If you ask any NFL coach or general manager about the NFL Combine, they will probably tell you that it’s another piece of information in a process to grade a football player. Since the Combine has turned into a television event, fans give the 40 times, bench press numbers and vertical leaps a greater significance than executives do.
Whereas the Combine can only raise your professional stock so much, it can make a player’s stock plummet if he measures in poorly, runs slow or isn’t as strong as some expect.
One player who didn’t hurt his stock one bit was UCF cornerback Josh Robinson. Locally, Robinson is known as the ultra-talented ball-hawking Knights cornerback but nationally he was just another relatively anonymous underclassmen who many questioned why he declared for the draft.
“That decision was made because I felt I was ready,” Robinson explained. “I told Coach O’Leary from the first time I met with him about the decision. I asked him his opinion and then I let him know I felt I was ready and that I could compete at the next level at a high level and not just be a walk on or a free agent.”
Robinson checked with the draft advisory committee and their grade on him gave the 5-foot-10 first-team All-Conference USA star another chip on his shoulder.
“They told me I wouldn’t be drafted in the top three rounds,” Robinson said. “That gave me motivation. That made me want to prove that I could be drafted higher than that and do better than what some people believe I can.”
Josh Robinson is now far from anonymous as he lit up the Combine, running an official 4.33 second 40-yard dash, the fastest time of any player. Once a third-day pick, Robinson has momentum and could find himself receiving a phone call from a team as early as the first round.
“He’s a 200-pound corner with long arms who ran a 4.3 at the Combine, and on top of the 4.3, he tested at the highest level in every measurable,” NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said.
During his time at UCF, Robinson mostly played in a zone type of defense but he’s not limited to just that. Robinson played press when in goal line situations and his game translates to either scheme.
“I was telling a guy that I believe that’s one of the best attributes of my game, the variety, the ability to play man and play zone, to go into nickel and if I have to go to safety. I can do that as well,” Robinson modestly explained.
Those concerned about the level of competition Robinson faced can look back to his tape from the Liberty Bowl in 2010. Josh squared off against eventual fourth-overall pick A.J. Green in the Knights upset victory. Green managed to catch eight passes but he didn’t beat Robinson deep and the Knights held the high-powered Bulldog offense to just 6 points despite Georgia having a bevy of NFL talent.
“For me it gave me a lot of confidence, especially seeing a guy like A.J. do so well this past year,” Robinson said of his matchup with Green providing additional confirmation of his talents. “And having the ability to play against him, I was blessed because he’s a great receiver.”
Robinson believes that playing well against A.J. Green gave him the mindset that he could compete with anyone on any level and may have swayed his decision to go pro.
There is a laundry list of players that work out well at the Combine and/or their Pro Days only to dupe a team into selecting them too early and disappointing thousands. We are all aware of the Mike Mamula’s, Matt Jones’s, Troy Williamson’s and Courtney Brown’s.
What is somewhat under-publicized are the players who are “Workout Warriors” who actually work out, like a Chris Johnson (pre-contract) and others. Robinson’s tendency to be in the right place and right time on the field backs up his athleticism on the track.
Mike Mayock did some further investigation on Robinson and liked what he saw.
“We go back to the tape and see if it’s really 4.3 speed,” Mayock explained. “I went back and watched two more tapes of him against Southern Miss and BYU, and the only criticism is that he goes flat-footed at the transition point. I know that because I used to do that. And what happens is when you go flat-footed trying to come out of that transition on a vertical is difficult. When you look at his numbers, 10 interceptions in three years, he will tackle, great transition out of pedal, driving on the football, I don’t think there’s any way this kid is getting out of the first round.”
At this point it’s unclear if Robinson will be a first-round pick but we are guaranteed that there will be another Knight drafted for the seventh consecutive year.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie