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Posted on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Michigan's Denard Robinson projected by analyst as high NFL pick, but not at quarterback

By Kyle Meinke


Denard Robinson is a quarterback at Michigan, but would he move to wide receiver or running back in the NFL?

Melanie Maxwell |

Denard Robinson has done just about everything besides catch a pass in his two-year run as the Michigan football team's starting quarterback.

But that's exactly what one prominent NFL Draft expert projects him to do at the next level.

“I think you look at him as a projection,” ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “You can make an argument that, going into next year, he’s either the No. 2 or No. 1 most highly-rated wide receiver option, and he hasn’t even played the position. That’s 'cause a lot of the receivers this year that were projected from the junior class were coming out.

"It’s left you with a minimal number of players that are going to be projecting super high, and Denard would be one of those guys projecting as a wide receiver/slot guy.”

Although Robinson sometimes lined up in the backfield or at wideout this past season, with backup Devin Gardner at quarterback, he never was targeted in the passing game.

Robinson led the Big Ten in total offense the past two years as a quarterback, but Kiper said he definitely "is not a quarterback" at the next level.

Robinson recently requested to have his pro stock evaluated by the NFL Draft advisory board. He announced last week he intended to return to Michigan for his senior season.

Former teammate Kevin Koger told that Robinson stayed in school in part because he still does not want to change positions at the next level, even though he's projected higher at other positions. In fact, rates Robinson as the No. 4 tailback for next year’s draft.

Robinson rushed for 1,176 yards this past season, and he rushed for an NCAA quarterback record 1,702 in 2010.

His passing remains a work in progress, though. He has a strong arm and a flair for the dramatics — receiver Junior Hemingway averaged 20.6 yards per catch, third most in the country — but his accuracy and decision making remain suspect.

He completed 55 percent of his passes this past season and threw 15 interceptions, sixth most in the country. He did not complete 10 passes six times.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges, who transitioned Robinson into a spread-West Coast hybrid system, has said another year under his tutelage should help smooth out those issues. Borges has a history of getting big second years from his quarterbacks, including UCLA's Cade McNown and San Diego State's Ryan Lindley.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

With the specific talent in the NFL in every position, it will be hard for Denard to be a QB. Denard would be a stud in Punt and Kick returning. Other than that he could be a "running" receiver or a fast type outside no contact small RB.

Frustrated in A2

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

I am not a um football fan but I am a fan of college football. I think Robinson is a good college quarterback but he will not make it in the NFL as a quarterback. Because he is an outstanding athlete there is still hope for him in the league though.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

I'd love to think that Robinson could hone his passing skills sufficiently in another year to become a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect, but given where he is right now, I just don't see it. Regardless, he's an incredible athlete blessed with blinding speed and agility, and that will put him on an NFL roster, one way or another, in 2013. Still ... this is Denard Robinson we're talking about. If there's even the slightest chance that he can transform himself into a pro-quality quarterback, you won't find me betting against him.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

As additional threat in the backfield DR would be a top choice as a half-back. Some ability to throw. & the quickness to run, recieve would make him a relief valve for a top rated QB. Defending against that would be very difficult with a decent front line. As a QB maybe this coming season will prove the case; but his down field vision doesn't seem wide enough and he is too hyper for pro QB.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Regardless of his mixed bag of physical abilities, the guy brings some intangibles to the table. As far as I can tell, he has a great attitude, great work ethic, and is a great team player. A great representation of a Michigan Man, too! I don't know what position he'll play in the NFL, but he'll be an asset to whatever team he is on. Basically, he'll make it work somehow.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:44 a.m.

I love having Denard on my side. He is such an upbeat person, such a great representative of the university and a perfect example of a "student-athlete". Seeing him at the basketball games with the other students is unfortunately unusual, and I hope he has a ball as a senior and second semester junior. He better enjoy his senior year because if he doesn't improve his footwork, his elusiveness against solid defenses, and his passing accuracy, I fear that he will have no place in the pro game. His attitude is probably the biggest thing working for him, possibly with his speed. As far as him playing other positions: Running back--I don't see that because he has the ability to make people miss only when they respect his throwing. When the defenses crowded him daring him to throw, he struggled on both sides (and pro defenses of all types will be more sound than most colleges) WR--He can't prove he can catch, and 6'0" receivers are not as popular as the taller guys QB--accuracy, height work against him DB--he has never played defense. Track--maybe he can develop world class speed and sprint I hope I'm way wrong and even more, I hope he continues to have the smile and great attitude. Sometimes, having an awesome pro career is really not the point. Enjoy college and lead us to the B10 championship!! That'll get fame and recognition and eternal love.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 3:34 a.m.

He should switch to safety this season, then has played defense


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:40 a.m.

If Pat White can get a shot at playing QB in the NFL, I don't see any reason why Denard can't. But we all know how the Pat White story turned out. Who knows what the future holds for Denard? I don't. Nobody does. But, if I had to make a prediction, I'd say Denard won't last long in the a quarterback. He's a tremendous athlete, though. And that athletic ability at least gives him an opportunity to do some great things, even at a professional level. I'd like to see what he can do on kickoff/punt returns. If he wants to be a STAR in the NFL, returning kicks seems like it would give him the best opportunity for that. I mean, the guy is fast. And elusive. I think he could do some damage. Wide receiver is a big question mark. Sure, he's got speed. But as others have pointed out, there's a lot more to the position than just being able to run fast. Then again, he might translate to a great wide receiver. I'd be interested to see. Running back? Not in most systems. If he were playing for a team with a new, quirky offense (the Wildcat, the Bronco's spread-option), then it might work. But teams would figure it out and I don't think he'd be able to have an extended career at that position. All that being said, maybe he CAN play quarterback in the NFL. He'll need to make some major strides in 2012, but I don't think it's impossible. He's not gonna be Tom Brady. Or even Michael Vick. But you don't need to be as good as those guys to play QB in the NFL. Once last thing. About his height. He's 6'0". Same height as Drew Brees. Drew Brees seems to be doing just fine. Wes Welker is 5'9". Ray Rice is 5'8". Bob Sanders is 5'8". DeSean Jackson is 5'10". Steve Smith (Carolina) is 5'9". Maurice Jones-Drew is 5'7". And how about Darren Sproles? He's 5'6". Denard is going to face many obstacles on his journey to become an NFL player, but being 'too short' isn't going to be one of them. Good luck, Denard!


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2 p.m.

every guy you just named is built like a brick, he will have to add some muscle


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

Never say never with Denard. RB I think is more of a stretch than any projected position I've seen for him thus far. Some NFL team will take a chance on him at QB, the league isn't exactly loaded at the position. Ultimately, he may decide to play a different position, or someone in the league may decide for him, if he wants to play pro football. I've had my favorite players at UM, and DRob has become one. I'm glad he' s coming back for his senior year, he will leave quite a legacy. Whatever he decides to do, he's leaving with a degree from the University of Michigan. He'll be gainfully employed after football. Go Blue!!!


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:05 a.m.

I did not vote in this poll because I don't care what Denard does in the NFL. That bridge won't be crossed for another 12 months. In the mean time, all Denard has to do is play better on road next season. His passing completion rate at the Big House was very good. He needs to improve his decision making but I think with more hard work in the off season then spring ball and then fall camp, he should improve. He's a hard worker and I am confident he will elevate his game. Once again, if Denard performs better on the road, he'll be in the Heisman race all season.


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

No way is Denard going to be physical enough to be a RB in the NFL. I'm no analyst, but the better WR's in the league are taller than he is. Maybe......I see him as a return guy, for a year maybe two of minimum wage. most likely he gets cut in the pre season and spends 5 years on various scout teams until he just Fizzles away into his honorable position as a former Michigan great. Maybe he can pick up Golf and hit the links with Heart.......


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

Yeah ... agree with that. More than a few ex-Michigan football players have gone to considerable success as sales people in various professions. I've known a few myself. With his winning smile, genuine disposition, and ties to Michigan he'll have doors opened for him that would remained closed to others. He'll be find even outside football. He's a fine young man with good work ethics and a great outlook on things. That goes a LONG way in the world of business.


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

Why won't Jordan Payton, Dorial Green-Beckham, Stefon Diggs, or Nelson Agholor give us more respect as a recruiting option? And that Southern Carpet bagger (Urban Meyer) keeps stealing recruits from other schools like he's some kind of hero (I can't stand him - he's worse than Tressel). NCAA was wrong to let Meyer recruit while other Universities were getting ready for Bowl games (that's cheating). We need a superstar WR, but putting Denard over there for one season makes little sense. It's OK as an experiment for a couple of plays, but it makes no sense to switch Robinson full time.


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

If his passing improves considerably, someone will want him as a QB prospect next year. Good incentive for him to work diligently on his passing game. This is a plus plus for next year. Denard is the key to next years season any way you look at it. I do think in games against wek opponents, they should get Gardner in as soon as Michigan is up by a couple touchdowns. Then put Denard in as a WR . We are short in that area with the 'goodbye" to Stonum. It would be nice to see if Denard can run a clean route. With those big hands and his athleticism- I'm sure he can catcha the ball.

Terrin Bell

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 7:11 a.m.

I agree it comes down to passing. He is incredibly mobile; has a strong arm; but his passing is inconsistent. Part of this is him just making poor decisions. If Denard can improve his passing, I can see him playing in the NFL. If not, I agree with the person who speculated Denard would be recruited as a corner back.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : midnight

If Robinson can improve his (a) sight line vision downfield and (b) his touch on passes *over* defenders, then he'll be much better in 2012. But I still don't seem him as a QB in the NFL. Nope. Just don't.


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

DR will play QB at Michigan next season and will be drafted as a QB in the NFL.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

@DVB -- a QB at 6'0" can play QB in the NFL ... it just presents a greater challenge. One of the things I Robinson gets better at is moving in the pocket to achieve better sight lines downfield to his receivers. I've never met Robinson, but word is that 6'0" listing is ... generous. Robinson at a true 6'3" ... 220 lbs ... with the same speed? First round QB pick.

David Vande Bunte

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

My reply was operating on an assumption that I didn't believe in...I was merely playing devil's advocate for KeepingItReal, IF DRob stays a QB. I have mentioned a few times before that I don't believe he will stay a QB, that I think getting Devin Gardner into the games was perhaps foreshadowing, that he will end up switching positions, and they needed to give Gardner a little experience...I do not believe that Denard Robinson will ever play a down in the NFL as a QB. I was only providing backup to KeepingitReal IF DRob stays a QB at Michigan, and IF he refuses to enter the NFL draft at any position other than QB. Both of which are currently unknown. However, if you are going to bring up his height, let me remind you that he is actually 6'0", the same height as Drew Brees and Michael Vick, and a full 2 inches taller than Doug Flutie...Obviously I am not saying that Denard Robinson can be as effective as Brees, just pointing out that height, or lack thereof, can be overcome.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

Speaking of Tebow, one of the worst NFL defenses did exactly what MSU (Mississippi State) did to Michigan, they stacked the box and made the running QB become a passer. I was watching that game and was having flashbacks of the 2011 Gator Bowl.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

@ DonAZ Amen brother +1


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

#DVB -- I love ya, man ... but I gotta disagree. Tebow's asset is his physical size. He's a freakin' bulldozer on run options. Robinson has no such advantage. His advantage is speed. His speed has been useful against lesser defenses, but less useful against good defenses ... and NFL defenses make even the best college defenses look like statues glued to the ground. Robinson's speed will be minimized to a very large extent. He can't play QB because he's *way* too short -- he'll never see over the NFL defensive linemen, or get any quick passes by them. He's proven himself suspect in that area in college -- he's had more than a few passes batted down by DT's and DE's.

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Assuming Denard Robinson doesn't change his mind about position (I still think he will eventually switch to something else), I am going to agree with KeepingItReal about being drafted as a QB, and provided something specific happens in the NFL next season, it could be a fairly high pick. The success of Tim Tebow in Denver next season will go a long way in determining Denard Robinson's draft position. If Tebow does well, it will make it easier for an NFL team to take a chance on Denard Robinson as a running QB, if Tebow struggles even after a full offseason to prepare, that will have a huge negative effect on Denard's draft position as a QB, as it will make it less likely a team would be willing to take a gamble on him. I hate to say this, but if Denard Robinson wants to remain a QB, he needs Tim Tebow's help to do it.


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

Wow ... bold prediction. Would you care to predict the round in which he might be drafted as a QB?

John of Saline

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

Like Antwaan Randle El, I guess.

Blue Marker

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

It takes so much more than speed to play receiver in the NFL. You have to run routes to perfection. Steve Largent and Jerry Rice weren't fast but both will be in the HOF. I think D-Rob needs to work on reading defenses first. When given time he has a good arm. And you have to love that million dollar smile!!

Ron Granger

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.

Does Robinson's height allow him to see over the line, and see those defenses he needs to read?


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

I think he should convert to defense and play safety, he has great cover speed. To short to play corner back at the next level but definitely some safety potential. He could do returns and be a slot receiver, who is a dual threat with passing abilities. He would be better off financially too since he is such a marketable personality. Who knows, maybe I'll be proven wrong and him and Tebow will be going head to head one day with the right to go Disney World on the line.


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

Actually, the poll above says it all, while saying nothing, just like the so-called draft experts. The only voice that matters in this discussion is Mr. Denard Robinson's. His opinion? He's a QB. He stays at UM to continue his academic career, and play QB. If he wanted to play any other position, he could and would. That is not in the cards. Quite to the contrary, Mr. Robinson is proud that he has zero receptions, and plans to keep it that way. I support his decision. Go Denard! Go Blue!

Terry Star21

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

Kyle, I think this is a great point...I'm sure Hoke and the coaches have pondered this question already. With his lightning speed and footwork he becomes a natural receiver. However, the desire to do this position is most likely far from DRob's mind. Will this be one of the surprises this fall that has been hinted at ? MgoBlueForTim....Gardner steps back, the throw...touchdown DRob !