There’s a time of transition and great change beginning in Jacksonville. Or so we’ve been led to believe, at least, and for now that’s good enough. Hell, for now the fact that new general manager David Caldwell is repeatedly inserting a knife into the Tim Tebow rumors is plenty good enough.
Among their 2013 draft class, Luke Joeckel and Jonathan Cyprien will be the most hyped prospects, and rightfully so. One was a top three pick, and the other is a second rounder who could have easily been a first rounder, and they both fill key needs.
But in fantasyland, those who enjoy winning money and impressing friends and relatives (and doing both at the same time) should keep another name in mind as a potential deep sleeper: Denard Robinson.
Robinson was selected late on Saturday in the fifth round with the 135th overall pick. He’s one of the most successful running quarterbacks in the history of college football who isn’t named Tim Tebow. In the opinion of some, he may even be ahead of at least equal to Tebow in that category, and most of those people live in the state of Michigan.
Unfortunately, despite his supreme athleticism, Robinson shared another trait with Tebow. His throwing ability may be even worse than the former Gator, as when he was the Wolverine’s pivot he mostly drove the offense through option runs.
He was auditioned as a wide receiver during the Senior Bowl, a move made to capitalize on his ability to be really fast and really shifty and stuff in the open field. The problem was that to succeed with those tools as a wide receiver, catching the ball and creating separation are also essential skills, and ones Robinson didn’t have.
So the next decision for any team looking to draft him and start the Robinson experiment was easy, and it’s one the Jaguars have now made. He’ll be a running back in the NFL.
That’s the good word from the Jaguars’ official website yesterday, and it means that Robinson has a very good chance to beat out Justin Forsett and Montell Owens to become Maurice Jones-Drew’s primary backup. That’s the same Maurice Jones-Drew who’s still in the final stages of his recovery from a Lisfranc injury. And consequently, it’s the same Maurice Jones-Drew who missed 10 games last year.
Robinson then has deep flex play value, and in many fantasy leagues he’ll likely be worthy of an early-season waiver play, assuming he does indeed ascend the Jags’ RB depth chart. Over his last three years at Michigan, he averaged 1,381 rushing yards per season, topping out at 1,701 in 2010. He also did a whole of scoring, recording a total of 42 touchdowns on the ground.
While breaking down Robinson’s tape for Rotoworld, Eric Stoner noted that many of the cuts and reads he made while facing elite college defenses (say, them Alabama kids are pretty good) didn’t reflect the maturing but shaky confidence that a hybrid college player often has. Instead, he showed the required patience to let a play develop, allowing cutback lanes to emerge.
As Stoner notes, the only remaining question surrounding Robinson’s pro transition to running back is a significant one: can he pass block? If that hurdle is cleared, he could be highly effective and explosive, even in a limited role initially.
The main question as to whether Denard can consistently get snaps at running back in the NFL is going to come down to one main thing: whether or not he can pass protect – a completely unprojectable factor at this point. If blocking is something he picks up on, I think he’ll eventually develop into a real weapon as a committee running back/returner/space player. If he can’t do that, however, it’s likely he’ll be relegated strictly to returns, Bubble Screens, and the occasional Jet Sweep.
Watch this kid. Watch him real good.