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Allen Robinson Wasn’t Snubbed

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Allen Robinson didn’t make the Pro Bowl. For some reason, a few people are surprised by this.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears had three players make the Pro Bowl, and wide receiver Allen Robinson wasn’t one of them. A rational look at his production shows that he doesn’t deserve to be one of them, either. In fact, his exclusion from the list of NFC receivers suggests that at least some part of the process (fan voting, player voting, or coaches voting) is working okay. In order to be able to make the NFC Roster as either a starter or an alternate, Robinson should have to be one of the best receivers in the conference.

He’s not.

For simple metrics, let’s start by considering yards per catch and catch rate in the context of both the NFC and the NFL. These statistics should give us a basic idea of how efficient Robinson is as a receiver. Robinson averages only 12.3 yards per catch, and there are 53 receivers ahead of him in that category; moreover, more than 20 of those receivers play in the NFC, including all of the ones who made the Pro Bowl ahead of him. Likewise, Robinson has a catch rate of only 64%, tying him for 24th among receivers with at least 50 targets. Significantly, 15 of the receivers ahead of him play in the NFC. So, Robinson is not one of the ten most efficient NFC receivers, and he’s not even close.

What about volume production? Can the argument be made that Robinson deserves to get in as a reliable workhorse? Well, #12 just barely cracks the top ten in receiving yards among NFC receivers. TeamRankings.com reports that he is currently 12th overall among all receivers, with 1,023 yards, but only two of the receivers ahead of him play for the AFC. Likewise, Robinson’s seven receiving touchdowns have him tied for 12th in the NFL, and he only ranks ninth among NFC receivers. In fact, six different receivers in the NFC alone are ahead of Robinson in both touchdowns and receiving yards. In other words, even raw, volume-based metrics suggest that Robinson should be sitting at home on January 26th.

So, Robinson gets his production from volume because Trubisky is force-feeding him the ball. He’s been targeted an overwhelming 130 times--the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. In fact, even though only two NFC receivers have been targeted more often (Michael Thomas and DJ Moore), Robinson lags in total production (remember that he is outside of the top ten in both yards and touchdowns).

Advanced statistics reinforce the idea that Robinson is far from elite.

To start the conversation, we’ll turn to DYAR and and xYAC+/-. The first is Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement. Because it is not per-play stat (like DVOA), it rewards a player who receives volume. It should give Robinson a fighting chance, because he is only 29th in DVOA overall. So, it’s somewhat obvious that #12’s production is more an outcome of volume than special ability, but it’s worth seeing how much value his volume adds.

Not a lot.

Allen Robinson was 17th in DYAR, and NFC receivers ahead of him include Terry McLaurin, Kenny Galloday, Stephon Diggs, Julio Jones*, Mike Evans*, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Lockett, Amari Cooper, Chris Godwin*, and Michael Thomas* (the starred players are the ones who made the Pro Bowl). In short, while Allen Robinson is playing like a #1 receiver for a team, he’s playing like a #1 receiver for a team with a shaky offense and no hope of making the playoffs. Bears fans might like Robinson because there are some things he does well, but those are things any #1 receiver should be able to do well. Actually, a lot of them are things any starting wide receiver should be able to do at least as well as Robinson.

This leads us to the second statistic, and that’s xYAC +/-. This is one of the AWS/NFL Next Gen stats, and it measures how many Yards After Catch a player manages above what would be expected by a receiver in the same situation. Robinson comes in at -0.7, meaning he actually has fewer yards that would be expected in this category from a receiver in the same position. Excluding tight ends and only looking at receivers, we can say that Robinson is almost in the Top 60 of receivers in the NFL.

Two more advanced statistics are worth mentioning, here, and both also come from Next Gen. The first is separation, which measures how far a wide receiver or tight end is from the nearest defender. It should tell us how good of a job Robinson does at getting open. Robinson’s 2.2 average yards of separation place him 75th in that category (and third among Chicago receivers).

The second statistic is “percent intended air yards,” which tracks what percentage of a team’s “deep” intended yards a player is targeted for. Robinson accounts for 38% of all intended air yards for Chicago receivers, ranking him 7th in the NFL for that statistic. So, Robinson is getting deep yards. However, he is also targeted on a remarkably high percentage of deep plays, and he is only producing at a moderate rate once that volume is taken into consideration. This is not the profile of an elite player. It is the profile of an incomplete player with a few strengths, who is being asked to carry more of his team’s offense than he is capable of doing at a high level.

Robinson wasn’t snubbed. The Pro Bowl got it right.