Is Allen Robinson one of the top five or 10 wideouts in the NFL?
It was a question put to me on the radio the other day, and I was hard-pressed to say no.
Over the past two seasons, the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL have been Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Deiondre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr. and Kenny Golloday.
Although Robinson showed flashes of what he could be with the Bears in 2018, he was returning from missing the 2017 season with a torn ACL and trying to team up with Mitch Trubisky, a rookie in Matt Nagy’s new Bears offense.
But if you look at his second year in the league in 2016, when he totaled 80 catches, 1,400 yards, 17.5 yards a catch and 14 touchdowns with Blake Bortles throwing to him, and last season, when he notched 98 catches, 1,147 yards, 11.7 average and seven TDs with a struggling Trubisky, there is no debate about his team No. 1 wideout status.
But how does he stack up against the best?
For starters, only Tyreek Hill (25) is a year younger than Robinson, with Golloday (26) only three months younger and Evans born three days before Robinson in August.
Only Thomas and Hopkins are as good or better route-runners, and only Jones, Hopkins and Evans are as good or better contested ball-catchers.
As for character, leadership and value in the locker room and the huddle, there are no red flags on any of these guys except OBJ and Hill – and of course none of Hill’s peers can match his speed or quickness, while OBJ is unique for his big-play ability – but so far only Jones and Thomas have risen to Robinson’s level in this category.
What also is unique about Robinson is that his breakout 2016 season was the only one in which he’s had a Robin to balance out his Batman, and only Thomas and Adams also have been asked to clear that hurdle.
Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey believes Robinson is one of the top pros he’s ever been around as a coach or teammate.
“And his voice is not just going to be huge in regards to the social justice issue that’s going on today," Furrey said. "His voice started three months ago, or four months ago when we started these meetings, when he got in these rooms and was helping guys and getting on guys for not – maybe they weren’t sitting right in meetings; maybe they were walking around too much on the video.
Furrey said Robinson has become a leader because teammates respect him for the way he handles himself on a daily basis.
“He’s learning that people listen to him because of who he is as a person," Furrey said. "I think that’s what’s the most impressive thing.”
Equally impressive about Robinson is he will never throw a teammate under the bus, and he is clear about it making no difference to him who his QB is.
“For me, personally, as a player, for those guys to just go out there and compete is enough for me," Robinson said. "At the end of the day, I’m trying to do the same thing.
“I’m trying to go out there and compete and continue to take my game to the next level and evolve my game.”
Obviously this is all quite subjective, but for me the only three receivers I would rate ahead of Robinson are Jones, Thomas and Hopkins.
As great as they can be, I don’t really want Hill or OBJ in my locker room.
Robinson is hard to split from Allen, Adams, Evans and Golloday, but what elevates him at least slightly is his special character and leadership.
Top five is going to be a matter of taste, but how can you doubt he is in the top eight in the league right now?
Which leads us to the next burning question: As Robinson enters the final year of his Bears contract, why haven’t the Bears locked him in longer term before he gets another shot at free agency and a much pricier deal?