The Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, have become a juggernaut on offense. Despite having a slew of potential options with massive fantasy upside, the only two known commodities carrying a high price tag were tight end Travis Kelce, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Depending on when your league drafted could have significantly changed what your investment in Hill was, as off-field legal issues loomed, and missing time on the field was an uncertainty. None of us watching in Week 1 anticipated the same fate, only it coming at the hands of the extremely rare sternoclavicular injury, but now the door has been kicked open for several of the Chiefs other wide receivers. Sammy Watkins, rookie Mecole Hardman, and holdover Demarcus Robinson.
Robinson at 6-1 and weighing in at 204 pounds is now in his fourth season with Kansas City. To get a better idea of Robinson, lets rewind the clock and take a look at the roots going back to high school in Fort Valley, Georgia. Robinson was a four-star recruit and received letters of interest from colleges such as Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, and Miami, but decided on Florida as his choice designation. There has never been much doubt about the talent Robinson displays. As a freshman, Robinson was involved in the Gators offense, catching five balls for 23 yards in the seven games played. In his sophomore season, he would catch 53 passes for 810 yards and seven touchdowns, while playing in 11 of 12 games. His junior year showed some regression, but was still good for 48 catches totaling 522 yards and two scores. In the midst of all this production was Robinson’s inability to stay away from trouble. Dating back to his freshman season, he was suspended twice for failing marijuana tests. A third violation in his sophomore year forced him to miss the opening game. Robinson’s fourth suspension, in three years, came when he was in violation for meeting with a marketing official which violates NCAA and team rules. Despite his troubling suspensions, and general lack of readiness, Robinson decided to forgo his senior year and enter the 2016 NFL draft. Florida head coach Jim McElwain was surprised by the move, stating: “I really don’t get it.” Robinson at the time was not highly regarded as either a first or second round selection, making the decision to go pro, a gamble. In fact, some teams had him going in the sixth, seventh, or as an UDFA (Un-Drafted Free Agent). Robinson was invited to the NFL Combine, where he competed in all drills, notably running a 4.59 forty-yard dash, measuring 33-inch arms, 9.5 inch hands, and a 6.77 second 3-Cone drill. He met with multiple teams, and held private meetings with the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and New York Jets. Robinson’s scouting report stated that he was a vertical talent that few could match. When cornerbacks align themselves, they understand Robinson can break press coverages. He does have strong ball tracking skills, with turbo acceleration, and is a home run threat after the catch. Robinson will force a corner in retreat mode fairly quickly, and has the ability and talent to make his marks on the outside or in the slot. The NFL Draft took place on April 28, 2016 and in the fourth round at pick 126, Demarcus Robinson was drafted as the 14th Wide Receiver selected. One week later, Robinson signed a four-year $2.85 million contract, with a signing bonus of $517,172.
Training camp in his rookie season was thick with competition, with players such as De’Anthony Thomas, Sentavius Jones, Mitch Matthews, Frankie Hammond, Rod Streater, Mike Williams, Da’Ron Brown, Kashif Brown, Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, and Tyreek Hill. However, it was Robinson who came away with a job as the fourth receiver, joining Maclin, Wilson, and Conley. For most of the 2016 season, Robinson was a part of the special teams unit, but did not finish with a statistic, even though he registered for all 16 games. In 2017, Robinson was demoted as the fifth wide receiver on the depth chart behind Conley, Hill, Wilson, and Thomas. In Week Three against the Chargers, Robinson would log his first two catches as a professional, for a total of nine yards. On October 15th, he started his first NFL game, after Wilson injured his knee, and Conley was placed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles. Robinson finished the season playing all 16 games, starting eight of them, and catching 21 balls for 212 yards. He would catch his first NFL touchdown in the postseason, while tallying four passes for 57 yards in the victory against Tennessee. In 2018, Robinson moved up to the fourth wide receiver spot once again, this time behind Hill, Watkins, and Conley. He played all 16 games, making five starts. In Week Two of the regular season, he caught just one ball, but it went for a three-yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, marking his first regular season score. Robinson made only five starts, but finished with his best season, catching 22 for 288 yards and four touchdowns.
Now, in 2019, Robinson has another chance to show his worth, playing as the third/fourth wide receiver behind Hill, Watkins, and Hardman. He just burst onto the scene in Week Two against the Oakland Raiders, with a remarkable seven catch, 172 yard, two touchdown performance. The surprising output leads to the question, why was Robinson the one who led the Chiefs in downfield offense? According to Sports Info Solutions, Kansas City trusts Robinson in the Hill role. He was sixth in targets on the team in 2017, but finished second among the receivers with seven targets of 20+ yards, or close to 21 percent of his work volume. Even though Hardman had a productive game (4-61-1), the reason he is not getting the looks is because he is not displaying reliability to catch downfield passes. At the University of Georgia, on downfield attempts, Hardman had almost as many drops (four) as receptions (five) in his final season. What about Watkins, and why won’t he be the guy to fill Hill’s role? The answer comes from Watkins himself, who told Albert Breer of SI.com on September 9th that he doesn’t think his role will change much. “I think we got the same roles,” he said. “The same particular roles. Same for me. I think we got the other guys to step up. We got Mecole Hardman in the second round. We got Demarcus Robinson. We got so many guys that can step up and play that position.”
With Watkins role to remain, and Robinson the better deep threat, it appears his stats are ready to take-off. The time to acquire him on the cheap was prior to Week 2. But those claims weren’t unanimously made. So he remains on many a waiver wire, and you are likely wondering if his W2 outburst was legit, and if you should be overpaying for his services. Given everything we know about the type of player he is, how he has developed as a pro, and what this Chiefs offense has become, he is absolutely worth the investment. What we just saw may not be the norm, but certainly wasn’t an anomaly, and remains a viable potential output for at least another month until Hill is expected back. Even then, the groove he may get into would supplant his previous position in the pecking order. If you are debating your beliefs in Demarcus Robinson, claim him with confidence.