Fifth Round: 135th Pick
Denard Robinson was the toast of the college football world in 2010, winning the Big Ten Player of the Year award. 2011 was good, but not great, and injuries in 2012 moved him from the quarterback position to a "weapon" role like the one he will be asked to play in the NFL. Will Robinson rediscover success in the NFL, or will be another one of the many star college quarterbacks who couldn't hack it when they weren't under center in the pros?
Robinson is a natural in the open field. His burst, quickness, and instincts make him a handful for opposing defenses. Robinson is elusive, but he can also break tackles. He is a tough, competitive player who sacrifices his body for his team. He has a great arm and his passing ability can be leveraged in any number of ways on gadget calls. He also has extensive read-option quarterback experience.
A terrible Senior Bowl week underscored just how much work Robinson has to do to play wide receiver in the NFL. He'll have to be built from the ground up as a route runner, his hands are inconsistent, and his ball skills are lacking. Robinson also has ball security issues and doesn't naturally run with a low enough pad level to be seriously considered as a running back that gets more than a few touches a game. While he is fast, Robinson doesn't have true breakaway speed or a fifth gear.
Robinson has a somewhat sturdy build at 5'10" 199 pounds, and his 4.43 40 at the Combine confirmed his above average speed. He has 32 5/8" arms, very long for a 5'10" player and well-suited for a wide receiver. Robinson's 36.5" vertical and his 4.22 short shuttle also fit in with the NFL wide receiver prospect group.
A true gamer, Robinson is a warrior and he will absorb a lot of punishment in the name of winning. The downside of that is that he is hurt a lot of the time and has a lot of mileage on his body for a quarterback. He suffered a nerve injury that caused numbness in his right hand which could have been partially responsible for his poor week in Mobile. He has been regaining strength in the hand and should get all function back long-term.
Robinson was a read-option quarterback for most of his time at Michigan, but they scaled back his passing at the end of the season after he injured his arm.
The quickness to get a clean release against press coverage is present in Robinson's game. He is also a combative player who will fight through a good jam to get into his route on time. He accelerates well and will be able to quickly get into his route and put pressure on the corner.
Robinson is extremely raw here. He rounds his routes and doesn't understand yet how to sink his hip and explode out of his breaks. He may never become a good enough route runner to play outside regularly in the NFL, but he should be able to become an effective route runner in the slot.
Perhaps we should give him a pass because of his arm/hand injury, but Robinson was brutal in Mobile. He also had a fumbling problem in 2011 and it's possible that his hands won't be consistent enough to be trusted as a receiver. His tendency to body catch in Mobile was very troubling.
This was another area that showed just how big a project Robinson is as a receiver at the pro level. He faded away from the ball and let way too many balls get to his body. Robinson is going to have to channel the aggression he has as a runner into the passing game if he is going to make it as a receiver in the NFL.
Run After Catch
Robinson's main value in the NFL will be after the catch. He's a tough, combative runner, who is also able to make moves at speed that leave the tackler grasping for air. Robinson is patient and can explode through small cracks in the line. He has excellent field vision for the cutback, and he can break tackles with his lower body strength. The emphasis of Robinson's use in the pros will be to get him the ball in space.
Robinson has little experience as a blocker, but his rugged nature should make him at least adequate as a blocking wide receiver. If he is to play a third-down running back role, Robinson will need to learn to pass protect, which could be a problem because of his size.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
The long path for Robinson to develop as a receiver may relegate him to being a gadget player and potentially a return man if he shows he can reliably field kicks and punts. Eventually, his ideal role would be a slot receiver/passing-down running back who can move around the formation and get the ball quickly in space to attack a defense, with occasional plays that change things up by asking him to throw downfield.