Denard Robinson Could Be First-Round Pick in NFL Draft, But Not at Quarterback

Denard Robinson Could Be First-Round Pick in NFL Draft, But Not at QuarterbackBased on throwing ability alone, Denard Robinson is not an NFL-caliber player. Fortunately, he's one of the best runners in all of college football.

It's a foregone conclusion that if Robinson wants to make it in the NFL, he'll need to change positions. On Saturday night's Michigan-Notre Dame broadcast on NBC, analyst Mike Mayock said that Robinson told him he just wants to play football, and that "I just want a chance, I'd play center." Robinson won't play center, but he could be a great wide receiver, running back, return man, or specialty wildcat player.

Robinson already has 351 yards on the ground this year, good for 12th in the FBS. He's averaging 8.8 yards per carry and has four touchdowns. Last year he ran for 1,176 yards — 31st in the FBS — and in 2010 he was second in the FBS with 1,702 yards at 6.6 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns. That's second in all of the FBS, not just among quarterbacks.

Robinson is not a big guy — he's just six feet tall and only 197 pounds, but he's proven he can take a beating with 379 career carries and zero missed games. According to his Michigan bio, he's run a 40-yard-dash in just 4.32 seconds, which would have made him one of the fastest players at this year's NFL combine.

Where do those skills translate to the NFL though?

Robinson has never returned punts or kicks in his career due to fear of injury, but he has the skill set. He's among the fastest players in college football and he showcases incredible agility on his runs. He could also be a change of pace back in the mold of Darren Sproles or Dexter McCluster. He'd need to prove an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and he'd need to work on blitz pickup, but he's a smart football player who has to study all positions as a college quarterback.

Robinson would also provide the opportunity for a team to put him at wildcat quarterback. He's certainly not the most accurate quarterback, and he's prone to make bad mistakes at times, but he has obvious throwing ability and a very strong arm. Any time he would get a carry, teams would still need to fear his arm. The wildcat went away for a few years after the Dolphins ran it into the ground, but it's been coming back recently with the Jets, Cardinals and Bills.

Robinson also has the agility and speed to make a great slot receiver. Julian Edelman has successfully made the transition from college quarterback to slot wide receiver, and this year he's even stealing snaps from Wes Welker. Robinson is a better athlete than Edelman and could be considered the best athlete in all of college football this year. Edelman has also proven the ability to transition from college quarterback to punt returner.

The NFL has put a new premium on specialty players as we saw this April, when third-down-pass-rusher Bruce Irvin was drafted in the first round, and two change of pace backs — Isaiah Pead and LaMichael James — were taken in the second round. Robinson's upside could make him a first round pick. Robinson will be looked at as a clean slate to any NFL head coach. Since he's never played a position other than quarterback, he won't be bringing in any bad habits — other than those pesky interceptions.

Robinson will likely never be a 1,000-yard-rusher, but he could be a versatile player that would contribute in a number of different ways. Robinson should also be able to bulk up at the NFL level and not lose too much of his speed. Any loss of foot speed would be worthwhile to stay the durable player he's been in college.

Robinson will be a work in progress, and he may not contribute much his first year in the league, but athletes like Robinson don't come around very often, and he's already proven he can run the ball like few others.

Watch some of Robinson's best runs in the video below.

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