Still-injured Denard Robinson making steady progress at receiver
INDIANAPOLIS — Denard Robinson, still in his infancy as a receiver and possibly months away from being 100 percent healthy, could be one of the 2013 NFL Draft’s biggest wild cards. But he’s betting someone will take a chance on him.
“A lot of people gamble, don’t you think?” Robinson said Saturday at the combine. “I think I’d be a pretty sure bet. If a team takes a risk with me, I think it’s not a bad risk.”
Robinson received a needed boost to his draft profile on Sunday, posting a hand-time 4.34 and official 4.43 in the 40-yard dash.
Everyone knew Robinson had speed, though; his real improvement showed during the “gauntlet” drill, in which receivers run various pass-catching routes down the field. Robinson made every grab there, appearing markedly more confident than he did during a difficult Senior Bowl week.
“You play quarterback your whole life, then jump into receiver and you’re going against the best,” said Robinson of that Senior Bowl week experience. “I feel like I’ll continue to get better.”
Robinson also measured in at 5-foot-10 and 199 pounds — bulked up from his Michigan days. Those numbers matched what WR Golden Tate and RB Jahvid Best came in at during the 2010 combine.
Still, his transition from QB out wide remains a massive work in progress. Robinson even mentioned during his media availability how much he’s struggled tracking passes over his shoulder — he turned himself around and misplayed at least one deep ball during Sunday’s workout.
Hindering any positive momentum for Robinson is a still-problematic nerve injury in his right arm. The injury initially occurred during Michigan’s loss to Nebraska in late October and, four months later, he claims he’s only up to 60 percent.
“The nervous system is a thing that you can’t really put a time frame on,” Robinson said. “It takes time to heal, and if I have to have surgery, I’ll have a surgery on it.”
When pressed on the latter point, Robinson said he did not know if surgery would be required or when such a decision would be made. He went through a medical workup upon arriving at the combine — he was not aware of the results.
“It’s coming along,” said Robinson of the injury.
The jury’s still out on where Robinson even will wind up once he gets to the NFL. Though he was a member of the receiver group in Indianapolis, Robinson has talked with teams about playing some running back, and there is some belief out there that a switch to cornerback might be in order eventually.
“If teams see me (as a cornerback), then I need to start practicing,” Robinson said. “Right now, I’m practicing as a receiver, punt returner, kick returner.”
What Robinson’s NFL future looks like may depend on how creative an offense he lands in next season. For whatever it’s worth, he told reporters that he’s been studying tape of Antwaan Randle El and Randall Cobb, two of the more versatile players in recent NFL history. Randle El, a quarterback at Indiana, even threw 27 passes (completing 22) during his NFL career.
Robinson still cannot throw due to that nerve injury, which has sapped a lot of the strength in his right hand. Of course, throwing the football is the least of concerns for a prospective NFL wide receiver.
And, based on the combine, Robinson still needs a little more time to get used to that new role.