ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. scoffed at the pundits who thought Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III would be better suited playing wide receiver in the NFL.

“I heard that, never understood that,” said Kiper, who answered questions Thursday on a national conference call regarding April’s NFL draft.

“To say, he’s an athlete, he’s not a great …” Kiper continued, summing up the questions athletic quarterbacks often hear — that they aren’t great passers.

“(Griffin’s) a heck of a passer. That’s his strength, is throwing the football accurately on the deep ball.”

As for junior Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson — a player who shares similar athletic attributes with Griffin, but lacks the pinpoint accuracy that won Griffin the Heisman Trophy last month — Kiper is equally determined about his NFL fate.

But he sees Robinson as a wide receiver, not under center.

“Not a quarterback, no,” Kiper said, defiantly.

“I think you look at (Robinson) as a projection. You can make an argument really that going into next year he’s either the No. 2 or No. 1 most highly rated wide receiver option and he hasn’t even played the position.

“That’s ’cause a lot of the receivers this year that were projected from the junior class were coming out. It’s left you with a minimal number of players that are going to be projecting super high and Denard would be one of those guys projecting as a wide receiver, slot guy.”

It came across as a backhanded compliment for Robinson, who maintains that his childhood dream is to play quarterback in the NFL. He spurned college coaches that recruited him to play other positions, and he clams up more than usual when reporters inquire about his pass-catching abilities.

Robinson lined up split out wide in one of Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges’ sub-packages of the “deuce” formation he implemented this season, with sophomore Devin Gardner at quarterback and Robinson used more as a runner or decoy. But it wasn’t a staple of the offense and only appeared in a handful of games.

His speed can’t be denied. With plenty of open space in former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense, Robinson broke the NCAA single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,702 yards as a sophomore in 2010. Then under Borges, getting fewer carries and being used as a true running back — barreling off tackle on power-run plays out of shotgun formations — Robinson still found a way to gain 1,176 rushing yards this past season. Running back could also be in Robinson’s NFL future.

Under Borges’ watch, Robinson was supposed to become a more polished quarterback playing in a pro-style offense. But the transition was far from smooth and Robinson threw at least one interception in all but three games this season, fueling the argument for experts like Kiper who believe Robinson is merely a dynamic college quarterback.

Accuracy aside, Robinson’s height may be his biggest deterrent to playing the position. Kiper said Griffin’s stock could be largely affected by whether he’s measured at 6-foot-2 or shorter. And Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, who’s 5-foot-11 and widely considered the best quarterback in the Big Ten, could slip from the first or second round to the fourth because of his height, according to Kiper.

“Looking back in the past 30 or 40 years, how many have made it that were under 6-feet tall?” Kiper asked. “How many, not only have made it, but started?”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees seems to be the exception, not the rule, as he broke the NFL’s single-season passing yards record this season at 6-feet tall. But Brees possesses one-of-a-kind knowledge and a reputation for his perfect passes. Michael Vick is the only other reputable starting quarterback listed at 6-foot and he has struggled with inconsistent results as a passer. The rest of the league’s elites are 6-foot-2 or taller.

Robinson, at 6-feet, has never been considered more than an average college passer. As an athlete, Kiper said, Robinson will be one of the best in the 2013 draft class.

Kiper projected five wide receivers in the first round of his first 2012 mock draft, which was released Wednesday. Three of the five — Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery — are juniors who left early, leaving gaps in the 2013 crop.

While Robinson waits, Michigan has two players Kiper thought highly of — defensive tackle Mike Martin and center Dave Molk.

Martin, the four-year starter who attracted constant double teams, and Molk, the Rimington Award winner and vital cog in Michigan’s offensive line, both are considered undersized for their positions. But their mean streaks and football I.Q.s could catapult them into the one of the first three rounds.

“To me, if you look at the guys this year, Mike Martin, quick out of the blocks,” Kiper said. “You’ve got to like the fact he’s a former high school wrestler and all the great things he did at Michigan. Size is an issue, but I think he could be a rotation type in that second- (or) third-round mix.

“Molk (is the) same thing. You think about a guy who’s just that overachieving center, battles and scrapes for everything he gets. I think he’s the kind of guy you think about with his ability to come in and from an intelligence standpoint know what he’s expected to do and fit in right away and become a leader on that offensive line. Played a lot of great football at Michigan, he could be in that third- to fifth-round area.”

Wide receiver Junior Hemingway will also participate at the NFL combine next month in Indianapolis. Hemingway, the Sugar Bowl MVP, was one of the “intriguing possibilities” Michigan offered — also including tight end Kevin Koger — on day three of the draft, which includes rounds four through seven.

If Kiper’s prediction comes true in 2013, Robinson may be drafted higher as a pass-catcher than the ones he threw to while at Michigan.

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