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Dominique Robinson: 2022 NFL draft profile

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Eye Opener

Miami of Ohio edge rusher, Dominique Robinson, is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's draft. He is very inexperienced and raw as an edge defender, but his ceiling is immense. If he could harness his full potential, Robinson's career could mirror that of Danielle Hunter. At LSU, Hunter only had 4.5 career sacks. While players like Vic Beasley and Shane Ray were 1st round picks that year, Hunter wasn't taken until late in the 3rd round, one slot before Sean Mannion went to the Rams.

One player I liked better than Hunter in that draft was Hau'oli Kikaha, who was taken in the middle of the 2nd round by the Saints. As a rookie, Kikaha showed good potential as a pass rusher and had 4 sacks, even though he split his time between DE and at SAM linebacker and was slowed by a mid-season ankle injury. Kikaha had 2 ACL injuries in college and tore his ACL again during team OTAs prior to his 2nd NFL season. He was never the same player. A few years ago he briefly played in the XFL before retiring from football.

Hunter developed into one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL, with nearly 50 sacks in a 4 year period from 2016 to 2019. Injuries have plagued him the last 2 years and the Vikings reportedly have been trying to trade him to dump his contract.

Robinson has effectively only played one season at DE. Prior to that, he was a QB and WR in college. In a short period of time, he's gone from an offensive player buried on a mid-major college team's depth chart to being a rising NFL draft prospect at DE. His story reminds me of players such Ezekiel Ansah at BYU and Anthony Barr at UCLA.

Robinson definitely looks like a novice at DE much of the time, but when he flashes in games he flashes big time. For example, there is an offensive tackle in this draft named Bernhard Raimann, who generally is projected to be a late 1st to early 2nd round pick. There's a play where Robinson smokes Raimann with a swipe move, bends the edge and slams into the QB as the pass is being released. There are moments where Robinson plays like a 1st round type edge rusher.

The downside is Robinson is still very much a work in progress. PFF's season grade of 69.5 for him last year was the 2nd worst among all of the edge rushers on their draft board and only ranked 372nd in the country. I recently did a profile on Alex Wright, another raw, but athletic edge defender and he had the 10th best PFF grade in the country at 90.4. Granted, Robinson's grade isn't too far behind Travon Walker's 71.4 grade and Walker could end up being a top 10 pick in this draft. There are both "buyer beware" and "this guy could eventually be one of the best players in this draft class" elements with Robinson, which makes him a very interesting player for teams to evaluate and decide whether and where to draft him.

Background

Robinson is from Canton, OH, where the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located. He's not a Browns fan. He says that growing up his team was the Rams in video games, but he chose them only because his favorite color is blue. He liked Marshall Faulk. His dad was a college basketball player at Bowling Green and initially Robinson's favorite sport was basketball.

In HS, he played some safety, then became a QB. He was essentially a HS version of Cam Newton, an okay passer, but a dangerous runner. He showed very good small area agility and change of direction when running as a QB. Listed as 6'5'' and 225 pounds as recruit. Enrolled early in college in the spring of 2017 to play QB, but fell behind on the depth chart and when the team was thin at WR the coaches moved him over to WR. After redshirting, he had 27 catches for 452 yards and 4 TDs in 2 seasons playing at WR, but found himself stalled on the depth chart at that position as well and realized that he wasn't going to make it to the NFL if he stayed at WR. He approached the coaches asking to convert to DE and made the move during the team's bowl week in the 2019 season.

Miami had a truncated season in 2020, only playing 3 games. He had 2 sacks that year. Robinson acknowledges he wasn't a good run defender in 2020.

In 2021, he had 29 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks in 13 games.

Recently got married to his high school girlfriend, who is a college volleyball player. Psychology major.

There are slight discrepancies in his physical measurements between the Combine and the Senior Bowl. I blended them.

6'4 7/8'' tall, 254 pounds, 33 3/8'' arms, 9 3/4'' hands, 82 3/8'' wingspan.

4.72 sec (40 time), 25 bench reps, 41'' vert jump, 10'1'' broad jump,

At the Senior Bowl, Mel Kiper said Robinson was a 3rd to 4th round pick.

ESPN 98th overall (late 3rd)

Tony Pauline 131st overall (4th rd)

Ian Cummings 120th overall (4th rd)

Oliver Hodgkinson 170th overall (5th rd)

Shane Hallam 119th overall (4th rd)

Brian Bosarge 117th overall (4th rd)

Drafttek 111th overall (4th rd)

PFF 163rd overall (5th round)

Tony Pauline said he was great on Day 1 of the Senior Bowl practices, one of the biggest risers. Showed great explosiveness off the line, easy flexibility around edge, able to convert speed to power, timed swipes precisely at the apex, consistently disruptive. Pauline wasn't as impressed on Days 2 and 3, saying Robinson got locked up more often, needed to get stronger and improve his hand usage. Still, overall Pauline came away impressed, saying Robinson had starter potential and his upside was worth molding.

Lance Zierlein 6.30 draft grade. LZ says he projects as either 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE. Unpolished gem with high ceiling. Needs more pass rush moves, needs to improve run defense. Leans into blocks. Fluid in space, sudden change of direction, races out of stance, bends edge.

A few other recent edge defenders with similar draft grades: Greg Rousseau 6.30 (1st round 2021), Joe Tryon 6.31 (1st round 2021), Julian Okwara 6.30 (3rd rd 2020), Terrell Lewis 6.29 (3rd rd 2020), Jaylon Ferguson 6.30 (3rd rd 2019), Lorenzo Carter 6.30 (3rd rd 2018), Hau'oli Kikaha 6.30 (2nd round 2015). Players with a similar grade have typically gone anywhere from the late 1st round to the early 4th round. So, if LZ has him pegged right, Robinson might go off the board early or the only chance the Rams will have at him is with their 1st pick and they might even have to trade up to do it.

Strengths

Explodes out of his stance. "Spiderman", flexible and fluid mover. Nice change of direction, able to mirror quicker offensive players in open space.

Runs with hips low, like an Olympic speed skater, which helps him convert speed into power and generate torque while running in an arc.

Flashes jaw dropping, elite change of direction when dropping back from LOS into zone pass coverage. Makes it look easy going out to cover RBs or TEs in shallow zones.

From 3 point stance, threatens outside rush, then cuts sharply inside, winning inside edge against the tackle.

Gave both Bernhard Raimann (37th on Daniel Jeremiah's board) and Luke Goedeke (97th overall prospect on ESPN) fits, beating both of them on pass rushes.

Beat Goedeke with swipe move, dips shoulder and bends the edge, gets to the QB.

Goedeke appears to resort to holding him to avoid being creased and beaten on run play. Too fast for OTs, can crease them on the backside of zone run plays and penetrate for TFLs. Has good pad level at LOS, gets leverage and penetrates past OT to penetrate into backfield on run.

Excellent swipe move defeats zone run block by LT, DE penetrates and disrupts run, barely missing the RB and the TFL.

Good aggression level, shoves his way past guard with relentless effort.

Good speed to pursue plays.

Weaknesses

Pass rushing toolbox only has a crescent wrench in it. Maybe he doesn't literally only have one move, but it feels like he only has one pass rush move, a basic 2 hand swipe. If that fails, he lacks effective counter moves and he doesn't have enough variety to give the OT a different look. Lacks plan as pass rusher, sometimes will just run into the middle of the blocker.

Tried swipe on Raimann, but it doesn't work as his hand hits the chest of the LT instead of knocking down punch. Raimann appears to be holding him, but not penalized. I think a more experienced pass rusher would have realized the LT crossed over and was out of position trying to recover, and hit him with a counter move back to the inside, but Robinson doesn't have a strong sense of how to link together moves, so he tends to stall and get stuck when his initial move fails. Struggles to disengage and break out of strong grips by bigger OTs.

Slender build for a DE. Looks more like a TE.

Doesn't find the ball quickly with his eyes after play fakes. Bounces off of his own teammates on twists and loops, doesn't have feel for finding proper angle to run at, sometimes slams into the back of his own DT. Runs way too far upfield on 1st down run plays, taking himself out of position, doesn't read run cues and stop pass rush, too eager to go hunt the QB.

Not disciplined in run fit, pinched down too hard on run, allowing the move TE a very easy seal block. Fails to recognize handoff to RB on another play and instead of breaking down and slowing his pass rush, runs too fast into the trap block and takes himself out of the play.

Wasn't a full time player. Developmental project who isn't ready to be an immediate contributor.

He has a polite personality, but I do have some questions about whether he how tough and cold a business the NFL can be and whether he is mentally and emotionally ready for the challenge. He openly talks about being a HOFer and how he'd take that over winning a SB. I'm all for having high individual aspirations, but he says it like it's going to be easy and we're talking about a potential Day 3 draft pick.

Pro Comparison and Grade

Jeremiah Attaochu (2nd round 2014 Chargers, Georgia Tech), 3rd round.

Attaochu: 6'3 1/4'' tall, 252 pounds, 33'' arms, 9 7/8'' hands, 81 1/4'' wingspan. At his pro day 4.57 sec (40 time), 37.5'' vert, 9'3'' broad, 4.68 sec (shuttle) and 7.28 sec (3 cone).

I liked Attaochu as a prospect. He showed promise with a strong 2nd NFL season in 2015, but a series of injuries derailed his career.

I normally don't like project players, but Robinson is really physically talented. He could be a Pro Bowl or All Pro type player. Right now, he's the defensive equivalent of an athletic and tall WR who can essentially only run a go route, e.g. Jacob Harris. I like the speedy WR, Christian Watson, in this draft, I think he has the potential to be good in the NFL. Robinson hasn't gotten nearly the attention Watson has, but there is a fair argument that Robinson has just as much NFL potential as Watson. Will an NFL team be willing to gamble on that ceiling and take on Robinson's bust potential? Should they discount his grade to account for Robinson possibly needing 1 or 2 redshirt seasons to develop before he'd be projected to be a regular contributor?

If Terrell Lewis and Robinson were in the same draft, I'd pick Robinson. The Rams rolled the dice on Lewis and his injury history. Will the Rams take a chance on the inexperienced Robinson?