The Lions are among those who were impressed by Robinson, and they plan to get another look at him before the first round of the NFL draft begins next Thursday night.
General Manager Martin Mayhew has spoken positively about Robinson throughout the pre-draft scouting process, and Mayhew said Thursday that the Lions have planned to see Robinson work out.
Robinson is making a major position shift from college. He was a three-year starter at quarterback. He made one start at running back in 2012 – against Iowa, after an elbow injury forced him to miss two games. Devin Gardner took over at quarterback.
The Lions scouted Robinson at Michigan, and they got an up-close look at him at the Senior Bowl in January.
Coach Jim Schwartz and his staff coached the South team. Robinson played for the North team. He was used exclusively as a receiver on offense and also returned punts and kickoffs. He looked raw and uncertain in both spots but apparently has improved of late.
“We’ve been tracking him and his development since going back to January in the Senior Bowl,” Mayhew said. “He’s still working hard. He’s improving. He‘s doing a better job of catching punts.”
It was clear from the beginning of his position switch that Robinson needed work catching the ball as a receiver or as a runner out of the backfield, and on returns.
“He’s moving along, going in the right direction as far as developing his skills to be a returner,” Mayhew said. “He’s also got some ability to play running back. We went back and watched him play running back the last few games.
“He’s sort of got a lot of those slash qualities as a slot receiver and a halfback.”
Most draft guides have Robinson listed as a wide receiver, and in a range where he would be drafted from the bottom of the fourth round through the sixth.
His natural ability, toughness and character are unquestioned. The issue for Robinson in moving to the NFL is whether he has the defined skills to play a position.
Mayhew spoke specifically about Robinson’s skill set at the Combine in February, about a month after having watched him at the Senior Bowl.
“He’s the type of player you have to have a plan for,” Mayhew said. “If you take him, you have to know what you’re going to do with him because he can do a lot of different things, but you’ve got to really specify what his role’s going to be on your football team.”
Asked if he viewed Robinson as a receiver, Mayhew said: “I think he’s the ultimate sort of hybrid. Swiss Army type of player.”
Robinson became Michigan’s starting quarterback in 2010 and rocketed into the national spotlight. He became the first player in NCAA history to reach the 2,500-yard mark in passing yards and 1,500 in rushing in the same season.
His rushing total of 1,702 yards in 2010 set the NCAA one-season record for a quarterback. Robinson was voted the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. His career rushing total of 4,495 yards is the NCAA’s most ever by a quarterback.
In his start at running back in 2012 against Iowa, he responded with 98 yards on 13 attempts, with a long run of 40 yards.
Robinson has been analyzed heavily and in detail, like all prospects. He gets high marks for character.
In his annual draft guide, Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki had these comments about Robinson: “Terrific personal and football character. The type of high-character player you root for.”
Robinson also made a strong impression at the Combine with his response when asked why he has continued to work out in Ann Arbor instead of going to one of the warm-weather pre-draft camps.
“First, I’ve been working with the strength coach the last two years,” he said. “Second, I’ll be the first in my family to graduate from a four-year school. I graduate May 4. I said I was going to stay there and graduate, so that’s what I stuck to.”