It’s still fairly early in fantasy draft season, and as such the average draft position data at My Fantasy League is limited. Only 41 linebackers are listed as being regularly selected in IDP drafts. You won’t find the name of Keenan Robinson of the New York Giants among them. In the most recent Getting Defensive IDP-Only mock draft at the site (drafts that I participate in, because I’m sick and need help), Robinson was the 55th linebacker selected…by me — because at that price the fifth-year veteran is poised to be one of the biggest steals of 2016 at the position.
It isn’t that hard to see why Robinson is falling in drafts. As has been the case in literally every season Robinson has been in the NFL (including a lost 2013 season), he failed to make it through all 16 games. After tallying 109 stops two years ago and finishing inside fantasy LB3 territory in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring, Robinson’s statistical production was way down last year. He graded out as the sixth-worst inside linebacker in the NFL per Pro Football Focus.
Now, after the Redskins made no real effort to bring Robinson back, he finds himself playing for their NFC East rivals in the Big Apple. And Robinson told Paul Schwartz of The New York Post that he’s hungry for a measure of redemption with the Giants.
“I pride myself on being a well-rounded athlete and a football player,’’ Robinson said. “I’ve always tried to make sure every area of the game I can contribute and help the team, so I make sure in the offseason that I focus on every individual area as far as coverage, as far as run stopping, as far as being able to run and be athletic, so I think I can help the team in that aspect.’’
As James Parks of 247 Sports reported, Robinson indicated he saw time both on the weak side and calling the plays from the MIKE position in OTAs. “They’ve got me playing multiple positions right now,” Robinson said. “I’ve been playing Will, weak side linebacker, and middle, so I’m learning two new positions. But for me, it’s natural because for Washington the last four years I played Mike in the 3-4, and I played the Will in the nickel defense. So I’ve done both, and I’m very flexible in that way.”
“Basically, from my background and my being in the league four years as a Mike, I kind of expect to be able to do that and do it well and take control or take command of the huddle,” Robinson said. “And so, even though I haven’t done that up until today, it comes very natural for me.”
For his part, Schwartz is a bit skeptical. “In many ways,” Schwartz wrote, “Robinson is a prototype Giants linebacker of the past decade, which is not necessarily a good thing. For years, the Giants have selected linebackers in the middle rounds of the draft, hoping to find players they can develop into starters, but after several nondescript seasons, the contracts expire and there is little or no interest in re-signing these come-and-go linebackers.”
To be fair, his skepticism is hardly unfounded. Robinson had trouble staying on the field last year and was ineffective when he did. The Giants also have a pair of veterans in Kelvin Sheppard and Jasper Brinkley who are vying with Robinson for playing time with presumptive starters J.T. Thomas and Devon Kennard.
Still, Sheppard is the definition of a journeyman. As bad as Robinson may be, a pretty strong argument can be made that Brinkley is worse — especially in coverage. And Thomas’ grip on a starting job is hardly ironclad.
If Robinson can stay healthy he has a real chance at not only winning the starting middle linebacker job, but also playing in subpackages. And as Ryan Sitzmann of The IDP Guru pointed out, if that’s the case there’s IDP hay to be made.
“(Robinson’s) fantasy value should rise in New York,” Sitzmann said, “as he has a good shot to be a three-down middle linebacker in a target-rich environment. Additionally, his tackle numbers will be buoyed by a home stat crew that annually ranks as one of the most generous in the league. Even if he doesn’t play up to his talent, he should serve as a solid, high floor LB2 for owners based on opportunity alone.
LB2 upside may be pushing the bounds of optimism, but it’s hard to argue with Robinson’s nearly non-existent asking price. Monitor the training camp battle in New York, and be ready to pounce on Robinson as a late-round linebacker who could vastly out-perform his draft slot in 2016.