Is Robby Anderson A Risk Worth Taking? - Footballguys

Dave Larkin asks whether Robby Anderson can overcome a potential suspension and a fluid quarterback situation to be a top tier wide receiver option in 2018. 

Three reasons why you should roll the dice on Robby Anderson


OFF-FIELD, ON-FIELD DICHOTOMY

There is no denying Robby Anderson’s ability to change a game. The speedster made a habit of bailing the 5-11 Jets out of some tough spots in 2017, vaulting himself into the conversation as one of the finest deep threats in the league. Anderson finished 12th in Air Yards (1,487), 21st in receiving yards (941) and impressed in Pro Football Focus’ key metric, Yards Per Route Run, bumping elbows with top table receivers like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr Jr.

And yet there is a tragic flaw that is hounding Anderson this offseason, namely two off-field incidents that have landed him in hot water with the authorities – and perhaps hurt his standing with the league office and, specifically, its disciplinary arm. In one incident, Anderson clashed with a police officer, prompting an arrest warrant to be issued. He recently pled no contest to a reckless driving charge. It appears the 25-year-old has taken stock of his mistakes and learned from them, but the looming threat of a suspension puts a dampener on his 2018 prospects.

Entering his third season, Anderson’s promise and peril are at loggerheads, two sides of the same coin. The only question fantasy owners are concerned with is which side it is going to land on.

HOME IS WHERE THE FANTASY POINTS ARE

If we disregard Anderson’s 2016 rookie season and focus on his breakout of 2017, one strange tidbit stands out among the data – the home/road split and how that affected his production.

Away from Metlife Stadium, Anderson recorded just 4.7 fantasy points per game, while at home he was able to total 12.4 fantasy points per game, a stunning 7.7-point differential that, in an average week, could mean the difference between a win and a loss.

2017 SPLITS

Category
Games
Rush
RuYards
Yds/Ru
RuTDs
Targets
Rec
ReYards
Yds/Re
ReTDs
FanPts
Fpts/Game
Road
8
1
1
1.0
0
50
24
255
10.6
2
37.6
4.7
Home
8
2
8
4.0
0
64
39
686
17.6
5
99.4
12.4
Games 1-8
8
1
1
1.0
0
52
27
435
16.1
3
61.6
7.7
Games 9-16
8
2
8
4.0
0
62
36
506
14.1
4
75.4
9.4
In losses
11
2
2
1.0
0
80
43
616
14.3
5
91.8
8.3
In wins
5
1
7
7.0
0
34
20
325
16.2
2
45.2
9.0

This split is even more curious when you consider that Anderson’s point totals did not waver as wildly in losses versus wins. The Jets (5-11 in 2017) certainly endured their fair share of heartbreak last season, but Anderson’s 8.3ppg in losses against his 9.0ppg in wins suggests his value and the types of plays he can make are independent of game situation.

Whether anything constructive can be gleaned from this statistical oddity with the home/road split is impossible to say. However, what is obvious is that Anderson needs to develop a counterpunch to his vertical game, as Michael Nania points out in this detailed piece. Nania correctly points out that Anderson’s deep game is elite, but that the receiver’s lack of success on posts and digs takes away an important element of his game that, if improved, could take his game to another level.

THE DARNOLD CONNECTION

Anderson’s average depth of target took a nosedive towards the end of 2017, which so happened to coincide with Josh McCown’s injury – and Bryce Petty’s insertion into the line-up. Compared to the highs of a 22.8-yard average depth of target, Anderson was left to feed on the scraps of 7.5-yard average depth of target with Petty at the helm.

Speaking of feeding off scraps, that could accurately describe the paucity of quality quarterback play in New York for the past several seasons as the Patriots have waltzed to division title after division title. The Jets brass took an aggressive step this offseason to reset the game board, drafting hotshot quarterback Sam Darnold to be the eventual successor to Josh McCown (and perhaps Teddy Bridgewater).

Recent history teaches us one thing: try as they might to keep rookie quarterbacks on ice for their debut seasons, coaches simply can’t hold off pushing that button. Fortunately for Anderson, a switch from his buddy Josh McCown to Darnold might not be the death knell some fear.

Scouts have said the following of Darnold:

  • “With his feel and timing, Darnold hits receivers on the run, leading them to picking up yards after the catch.”
  • “Isolates deep ball opportunities pre-snap”

A loose translation: Anderson could continue to take advantage of single coverage opportunities and Go routes will remain a fixture of the offense.

The Jets’ offensive profile under Todd Bowles (15th, 23rd, and 25th in passing attempts from 2015-17) does not make for the most appealing reading, but that low volume of attempts didn’t hurt Anderson in 2017. In fact, the Jets had 927 unaccounted for Air Yards in 2017, so there are plenty more opportunities on the table.

Darnold or McCown? It may not matter to Anderson, who has shown his special ability to transcend situation with plays like this:

2018 Projections

Projector
Games
Rushes
RuYards
RuTDs
Recs
ReYards
ReTDs
FumLost
15.3
2.0
10
0
58.0
818
5.9
0.6
16.0
3.0
20
0
62.0
910
6.0
0.0
16.0
0.0
0
0
64.0
900
5.0
0.0
16.0
3.0
15
0
54.4
791
5.1
0.6

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robby Anderson has demonstrated his ability to produce special plays in his two seasons on an offense that lacked a star at quarterback and that ranked among the dregs of the league as far as passing attempts. With Josh McCown returning (who Anderson thrived with last year), the receiver can vastly outperform his ADP, which currently places him in the 9th/10th round. The only fly in the ointment for Anderson is potential league discipline, which could see him miss games, but a savvy drafter will be able to bake in that risk and acquire his services for a song in the final rounds. Anderson is the only game in town when it comes to the Jets passing attack, as Footballguys staffer Ari Ingel points out:


OTHER PERSPECTIVES

Footballguys staff member Stephen Holloway believes the Jets' offensive woes could hurt Anderson:

Robby Anderson had his best season a year ago for the struggling Jets’ offense. Looking closer, he had two fewer catches than Jermaine Kearse and he had 12 more targets. Even though his felony charge of resisting arrest was recently dismissed, he carries that baggage heading into the 2018 season. The Jets drafted their potential long-term quarterback in Sam Darnold, but the team's offensive outlook entering this year is not ideal. Kearse remains with the team and Quincy Enunwa, the team’s leading receiver in 2016, returns. None of these three stand out from the others and therefore none should be highly regarded this season.”

Jason Wood believes Anderson could end up as a WR1:

“Anderson is a knucklehead, and that's putting it lightly. His potential for off-the-field distractions isn't a reason for concern. On the other hand, you're already paying for that risk and then some at current prices. Anderson was the lone bright spot in an otherwise moribund Jets passing attack. His ability to make plays downfield playing with different quarterbacks is a massive plus. There's no reason to think Anderson won't reprise last year's role at a minimum; which makes him a fringe WR1.”

CBS Sports' staff believe Anderson's value hinges on his off-field issues:

Robby Anderson has proven to be a talented receiver on the field, but he's had trouble staying out of trouble off the field. He's had two run-ins with the law in as many offseasons, and he could be facing a suspension from the NFL this year. If he's scheduled to play 16 games, Anderson has the potential to be a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues. Any missed time, however, will bump him down to a No. 3 option.”

THOUGHTS FROM THE FOOTBALLGUYS MESSAGE BOARD

Shark Pool veteran rickyg said:

“From a dynasty perspective, he’s a strong buy. Pairing him up with Darnold for years to come could be golden. For this year he’s also a strong buy. McCown can still sling it. I don’t know if Anderson will get suspended or not though. Just watch his tape from last year; he’s a very good player.”

TheDirtyWord believes the quarterback situation is the key:

“The issue Anderson is simply the unpredictability of the quarterback situation. He turned into a great asset with McCown, but no one thought much of him heading into last year (CBS Sports didn’t even have a sticker for him with their draft board) so whatever you got with him was gravy. While I like him as a talent, Darnold will be in sooner than later and I don’t think Anderson’s skill set is a good match for a young QB to take consistent advantage of.”