Scouting Report: Denard Robinson, QB-WR-RB, Michigan

By: Pete Davidson : April 03, 2013 6:32pm

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We’ve spent a lot of time watching Denard Robinson the last few days. Quite honestly--we can’t stop. We’re having a bit of a Jim Schwartz moment.  The former Michigan quarterback is that electric. 

It’s going to be very interesting to see where Robinson gets drafted;  there is no general consensus. We’ve heard him mentioned anywhere from the second round to the sixth. In our view, this guy is a borderline first rounder if he’s not perceived as a player who is required to change positions to be viable in the NFL. It’s ironic, but the fact that he is athletic enough to be a quarterback in the Big Ten is going to cost him on draft day.

If Robinson had been a dedicated tailback the whole time he was in college, he might arguably be the best running back in this draft. As it is, he’ll have to settle for sneaking into round two, perhaps.

For our Rotobahn readers, Robinson is a player to own for sure in dynasty formats, and I am talking about the early rounds. In redraft leagues, it’s going to depend on what team drafts him. We suspect that he’ll go to a team with a diverse offense and a front office that likes to develop talent. Here’s our guess at Robinson’s eight most likely suitors:

  • Patriots
  • 49ers
  • Packers
  • Saints
  • Eagles
  • Jets (Marty Mornhinweg new OC)
  • Chiefs (Andy Reid now in charge)
  • Steelers

Now, based on team needs and strengths, we see the Jets, Steelers and Packers as the teams most likely to take the plunge in round 2 or 3. They all lack an established tailback that dominates touches. They have plenty of room in their respective offenses right now for a player like Robinson. Heck, the Jets could start him at quarterback or tailback and improve over 2012.

The bottom line with Robinson is that he could play any of three positions in the pros. There’s no question that he’s a developmental prospect as a receiver or quarterback, but he’s a ready-to-go option as a ball carrier. For the right team, he could be a huge factor as a hybrid player in the Percy Harvin mold, but skewed more to tailback than receiver.

If you want to compare Robinson to a college QB making the transition, then Brad Smith is an example. Having said that, we think the Michigan product compares favorably to Smith in all three phases of the game--running, throwing and catching. Smith was a fourth rounder for the Jets in 2006. The NFL has changed a lot since then and players like Smith are a big factor.

Denard Robinson is the next step in the evolutionary process.

After dropping a 4.43 40 time at the combine, his speed is proven, and when you put that kind of speed into a 5’10” 199 pound body, you have great potential.

  • His instincts as a runner are quite good.
  • He has excellent balance and breaks arm tackles.
  • He runs with the patience that you acquire from playing the quarterback position, so it’s no shock that he has outstanding vision and knows how to use his blocks.

Now let’s tack on that he can play tailback like Ahmad Bradshaw, and that he is a better quarterback right now than Tim Tebow. He can return kicks too. At minimum, he saves you a roster spot. You do not need a 3rd QB active when you have Denard Robinson.

Conventional wisdom has him switching to receiver as a pro, where his upside is compared to guys like Pierre Garcon. To us, all this versatility has to be seen as a plus. It should raise his draft value. Nevertheless, there are some who see it the other way around.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock had this to say on Robinson. "I think he's a return man with great quickness and speed, and I love his toughness. The question is, 'Can I turn him into a Wes Welker-type in the slot? Can he field punts?' "

Robinson is being thrown into the same classification as other college QBs who have tried to make the switch to receiver in the pros. Guys like Brad Smith, Hines Ward, Armanti Edwards, Matt Jones and Antwaan Randle El just to name a few. What we see, when we look at this group, is obvious. Some make it. Some become special teamers. Others leave the league quickly.

This brings me back to the key point with Robinson. He does not carry this type of risk. In our view, he’s already a near lock to be a starting caliber tailback. That’s your “worst” case scenario if you keep an open mind with the player. So, if you think he has 1st round upside as a receiver, go ahead and take the guy high, because you have a 2nd round FLOOR! That’s how you manage his risk from a roster management point of view.

If this kid gets out of round three in the draft, then a lot of GMs should be demoted. Seriously.

When you look at his RB skill set combined with all the other things he can do or could learn to do, Mr. Robinson is a player to own whether you run an NFL team or a dynasty team. We’ll definitely be following up on him this summer, once we know where he’s landed. If he is on a team that is looking to give him a big role in 2013, then we’ll be talking about his redraft value too.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another underrated player.

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