Denard Robinson takes baby step forward in move to receiver
NFL personnel still salivate over his singular athleticism, though, and just need to see improvement out of Robinson to quell fears about how he'll translate to the NFL.
He had the stage Sunday to just that at the NFL Scouting Combine. And he appears to be on his way.
Robinson caught each pass in the gauntlet drill Sunday, looking much smoother than he did just a few weeks ago in Alabama.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, when asked about Robinson's performance, didn't even allow the question to be finished before interjecting, "I loved Denard today."
"Looked like he caught the ball pretty well," Mayock continued. "That's what you got to figure out: How natural of a catcher is he? I think what you want him to be is a slot receiver and a return guy, and if you believe in his ability to catch the football and his work ethic to go out and learn routes, that'll drive his value."
Robinson also had his chance to put to rest just how fast he is with the 40-yard dash. He posted a hand-timed 4.34 and official 4.43 -- perhaps a little slower than expected, but good enough to make him the seventh-fastest receiver at the combine.
A look at how Robinson performed in the other field events (he did not compete in the bench press or the 60-yard shuttle):
40-yard dash: 4.43 seconds (T-7th of 35 receivers)
Vertical jump: 36.5 inches (T-8th of 35)
Broad jump: 123 inches (10th of 35)
Three-cone drill: 7.09 seconds (20th of 25)
20-yard shuttle: 4.22 seconds (T-12th of 31)
There's plenty of tape that vets Robinson as one of the draft's most athletic players -- he is the NCAA's all-time quarterback rushing king, after all -- and speed is not in question.
"I think he had 723 career rushes, which tells you how tough of a kid he is," Mayock said. "He's not a typical quarterback. He's smart, he's tough, he's quick, he stepped up at the Senior Bowl and competed when most kids wouldn't, especially with the position change, when he had that nerve issue in his arm.
"He's a kid I root for, and I thought he came out (strong) today, and I was happy he ran a good 40."
But it was Robinson's improvements in the receiver drills that are the biggest takeaway from his highly anticipated appearance at the combine.
“You play quarterback your whole life, then jump into receiver and you’re going against the best,” Robinson said at a news conference Saturday. “I feel like I’ll continue to get better.”
He prepared for the combine back in Ann Arbor, where he has worked with former Carolina Panthers receivers coach Richard Williamson. He said he now plans to return to campus, where he's finishing his degree in general studies, to train for Michigan's pro day on March 14.
Robinson entered the combine as one of the draft's most intriguing prospects, and leaves it the same. He's a burner, but how will teams get him the ball?
He displayed enough progress at the combine to show, for the first time, that it could in fact be at receiver. He's not there yet -- but the combine was a baby step in the right direction.
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