3 things Denard Robinson must accomplish at NFL Combine
And he'll step back into it Thursday as he arrives in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine.
The former Michigan quarterback is moving to receiver as he prepares for the NFL Draft, but has hit some early bumps. He struggled at the Senior Bowl last month in Alabama, especially with his routes.
No one has a good feel yet for where Robinson will land in the draft, with projections ranging from the second all the way to the seventh round. Most peg him for around the third or fourth round.
Robinson will have a chance to address some of that uncertainty, and improve that stock, as one of 333 participants at the combine. A look at his schedule:
- Thursday: Travel to Indianapolis, registration, hospital pre-examinations, X-rays, orientation, team interviews
- Friday: Measurements, medical examinations, media interviews, team interviews
- Saturday: NFLPA Meeting, psychological testing, bench press, team interviews
- Sunday: On-field workout (timing, stations, skill drills), departure from Indianapolis
NFL teams will be looking for three key things from him:
Catch every ball in receiver drills
Robinson will be put through a battery of medical, physical and mental tests, not to mention hours of interviews, before getting to the receiver drills Sunday, his final day here. But it's also the most important leg of his week.
He was disappointing at the Senior Bowl, where he failed to show much outside of raw athleticism. He looked out of place at times as he tried to figure out the mechanics of the position -- everything from getting off the line of scrimmage, running routes and using his body in the air.
Robinson doesn't have to look like an All-Pro this week -- it's understood that he's making a position change, and that he'll become more polished in time -- but he can't get by on his speed forever. He needs to show growth this week as he runs through the various receiver drills Sunday.
Perhaps NFL Network's Mike Mayock put it best: "What I'd like to see is him go to the combine and catch every ball they throw in every drill. From the time he walks out on the field, I want to see him catch everything. From now through the draft, that's what I want to see. Run routes and catch everything. Those are the two things they'll be looking for, because I think everything else checks off."
Crush the 40-yard dash
Robinson's one marketable skill right now is his speed, so he can't just have a good 40-yard dash time -- he needs a great one.
He remains, after all, the guy who said before last season he could beat Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt in the 40-yard dash. Now, it's time for him to back up that talk.
The thing about the event is it has specific mechanics, and sometimes, players who are football-fast aren't track-fast. But Robinson is both, having run track both at Deerfield Beach High School and briefly at Michigan.
Robinson said he has a target time in mind, but declined to name it. He's trained specifically for the event in recent weeks, trying to get down the mechanics, especially with the starts.
The fastest receiver last year, Miami's Travel Benjamin, ran the 40 in 4.36 seconds. Robinson likely will run at least that fast.
The top time last year overall was posted by Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson, who ran it in 4.33 seconds. The all-time record is held by Tennessee Titans tailback Chris Johnson (4.24 seconds).
Robinson doesn't need to be that fast. But if he gets down to around 4.30, it'll go a long way toward persuading a club to overlook his raw hands and take a chance on those gifted feet.
Pass the medical testing
When Robinson damaged a nerve in his elbow against Nebraska on Oct. 27, coach Brady Hoke said Robinson would be day-to-day.
It should be concerning that, 117 days later, Robinson still is experiencing symptoms from the injury. That includes periodic numbness in his right hand, especially in the pinky, and has made it more difficult for him to catch balls.
Why has it taken him so long to recover? When can he expect to be healthy? Is there a risk he could do further damage if he's hit on the elbow again? Could he sustain permanent damage?
Those are questions teams certainly will ask Robinson, who will be run through the medical gauntlet Thursday and Friday.
Results of those tests won't matter as much as what Robinson does on the field -- but they do matter, and certainly are key to a successful week for him.
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