The process by which former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has endeavored to become future NFL receiver and special teamer Denard Robinson took a big step forward on the third day of the NFL draft. With the second pick in the fifth round (135th overall), the Jacksonville Jaguars took Robinson, and will work him in as a moveable chess piece. The Jags also took ultra-fast South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders in the fourth round, so they're clearly looking to diversify the ways in which they attack enemy defenses.
Robinson completed 427 passes in 747 attempts over four years for the Wolverines for 6,250 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 39 interceptions. But it was really as a runner that he made his bones in the NCAA. He ran 723 times for 4,495 yards (a 6.2 average), and 42 touchdowns. One wonders if the Jags have some read-option packages in mind -- most certainly, Blaine Gabbert hasn't established that he deserves to be the team's pre-emptive starter at the quarterback position, and we've seen many NFL teams expand what they do in the backfield option game.
At the Senior Bowl, Robinson was still recovering from a hand injury, and he looked raw in receiver and return drills, to say the least.
Through the North team practices, Robinson has struggled mightily with the most basic elements of his new proposed position. Recruited as a potential cornerback or receiver by several colleges out of Deerfield Beach High School in Florida, Robinson instead went to Michigan to run Rich Rodriguez's spread offense as a running quarterback and eventually excelled under Brady Hoke as head coach and Al Borges as offensive coordinator. That's what he did before, and the results were spectacular at times. But this week in Mobile, Robinson has also proved when so many receivers new to the NFL have told me through the years -- once to hit NFL-level talent, it's about much, much more than the ability to run fast.
At the scouting combine less than a month later, however, Robinson caught the ball far more consistently, and showed that there's something behind his embryonic efforts to change positions. While not perfect in all aspects, Robinson was able to show a better grasp of the little things that make receivers good at the pro level. His cuts in routes were much more concise, his overall route concepts were far smoother, and he was able to adjust to a couple of overthrown passes. It was a relative triumph for a guy that looked like anything but a real pass-catcher before.
"I'm continuing to get better. I just got some X-rays yesterday and some examination. I'll continue to get better, and I've got to come back in April to get a second check-up ... My vision is to try to be the best that I can possibly be when I get to the NFL," he said. "Whatever teams put me at, that's what I'm going to work my tail off to be. Whatever they ask me to do that's what I'm going to do."
He is now one big step closer to that vision.