The dog days of summer is my favorite time of year to scout players. It’s the most honest phase of the scouting process, as “group think” has yet to take shape and the opinions you form are free from the “final answer” pressure.
When I scout players during the summer, I use a smaller sample size of film that I combine with background research about the prospect’s career and character. I never place a grade on a player during this round of evaluations, but there are times when I get that “gut feeling” about a guy and his likely ascent up the draft board.
So far this summer, the player who has impressed me the most is Notre Dame’s Junior WR Corey Robinson.
Robinson enters the 2015 season as the likely No. 2 receiver for the Fighting Irish, but in my opinion, he has a chance to become the team’s best offensive weapon and playmaker. He doesn’t have a ton of reps on tape and his resume lacks eye-popping production. He totaled 40 receptions for 539 yards and 5 TDs last year after a freshman season that resulted in only 9 catches, 157 yards and a score. His career long reception is 35 yards and he’s averaged 14.2 YPC in his first 49 grabs.
His jump in production between the ’13 and ’14 seasons is notable; he appeared in all 13 games both years and actually started one fewer game last year. Sure, his reps went up, but he proved he deserved the increased playing time.
I expect an even bigger statistical jump next year.
What is it about Robinson’s game that has me so excited? First, he has a great combination of height, length and body control. Some guys are really tall and lanky, while others can contort their body or tap their toes just inside the sideline. Robinson is a perfect blend of the two. And when you add his very good hands to the equation, you end up with a legitimate pro prospect with potentially elite upside.
Second, Robinson knows what it takes to be a pro athlete. His father, David, was one of the best players in NBA history – both on and off the court – and will be a great resource for him as he transitions from college athlete to NFL draft pick. Genes are sometimes overrated. In this case, they aren’t.
Third, Robinson proved last year that he can win on the field with a raw and underdeveloped set of skills for a receiver. He relied on his physical gifts and the mismatch that his frame naturally created. The game should slow down for him this year. He should be a better route runner and should have an even stronger grasp of the offense. The biggest issue will be at the quarterback position, but elite players make enough plays to give scouts confidence despite their lacking supporting cast. His expected positional development should equate to a highly coveted prospect.
When I watch Corey Robinson, the first player that comes to mind is Randy Moss. Now, don’t misinterpret this as a player comp; Corey Robinson is not Randy Moss. Moss was arguably the greatest collegiate prospect I’ve ever scouted, and I’d be shocked if I saw another like him in my lifetime. But from a purely physical standpoint (size, frame), Robinson and Moss are really similar.
The Robinson – Moss similarities don’t stop at their height and length. Both players seem to come alive in the red zone. They have great spatial awareness, body control and a ‘want’ to win the contested ball. In the two clips that follow, you’ll see how both Moss and Robinson are utilized as big-bodied targets in the end zone. Both players know where the boundary is and get two feet down after securing the catch. I always value the receiver who can get two feet down; the acrobatic one-foot catches are incomplete in the NFL.
For Robinson to become a truly special prospect worthy of challenging for the early portion of round one, he’ll have to make more explosive plays and prove that he can take the top off a defense (or at least be a threat to do so.). Unlike Randy Moss, Robinson has yet to display a top-tier level of “juice” or big play ability.
There’s no doubt in my mind that he is a bona-fide red zone target and possession receiver, but that’s not enough to be “special.” As Robinson’s reps go up, so should his opportunities to make more plays downfield or break tackles for explosive runs after the catch. He HAS to put big plays on film to maintain the excitement that I have for him right now.
The potential wide receiver class for the 2016 NFL Draft has some promising names like Tyler Boyd, Laquon Treadwell, and Duke Williams. They’re all good players, but I’m the most intrigued by Robinson and his potentially special combination of traits. Players as recent as the Chicago Bears’ Kevin White (’15 Draft) proved that a prospect can go from mid-late rounder to blue chipper in one season. Robinson has a chance to make a similar jump.