Senior Bowl 2013: Is Denard Robinson the Next Randall Cobb?
One question I've been asked a lot since I arrived in Mobile is whether Denard Robinson has a chance of being the next Randall Cobb—that dangerously athletic sort of receiver who can turn a short pass into a huge gain.
On the surface I can see a lot of potential comparisons. The former Michigan quarterback is one of the most athletic players to come out of college in years.
Robinson's passing was never terribly accurate, and far from consistent. With his lack of height, it shouldn't have been a shock to anyone he would switch positions.
Especially considering he has track-level speed, which was one of his better and more frequently used weapons in college even as a quarterback. His ability to run the ball was a huge aspect of the Michigan offense for most of his career.
Too slight in build to take the pounding required of an NFL running back, the best way to utilize Robinson's skills would be to get him the ball on quick slants and short passes. Get him the ball in space and let him burn the secondary that way.
(By slight in build, I mean the way his weight hangs in his frame and the way his body is built—not that he's too short or thin, though adding weight in any case might be helpful for his injury issues.)
Unfortunately. there are a ton of reasons why Robinson is unlikely to become the next Randall Cobb.
First of all, Robinson is way behind in terms of learning the position. A guy like Cobb has been playing wide receiver for years—he has an intimate knowledge of how to run a route, how to gain separation and, at the most basic level, how to catch a ball while running across the middle with a linebacker about to hammer you into the ground.
All these things are items Robinson struggled with in Mobile. Robinson ran terrible routes, rounding off his cuts and generally running them really sloppily.
So much so that it's clear he has a long way to go before he's useful as a pass-catcher because a quarterback has no idea whether he'll be where they need him to be.
Even lining up was a struggle—at least once a coach had to physically move him to the right spot when he was setting up to go out on a route.
Catching the ball was also an adventure. Robinson had a hard time hauling passes in, often fighting the ball and more than once dropping it or catching it in a really ugly manner.
Now, Robinson is still battling nerve damage in his elbow and that might have been something making it harder to catch the ball.
That brings up another issue though—Robinson is banged up way too often. I don't like labeling a player as "injury prone" just because he gets dinged up, but Robinson has had injury issues throughout his career at Michigan.
One of the hallmarks of Cobb's game has been his innate toughness. He can shake a hit off, as well as fight for hard yards, play through pain and injury.
Can Robinson? I'm not sold on that. Further, how often will he get hurt period?
It's going to be hard to keep him on the field if he continues to pick up little dings every week.
Now, Robinson did flash some ability during the week. His speed was evident and he made one or two very nice catches.
So you can see the upside and why a team would be attracted to him.
He's a project though, so anyone who considers grabbing him in April had best be ready to roll their sleeves up and get to work.
Denard Robinson is not Randall Cobb, and likely will never be.
If a team has expectations too high though, they won't ever get the chance to find out for sure.
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