Robinson trying to catch on at Combine
He wasn’t the fastest, but he was fast.
Michigan’s Denard Robinson, a converted quarterback, finished tied for the seventh-best 40-yard dash time, 4.43 seconds, among receivers Sunday at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
More importantly, he showed he can catch the football, even if his form needs some work.
"I think what he did today was he helped himself," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "He ran well and he caught the football well."
The surprising part was that he did it all with his shoes tied.
“They were tied very tight,” said Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, now an analyst with the NFL Network.
Robinson was given the nickname of “Shoelace” because he doesn’t like to tie his shoes. He apparently wasn’t going to take any chances with his draft stock on the line.
Everybody, of course, already knew that Robinson can run with the best. The question is whether he can catch the ball consistently enough to make the transition to receiver in the NFL, along with fielding punts and kicks to become a return specialist.
Robinson more than held his own during the pass-catching drills, even making a nice adjustment on a ball over his shoulder.
Irvin, however, pointed out that Robinson needs to improve his technique.
“His hands were so far apart,” Irvin said after watching Robinson catch every pass during a drill in which he was thrown a total of seven balls while running across the field. “That ball’s not that big, buddy. I don’t need your hands that big. You’re going to have to close your hands down.”
Irvin, who played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1988-99, said he discussed the position change with Robinson.
“He’s working very hard on it,” Irvin said. “He’s not totally comfortable with it just yet.”
Robinson, who rushed for more career yards than any quarterback in NCAA history, told reporters Saturday at the Combine that he’s only “60 percent” because of a nerve injury in his right arm suffered last season.
Robinson said he’s still feeling tingling and numbness in the arm.
For now, he’s just trying to do enough to convince a NFL team to pick him earlier rather than later two months from now in the draft.
Robinson isn’t considered a quarterback prospect in the pros because he lacks passing accuracy and doesn’t read defenses well enough.
But he has extraordinary athleticism that should land him a job if a team can just find a position for him.
Gil Brandt, a former vice president of player personnel for the Cowboys, said he talked to Robinson about possibly even trying cornerback.
“Most college quarterbacks are adverse to switching positions,” Brandt, an analyst for NFL.com now, said in a message on Twitter. “Not Denard.”
Mayock believes that Robinson has what it takes to make the necessary adjustments.
“I know he’s a tough and quick kid,” Mayock said. “Those two attributes are big toward the development of a slot receiver.
“I’m a believer in that kid. I want to buy into him being a return guy and a high-level slot receiver.”
At this stage, it’s difficult to project where Robinson could be selected.
“All 32 teams are saying, ‘Can we teach him to run routes and does he have natural hands,'" Mayock said. “What the answers to those questions are will determine how high he goes in the draft.
"How many touches a game can we get him? Can we turn him into a Wes Welker-type slot? That’s the question, and can he catch punts?”
Robinson has a lot more proving to do in that regard. It's not going to happen overnight for him, especially since he's apparently not at full strength yet. His personal workouts with teams will be important.
But on Sunday, with scouts and coaches for every team in attendance, he made a solid statement that he just might be capable of pulling this thing off with a lot of work and a little patience.