PRO 2020 Rookie Spotlight: James Robinson, RB Illinois State

Rookie Spotlight: James Robinson, Illinois State University
Height: 5’ 9” (official)
Weight: 219 lbs (official)
Hands: 9”
Arm: 29 5/8”
40 yard dash: 4.64 (official)
NFL Comparison: Damien Harris

– patient
– contact balance
– smooth, gliding running style
– quick acceleration
– powerful
– great vision
– sharp stop/start
– cartoon-like thighs and legs
– 88th percentile SPARQ athlete

– lack of competition
– lacks long speed
– seeks contact rather than avoids it
– mostly used as a check-down in the passing game
– a lot of mileage

2019 Team Market Share Numbers

62% rush attempts
12% receptions
43% total offensive yards
53% total offensive TDs

Scouting Notes: James Robinson moves his 219 pounds seamlessly. Though sturdy, he’s compact and glides when he runs – His feet look like they’re barely leaving the ground, like the pieces on those old electric football games that weren’t really a game at all. There’s no high-stepping going on with Robinson, but he can stop and start with the best of them, and he’s got a jump cut that will break some ankles. Speaking of jumps, Robinson has a 40” vertical and a 125” broad jump, so he’s athletic enough, though his 4.64 forty makes his lack of long speed apparent. He is startlingly quick at getting up to his top speed though, so if he can get behind his defenders, he can usually pick up a nice chunk of yardage. And that’s mostly what Robinson did at Illinois State. In his last two years, he ran for over 3,000 yards with a 5.8 YPC average – He is also the all-time rushing leader in Illinois high school history. Seeing him up close at the combine, his size and proportions appear ideal for the NFL game.

Robinson has good contact-balance and can stay on his feet in traffic. He does tend to run through contact more often than try to avoid it, and that’s something he’ll need to improve at the next level. He’s more than able to avoid unnecessary contact, as he’s evasive when he wants to be. Robinson runs with power, but he’s patient in waiting for his lanes to open. His offense line at ISU was superb and I suspect a big reason why he was so productive in college. His vision at the line of scrimmage is also top-level though, so his line doesn’t get all of the credit. Robinson does cut to the outside a lot, but his swiftness in short areas lends to him being successful in getting to the edge.

Robinson is a capable pass blocker, and that could help keep him on the field longer in the NFL. Unfortunately, he didn’t contribute much in the passing game outside of checkdowns out of the back field, so his skills as a route runner are largely unknown.

Fantasy Outlook: Robinson’s biggest knock by many is his abundance of touches over his time at ISU, and roughly 250 carries a season is a lot. Also, of course, the FCS competition is not at the level of others. Robinson managed to come out unscathed for the most part, so I wouldn’t hold his usage against him too heavily. He isn’t as explosive or flashy as many of the top backs in the draft, but Robinson is proven and he’s more athletic than he’s been given credit for. A fast forty time is neat, but it’s not necessarily the only indicator for running back success in the pros. That being said, Robinson will be fortunate to go before the late rounds of the draft because of aforementioned “slowness” and the fact that he played in the FCS. Bruce Anderson was an FCS standout last season and looked great on tape and he wasn’t drafted. As far as fantasy is concerned, Robinson is unlikely to enter the league as more than a potential backup. We do think he could succeed initially in a 2-down role if given the opportunity, though. We’ve seen Darrel Williams (who is not as good a prospect as Robinson) get glimpses of opportunities to be fantasy viable during certain durations of the season given his situation and the same can be hoped for out of Robinson. He’s more of the type who could earn extra work when given this sort of opportunity. He’s a dynasty league flyer right now, but one we are looking to stash if we have the roster room.

From the Illinois State Athletic Department:

Career: Finished illustrious career ranked No. 2 in the ISU record books in rushing yards (4,444), rushing touchdowns (44), all-purpose yards (5,218) and total touchdowns scored (46) … is third in total points scored (276) … ranks fourth in average yards per rush (5.58), rush yards per game (96.6) and all-purpose yards per game (113.4).

2019: Posted a stellar performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl™,” where he accumulated 136 total yards (80 rushing, 56 passing) and scored the longest touchdown in the history of the prestigious game with a 63-yard rushing score … consensus first-team All-American with honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the AFCA, HERO Sports, The Associated Press and STATS FCS following a stellar senior campaign for the Redbirds … STATS FCS Walter Payton Award finalist for the second time … All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First-Team selection for the third-straight season … led the MVFC in rushing yards (1,899), yards per game (126.6) and touchdowns (18) … the 1,899 rushing yards are third-most in a single season and 18 touchdowns are fourth-most … recorded eight 100-plus yard rushing efforts, including a pair of 200-plus yard efforts in the first and second round of the FCS playoffs that included a school-record breaking 297-yard effort in the first-round with at Southeast Missouri … finished the season ranked No. 2 in the FCS in rushing yards and yards per game and sixth in rushing touchdowns.

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