severe injury, the fact that it occurred just before the end of the year means there will be only around eight months between the time of the injury and the 2022 opener. New head coach Doug Pederson indicated that Robinson was “progressing well” in his rehab, but he didn’t provide any sort of timetable on a return and added that the team planned to be “real cautious” with Robinson heading into the new season.
A general recovery time for an Achilles injury is roughly nine months, which would put Robinson back in action around September, but that feels dicey based on Pederson’s comments and the presence of Etienne, who was injured in August and will be a full year removed from his Lisfranc issue by the time games start to count. If they feel comfortable with Etienne in the lead role and someone like rookie Snoop Conner or Ryquell Armstead as the No. 2 back, Robinson could open the year on the Physically Unable to Perform, which would cost him six games right off the top.
There’s also Pederson’s history of utilizing a running-back-by-committee approach. In five seasons as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Pederson never had a back reach 180 carries or 900 yards in a single season. That could lead to a timeshare between Etienne and Robinson where the latter fills the secondary position on the depth chart.
Fantasy football outlook
A year ago, you could make a case Robinson was a borderline RB1 based on merits but a viable No. 2 with the presence of Etienne prior to the then-rookie’s injury.
Between an injury of his own, the presence of Etienne, and the offensive philosophy of Pederson, Robinson should fall into the latter rounds as an RB4 type with some late-season upside.