Denard Robinson, arguably the most electrifying player in college football during his Michigan career, still has time to prove he can be converted into a productive receiver/return specialist in the NFL.
The Draft is still 12 weeks away.
But based on his performance last week at the Senior Bowl, Robinson has a long way to go. He needs to get healthy and prove he can catch the ball consistently.
At this point, he’d probably be a late-round pick.
Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, on the other hand, made believers out of the pro scouts in Mobile, Ala.
With the way he dominated, Fisher erased any doubts over whether he can compete regularly against top competition after playing in the Mid-American Conference.
Fisher was so impressive that he basically assured himself of becoming the second offensive tackle taken in the draft. There is even some speculation now about whether Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, projected as high as the No. 1 pick overall, is actually that much better than Fisher.
Here’s a breakdown on how both local players fared last week:
“Shoelace” went up to the North team’s coach, Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders, and introduced himself as “Denard Robinson, athlete.”
Robinson needs to find a position, which is obviously not going to be quarterback in the NFL considering his poor passing ability.
The assumption is that his athleticism could be put to use at wideout and on special teams. However, Robinson dropped a lot of passes and mishandled too many punt and kick returns during the practices.
In Saturday’s game, Robinson caught two passes for 22 yards, carried the ball on an end-around once for a 3-yard loss and then muffed a kickoff deep in the end zone for a touchback.
Part of his problem is that he’s still hampered by the nerve injury in his right elbow that forced him to miss part of his senior year.
Despite his limited playing time Saturday, Robinson was still a popular topic of conversation for NFL Network analysts Mike Mayock and Charles Davis.
Mayock said there’s no doubt that Robinson has the quickness and toughness to be a slot receiver in the NFL.
The issue, of course, is Robinson’s hands.
“Either you have or you don’t … an ability to snatch the ball in traffic all day long,” Mayock said. “That’s where I’m worried. I think he can learn routes. I just need to see him catch the ball.”
Davis added: “Until he’s 100 percent healthy, we may not have an answer.”
Davis said that Robinson really struggled when he had to reach out to make catches strictly with his hands as opposed to pulling the ball into his body.
“Hard for him to grip the football,” Davis said.
Both Mayock and Davis agreed that Robinson impressed scouts simply with the fact that he showed up and competed under the circumstances.
The question now is whether Robinson’s elbow will be healthy enough in a month to show that he can catch the ball consistently at the NFL Scouting Combine.
When he first was being recruited by Central Michigan, Fisher saw a photo of San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley on the wall. It was in recognition of Staley being the only Chippewa ever selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Fisher told himself, “I want to be that guy.”
Staley was the 28th pick overall by the 49ers in 2007. Fisher almost certainly will be taken even earlier than that on April 25.
He has become that guy.
Mayock put Fisher at the top of the list of players who “made money” at the Senior Bowl, calling him “by far the most impressive player here.”
Before last week, Mayock said he was hearing that Fisher was probably a top-20 pick.
“Now he’s a top-10 pick,” Mayock said. “The kid came here and made four million bucks (on his four-year rookie contract).”
Coming out of Stoney Creek High (Rochester, Mich.), Fisher was about 240 pounds and received only one other scholarship offer, that from Eastern Michigan.
He’s now 6-foot-7, 304 pounds and was named third-team All-American by the Associated Press in 2012.
Fisher’s draft stock benefited immediately from Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan’s decision to return to college for his final year.
Fisher took care of the rest in Mobile. With the way his stock is rising now, a top-5 pick might not be out of the question.