2021 NFL draft prospects: UCF CB Aaron Robinson

·5 min read
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

UCF CB Aaron Robinson

5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.81 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Tough, feisty slot corner and Alabama transfer who wasn’t as good in 2020 as he was in 2019

Games watched: Florida A&M (2019), Temple (2019), Tulane (2020), Temple (2020), Houston (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit in 2016, Robinson chose Alabama over his two dozen other scholarship offers. He played in 2016 as a true freshman, splitting time on defense and special teams, with five tackles and one tackle for a loss in 13 games. After the season, Robinson transferred to UCF and redshirted. In 2018, he appeared in seven games but suffered a concussion that significantly limited his playing time. He broke out in 2019 as a nickel back, registering 54 tackles (5.5 for losses), three interceptions and 10 passes defended in 13 games (10 starts). In 2020, Robinson was named second-team All-AAC for the second straight season, making 41 tackles (one for loss) and seven pass breakups in nine starts. After opting out of the team's bowl game, he attended the Senior Bowl.

Upside: Aggressive, physical mindset. Plays bigger than his size and loves to battle receivers at the line, preventing them from getting into their routes. Able and willing tackler who will come up and sting you. Plays with a safety-like temperament and could be tried at that position if needed.

Good press-coverage ability despite spending a lot of time in the slot. Nice physical punch at the line and good hand usage — plays strong at the line. Gave a lot of Senior Bowl receivers fits in this department during one-on-ones. Nice transition skills and quickness to handle shiftier receivers. Great short-area burst and change-of-direction skills.

Fights through block attempts vs. run and pass and works to the ball. Gives great effort on his reps, even when the action is away from him. Plays well in traffic and can sort through blocks to make a play on the ball.

Coverage skills shined in 2019, even drew a few OPIs. Showed confidence to handle all kinds of receivers and won most of those battles. Inside-outsize versatility. Played mostly in the slot but has enough experience outside to make the transition. Processes routes well and can be seen mirroring and matching well with anticipation. Can handle tough man-coverage assignments.

Much better tackler in 2020. Appeared to be more fundamentally sound in that department after a slew of whiffs in 2019. Effective at knocking the ball loose at the catch point or going for strips. Strong, violent hands.

Contributed to special teams units all four of his college seasons. Was a factor on all four major units and takes those duties seriously.

Downside: Measured shorter than expected at the Senior Bowl. Was listed at 6-foot-1 but came in nearly 2 inches shorter at 5-foot-11 1/2 — and a bit lighter, too. Very limited length — 74 1/8-inch wingspan and 30-inch arms, both in the bottom 30th percentile for cornerbacks. Small hands (8 3/4 inches). Outside projection will require reevaluation.

Will have to count on pro day workout to display dazzling athleticism after losing out with canceled scouting combine drills. Played about only 100 snaps as an outside corner, predominantly lining up in the slot. Long speed might be his biggest shortcoming — might lack a true extra gear.

Doesn’t always sustain coverage on vertical routes. Loses coverage the longer he’s asked to check his man — will drift and take false steps. Can get stacked and beaten deep. Had trouble with the speed, size and suddenness of Florida’s Trevon Grimes in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. Gets aggressive and pays for it. Will overplay receivers off the line or lunge in his press. Also can get his feet stuck early in coverage. Can be grabby downfield.

Full tape review requires a longer look back at his 2019 performance. Seemed to fade last season, especially down the stretch. Didn’t face a battery of experienced, high-end talent in 2020 but had some burn marks — beaten for long catches by Tulane freshman Jhaquan Jackson and Houston’s 155-pound freshman Nathaniel Dell.

Could be tried outside but hasn’t had many reps there the past two seasons. Earned mostly 2-4 round grades over the summer, and his play took a step back this past season. Already 23 years old.

Best-suited destination: Robinson profiles as an early-career nickel who could be tried outside down the road. Right now, we view him having the most success in more of a press-man (as opposed to off-man) system, although Robinson has shown some click-and-close ability in zone coverage, too.

Did you know: On Robinson’s first-ever snap for the Knights on the opening kickoff in the 2018 season opener, he crashed head-first into a teammate while trying to make a tackle on the Connecticut returner. Robinson lay motionless and required his shoulder pads cut off on the field prior to being loaded onto a stretcher. He gave a “thumbs up” sign while being carted off the field and taken to an ambulance. It was a frightening moment to start his UCF career.

Fortunately, Robinson avoided any critical injury, although he was diagnosed with a concussion and kept out of action for the following four games before being cleared for football activities again.

Player comp: Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting.

Expected draft range: Round 3