Denard Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback who set the all-time NCAA quarterback rushing record in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, now has the label of “wide receiver” slapped beside his name for the foreseeable future.
With the 2013 NFL draft just three months away, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. laid out his projections for Robinson, as well as the remaining Michigan football seniors, on a conference call Wednesday afternoon.
“He’s just a great football player,” Kiper said of Robinson, who heads down to Mobile, Ala. this week for Senior Bowl practices. “I think everybody loves his passion for the game, his toughness. Obviously he’s got great speed, great athleticism, great versatility. He can catch the ball, he can run with the ball.
“After he runs, after he tests, after he works out, I think Denard Robinson is no later than a second-round draft choice.”
Robinson has just three catches in his career and has never returned a punt, but he’ll be used at both positions in Senior Bowl practices in preparation for his future role in the NFL.
Some have theorized that Robinson could end up as a cornerback at the next level, but Kiper still pegs him as “an offensive entity” and a threat in the return game. He said Robinson could help himself at the Senior Bowl if he draws comparisons to Antwaan Randle El, a second-round pick out of Indiana as a quarterback.
He may not have a position secured, but Robinson will no doubt impress scouts at the Senior Bowl and upcoming NFL Combine by simply doing what he does best, Kiper said, and that’s using his speed and toughness.
MID-ROUND PICKS: A former five-star defensive tackle out of Detroit, 6-foot-5, 308-pound Will Campbell is one of the more “intriguing” cases in this draft, Kiper said.
“You just kept waiting and waiting,” Kiper said. “He did flash, at various times, future NFL ability. We know he has the physical capabilities and physical presence you want, you just kept waiting for that performance to elevate him into the early-round mix. It didn’t happen, for me.”
Campbell emerged as something of a space-eater in the middle for Michigan this fall, tallying 44 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, but his numbers never matched his potential. Kiper sees him as mid-to-late-round talent with early-round potential.
“We’ve seen it happen before, the light goes on and they become a guy who can at least help you as a backup,” Kiper said.
Kiper also praised safety Jordan Kovacs and linebacker Kenny Demens and slotted them as “middle-round possibilities.”
Kovacs, a former walk-on turned team captain, had 68 tackles, two sacks and an interception this fall. Demens added 82 tackles, six for loss and an interception.
“I want to see Demens and Kovacs at least have a chance to push themselves onto an NFL roster as maybe fifth- or sixth-round picks,” Kiper said.
LATE-ROUND PICKS, FREE AGENTS: Kiper highlighted receiver Roy Roundtree as “a guy who can make a team as a fifth receiver” and should fall into the late rounds.
Roundtree exploded in his sophomore season, Robinson’s first as starting quarterback, accumulating 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns, but floundered since — except for two highlight-reel catches in victories over Notre Dame in 2011 and Northwestern in 2012.
His production picked back up once junior Devin Gardner took over as quarterback. Roundtree finished his fifth-year senior season 31 catches for 580 yards and three touchdowns.
The analyst made quick reference to cornerback J.T. Floyd, who was suspended for the Outback Bowl for a violation of team rules, and Craig Roh.
“Floyd, the kid’s got ability,” Kiper said. “Roh is another kid that’s got a chance.”
Kiper made no mention of offensive guard Patrick Omameh, who was named first-team All-Big Ten this fall or of center Elliott Mealer, who will take part in the NFLPA Bowl on Jan. 19.