The good folks at NumberFire have put together an analysis of Adrien Robinson's chances of being a fantasy-relevant tight end for the New York Giants in 2014. Even the most fantasy-agnostic of you Giants fans must realize that a productive fantasy football season by Robinson would be a good thing for the Giants. So let's take a look.
The post is cutely entitled, "Adrien Robinson: Fantasy Football Person of Interest or the Best Smelling Garbage Man?" Its foundational premise is that Robinson's only getting the chance to be a starting tight end because (their words, not mine, regarding what the Giants have at the position), "there hasn't been a less talented collection of names assembled in one place since the IMDb page for the Sharknado sequel." And it takes up the questions of, (A) whether Robinson can play and, (B) whether Eli Manning will throw him the ball enough to make him a viable option in fantasy football.
The first question is tough to answer because Robinson hasn't, really, played in the NFL and, as NumberFire points out, didn't catch the ball very much in college either. The Giants drafted Robinson in the fourth round in 2012 because they felt he had freakish physical ability and could be molded into a quality NFL player. There is no evidence yet that that can happen or has happened, and if it doesn't, then Robinson's not an option in real or fantasy football, and we'll all find that out together soon.
But for our purposes here, let's make the leap and assume that two years in the Giants' system have honed Robinson's skills to the point where the Giants can put him on the field as their tight end. There's a narrative going around (to which Robinson himself has contributed) that says the Giants' new offense will use the tight end more than the Giants' old offense did. That new coordinator Ben McAdoo likes to throw to the tight end. But McAdoo came from Green Bay, and here's what the numbers say about all of that:
Since 2006, the average NFL offense has aimed 20.16% of their pass targets at the tight end position. Over the same span, Green Bay checks in below the league average at just 18.37%. In fact, Green Bay tight ends have only seen greater than 20% of the team's total pass attempts in two of the last eight seasons.
Although Kevin Gilbride is no longer calling the plays, it's worth pointing out the Giants haven't fared much better targeting the tight end position. In the same time period, only 18.26% of Eli Manning's throws have gone to his tight ends. He hasn't targeted the position on more than 20% of his throws in a season since 2007 – the last year former first-round draft pick Jeremy Shockey was a member of the team. Take out the Shockey years, and the percentage of total pass attempts tight ends have received in New York dips all the way to 16.52%.
OK, there's a chance that McAdoo means more throws to the tight end than what the Giants have been used to, but that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be a lot. Add in the fact that, on paper, the Giants' wide receivers and even running backs form a more proven and accomplished group than their tight ends do, and it stands to reason that McAdoo won't be forcing the ball to less qualified pass-catchers just because he likes to use the tight end.
That's no way to advance your coaching career, I don't think.
End of the day, we're where we've been all along with this. The Giants like their tight end to be a reliable run-blocker and an occasional helper in the passing game. Anyone who can fit that description has a chance to be on the field -- whether it's Robinson, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis, whoever. I wouldn't touch any of them in fantasy football, and I wouldn't go into this season super-worried about whether the Giants have a tight end who can catch 70 passes. They don't want one. They don't think they need one. So whatever your expectations may be for Adrien Robinson this year, there's a pretty good chance the ones the Giants have are even lower. But they're also probably less worried about it than you are.