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The Tape Tells All - Demarcus Robinson's Week 2 Performance


Welcome to another edition of "The Tape Tells All," where I break down some film of an NFL's player performance and try to draw some fantasy football conclusions from that film.

This week, I'm looking at Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, who had a huge game in Week 2 against the Raiders. Robinson finished with six catches for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns as he took over the starting role of the injured Tyreek Hill. Was his performance a fluke? Was it a sign of future success? Should you be rostering him?

Let's see what the tape -- and, of course, the numbers -- can tell us.

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Background Information

To start, Demarcus Robinson is only playing the role he was playing on Sunday because of Tyreek Hill's collarbone injury, which is expected to keep him out four-to-six weeks. That should be in the back of your mind throughout this entire article, because we have to keep our expectations for Robinson in check. When I talk about if he can keep playing at the level we saw on Sunday, I'm very much talking exclusively about in the short term while Hill is sidelined.

Anyway, now that we covered that:

Robinson is in his fourth NFL season. His best year came last year, when he caught 22 passes for 288 yards and four scores. Of players with between 10 and 50 catches last year, Robinson ranked ninth in defense adjusted yards above replacement, ahead of players like Geronimo Allison and Marquise Goodwin. He didn't qualify for the main leaderboard in that stat since he didn't have enough receptions, but if he had qualified he would have been ahead of guys like Christian Kirk, Allen Robinson, and Stefon Diggs. Robinson was efficient on the plays he did make last year, which can sometimes be used as evidence that a guy can be productive when asked to step into a larger role.

Here's how that larger role looked on Sunday: Robinson had the numbers I mentioned above (six catches, 172 yards, two touchdowns) while being on the field for 91 percent of Kansas City's offensive snaps. There were questions about who out of Robinson and Mecole Hardman would step into this role, and while Hardman's snap rate was high too (74 percent), it was Robinson who took on the most responsibility.

Robinson led all of the NFL in average intended air yards in Week 2 with 24.4. Does this mean his value is solely tied up in being a deep threat? Or what about that number representing just 27.65 percent of Patrick Mahomes total air yards -- will Robinson's value go down in weeks where Mahomes faces stiffer defensive pressure? Can any defense even slow down Mahomes???

It's a lot to take in. Let's turn to the film and see what kind of evidence it can provide to answer our questions.

 

The Game Tape

Let's look at all six of Robinson's Week 2 targets.

Here's the first one:

Pretty, uhh, simple route here. Robinson is in the slot to the left and runs the curl route for the first down. Mahomes uses his pinpoint accuracy to zip the ball right to Robinson for the first.

Maybe the biggest takeaway from this play is that Robinson can make plays that aren't just "run really far down the field." If you only watched the scoring plays from Sunday's game, you might think that Robinson is only a deep threat, but on this play he's covered well by the defense and makes this short grab.

Next up was his long touchdown to open the second quarter:

The pre-snap motion was incredibly important here. Robinson's initial defender at the line of scrimmage sees the back sweeping around behind Mahomes and looks like he calls out looking for some kind of coverage swap. He ends up staying down near the LOS, shifting his coverage to the back. From there, this becomes so easy for Robinson. No one picks him up. He blows past a linebacker who was staying in his zone in the middle of the field. He keeps going, and by the time the ball is released Oakland has one defender trying to cover two Chiefs receivers down the field. Not happening. Touchdown. Andy Reid's use of that pre-snap motion unlocks everything on this one, with Robinson's speed adding the icing on the cake.

Here is Robinson's seven-yard catch in the the second quarter. Robinson lines up on the outside for this play, runs a seven-yard out route, and gets tackled right after he makes the catch. Defense gives him a pretty good cushion here, because they were likely keeping that earlier touchdown in mind and trying to protect against him doing that again.

So, these next few plays are going to look a lot alike. On this one, Robinson uses his feet to shake past a defender near the line, and then it's just a speed race as he separates from the defenders and gets open for the catch from Mahomes. Sometimes it's really just that simple.

(Of course, no Andy Reid play is really simple. Entire offense is scrunched up to start this play until Sammy Watkins goes in motion, and I think that disguises things pretty well here and helps Robinson get the space he needs.)

Here's the second Robinson touchdown. Of note on this play is that this one isn't an easy catch that's enabled by him just outrunning the coverage. Instead, the Raiders keep on him all the way down the field, and Robinson makes the contested catch in the end for the score. Mahomes could have put this ball in a better spot to take advantage of Robinson's speed, but it's just a tad underthrown, which causes him to have to turn around and get it.

Also of note: Robinson lines up on the outside here. Rotowire's tracking data has him lining up outside and in the slot at a pretty similar rate this year. Versatility! Yeah!

Okay, last one. Clearly, there's something working against Oakland with Robinson and the left side of the field. Mahomes finds him in virtually the same spot multiple times this game. Yeah, we can blame the Raiders Defense in part for that, but also...sometimes a quarterback and receiver just find a groove and like a spot on the field and they click.

 

Fantasy Impact

So, what does all this mean for Robinson?

He seems to be a talented receiver and a capable deep threat who is also capable of making plays in the short passing game at times, though his main value is in his ability to get behind the defense.

With Hill out, I view Robinson as a high-upside WR3. Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman and Travis Kelce all threaten to take away deep ball opportunities for him, which lowers his value. You can't trust that Robinson is going to go out and catch five passes for 100 yards or something, because there are so many other weapons on this team.

You should pick up and play Robinson in a 12-team league where you need the upside, because the upside is obviously here. You should feel better about Robinson than about Mecole Hardman, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should rush out and prioritize him over someone like Nelson Agholor, whose role is also currently increased by injuries and who has a much safer floor. Robinson's floor is still basically zero.

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