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wide receiver Allen Robinson rebounded from a so-so NFL combine performance , in the process stabilizing his stock in the 2014 NFL draft. He answered questions about his speed with an improved 40-yard dash time and continued to show rangy athleticism with a 42-inch vertical leap.
This year s draft class runs deep with talented wide receivers, many of whom have only subtle differences in their games. After Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, the consensus top two receivers in the draft, all bets are off as Robinson vies with Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, Davante Adams and Martavis Bryant for first-round consideration.
At the same time, there are as many as 15 teams who could conceivably be in the market for wideouts in the first round. The need is particularly glaring for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7), New York Giants (No. 12), New York Jets (No. 18), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 22), Kansas City Chiefs (No. 23), Carolina Panthers (No. 28), San Francisco 49ers (No. 30), Denver Broncos (No. 31) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 32).
There s depth at the position, yes, but there s also high demand, particularly in the bottom of the first round. A handful of teams will play the depth to their advantage and wait for the second round (or later) to find a wide receiver. But plenty of others will have receivers at the top of their draft boards when they re on the clock.
Robinson lost ground to Cooks, Lee, Beckham Jr. and Benjamin after a relatively slow 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine. He clocked a 4.61, but bounced back yesterday and said he was clocked by scouts from 4.42 to 4.47 and some 4.5s. Representatives from 26 teams, including Eagles coach Chip Kelly and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, were on-hand for the workout.
This season I was caught a couple times on some long runs, Robinson said. But at the same time the two guys who caught me could come out next year and run two 4.2 40s, so then what does that mean? Know what I m saying? I still think I separated a lot from guys on routes on go routes and different deep routes. Obviously, I got behind defenses a lot. So it s just what teams feel, so I wanted to come out here and run my best 40.
Robinson s mix of size (6-3, 208 pounds), fluid athleticism and polish are unique in the crop of wide receivers. Cooks has elite speed, but is undersized. Benjamin has size and physicality, but is raw. Beckham is an explosive athlete, but still must answer questions about consistency. Lee, once viewed as a surefire top-10 pick, enters the draft after an injury-plagued junior season.
Robinson might not be the best of the group, but the fact he has no major red flags should keep him in the first-round conversation.
Successful teams have debunked the myth that a star wide receiver must run a blazing 40 time in order to be successful at the next level.
The San Diego Chargers, who could also consider a wideout in the first round, struck gold with California s Keenan Allen in the third round of last year s draft. Allen had injury concerns and ran a 4.71 in the 40 at his pro day, but was a force as a rookie with 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. The recent lesson could resonate with teams as they evaluate Robinson's chances of succeeding at the next level.
Robinson is a polished product who can contribute right away, clearly a draw for aspiring playoff contenders. It could just take the right evaluation from one team for Robinson to pull a minor upset and hear his name called late in the first round.
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