Josh Robinson: The Next Asante Samuel?

I'm going to be taking a look at the Vikings' draftees here over the next couple of days. . .but if someone wants to write nearly five thousand words (that's 5,000) about our third-round pick, that's fine by me. Grab a beverage and enjoy! -Chris

Josh Robinson is a underrated prospect who stood out at the NFL Scouting Combine with a strong performance, including this year's fastest electronically recorded time among all prospects in the forty yard dash, but just because he runs fast doesn't mean he's a workout warrior and didn't produce in college -- Unlike Stephen Hill -- Robinson was a consistent playmaker at UCF and he has the numbers to back it up.

Morris Claiborne - 33 Games
Tackles - 95
Pass Breakups - 12
Interceptions - 11

Dre Kirkpatrick
- 39 Games
Tackles - 91
Pass Breakups - 16
Interceptions - 3

Stephon Gilmore - 40 Games
Tackles - 181
Pass Breakups - 17
Interceptions - 8

Josh Robinson - 38 Games
Tackles - 176
Pass Breakups - 36
Interceptions - 10

Yes I realize that Mo, Dre, and Stephon played in a way tougher conference but while Josh played in the lowly C-USA, which isn't exactly comparable to conferences like the SEC, I'm still impressed by his amount of production when compared to the other top corner prospects regardless if it was against a lesser level of competition.

Mo, Dre, and Stephon reaped the benefits of playing in the SEC, which is widely considered the best conference in college football and for good reason as they year in and year out produces the most NFL draft picks. All three were 1st round picks in this year's draft. Robinson wasn't selected until the 3rd round, 66th overall, despite posting similar [Read: superior] career numbers.

Despite the level of production, being a three-year starter, the impressive skill set and all his physical traits that Robinson put on display at the combine and throughout his college career he was only graded out as a Day 2 talent. I don't get it? Neither did one of the most respected draft analyst, Mike Mayock, who at one point believed he would be a first round pick.

"When you look at his numbers, 10 interceptions in three years, [how] he ran a 4.3 at the Combine, and on top of the 4.3, he tested at the highest level in every measurable," Mayock said. "I don’t think there’s any way this kid is getting out of the first round."

Why did Robinson fall through the 2nd round then?

While Robinson certainly has all the tools to start at the next level many teams still believe in level of competition and that's ultimately why he was graded as a Day 2 prospect. While he didn't get to go up against top competition on a regular basis, when he did face off vs some of the best his conference and the nation had he proved his ability to play with the best of the best.

At the end of the 2010 season in the Conference USA Championship Game, Robinson smothered SMU’s Aldrick Robinson – who on the season had 1,301 receiving yards and 14 TDs – by holding him to a measly three catches in UCF’s 17-7 victory. Robinson himself had seven tackles, an interception and two breakups. That wasn't his most impressive game however.

In his next game the Liberty Bowl matchup against Georgia, Josh was tasked with covering star receiver A.J. Green. Robinson wasn't outmatched though as he limited the future No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to just 77 receiving yards -- Green's third-lowest total of the season -- and no touchdowns on eight catches. Robinson had four tackles and a pass breakup against one of the best receivers I've seen in the last 10 years. We all saw just what kind of talent Green was last year in the NFL. He made plenty of big time catches throughout his rookie season, being uncoverable at times, and ended it with a trip to the Pro Bowl. Suffice it to say that Josh Robinson was at his best in the two biggest games of the season.

Last year in week three, Robinson faced off against one of the nation’s best receivers once again in star receiver T.Y. Hilton [3rd round pick (92 overall) to Indianapolis Colts]. Hilton came into the game riding high on a spectacular 7 catch, 201-yard, two-touchdown performance the week before but Robinson did his best to cover the speedy Hilton most of the game. Recording only two tackles (one solo) and two PBU's the UCF defense limited FIU to just 127 passing yards overall when FIU was averaging 220.5 passing yards per game and Hilton caught just 3 balls for 30 yards and no touchdowns.

As I just showed Robinson can go up against anybody, any level of competition and still compete. While he chose to play at UCF he was also recruited by Michigan, Auburn, Clemson and USF. He chose UCF electing to stay close to home. Robinson has the talent to play against any level of competition, be it the best that C-USA has to offer, the best the SEC has to offer, the best the NFL has to offer. His talent and 3 years starting experience will allow him to come in to the NFL where he should be able to pick off right were he left off at UCF.

"I come from a great school that's really prepared me to face anything, any team, any program, especially playing under coach George O'Leary." Since taking over the program in 2004, O'Leary has taken that UCF team to new heights. The veteran head coach has molded his program into a consistent winner helping UCF arrive on the national scene. Prior to coming to UCF, O'Leary served on Minnesota's NFL coaching staff for two seasons. In 2003, he was the Vikings' defensive coordinator and also served as the assistant head coach.

Let's not forget the talent that has come out of the UCF football program in recent years.

Ballhawking corner Asante Samuel played for UCF (1999-02) and was a 4th round pick to New England in the 2003 NFL Draft. Samuel and Robinson have very similar career numbers and play styles while at UCF. Samuel had 127 tackles (102 solo, 25 assisted), 8 interceptions, and the school-record 38 passes deflected (the previous record was 34 deflections). Samuel also returned 63 punts for 673 yards, for an average of 10.7 yards per return.

Let's compare those numbers to Robinson's. Josh was just two pass breakups shy of Asante Samuel's school record with 36 passes broken up in his 36 career starts (38 games played overall) for Central Florida. Robinson produced 176 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 36 pass breakups, and 10 interceptions throughout his college career.

The most productive season of his career came in 2009 during his true freshman season when he appeared in all 13 games with 11 starts at CB and made 69 tackles (59 solo), one tackle for loss, eight pass breakups, and led all freshmen with six interceptions.

He quickly established himself as a star at the college level, emerging as an NFL prospect when he piqued the interest of scouts early on by enjoying some of his most impressive performances of the season against top competition, including a six tackle, one interception performance against Texas. Robinson proved that his true freshman campaign was no fluke a year later.

In 2010 he started all 13 games at CB and improved all-around by recording 59 tackles (45 solo), 0.5 sacks, 13 pass break-ups but he only got two interceptions due to quarterbacks mostly avoiding throwing to his side of the field because of his blanket coverage. He did have a fumble recovery returned 56 yards for a touchdown against UAB though so he didn't let that stop him from making big time plays. He also ranked ninth in the nation by averaging 15.20 yards per punt return, and finished with 304 yards on 20 returns. And again as I mentioned above, he proved his ability to step up his level of play against out of conference foes, recording three tackles and three passes broken up against Kansas State and limiting Georgia's A.J. Green to 77 yards and no touchdowns in a stunning 10-6 upset victory in the Liberty Bowl.

In 2011, Robinson started all 12 games at CB and ranked fourth in the nation with 1.42 passes defended per game. He recorded 15 broken up passes, seven coming in the final four games, which tied him with Samuel for the second-most in a single-season at UCF.

1) Greg Atterberry (1983) - 22
T2) Josh Robinson (2011) - 15
T2) Asante Samuel (2002) - 15

Once again quarterbacks mostly avoided throwing his way and Robinson only finished with two interceptions but he did return one for a touchdown and had 48 tackles (34 solo) to cap off another solid season. His performances earned him first-team all-Conference USA honors.

"He’s really matured. I think he’s playing smarter as far as his coverage is concerned," Head Coach O’Leary said. "He doesn’t get many opportunities because teams are usually going over the middle or to the boundary. I look at a good corner when a team lines up on the hash, calls a (slant pass) and they’re afraid to throw it because of the cover corner. But Josh has really improved. He takes some chances where you go `whoa.’ But he has great closing speed and great transition speed and we’re trying to do more things with him."

Robinson actually has more career interceptions than Samuel, who's known for picking off passes, placing him in the top 5 in the schools all time list.

1) Joe Burnett (2005-08) - 16
2) Sha’reff Rashad (2004-08) - 14
3) Keith Evans (1986-88) - 13
4) Johnell Neal (2005-08) - 12
5) Josh Robinson (2009-2011) - 10

He also averaged 13.1 yards on 27 punt returns and 23.5 yards on 4 kick returns during college career. If the Vikings feel like that's something they want to give him a chance to do at the next level I'm sure he could become a solid returner for the team giving Harvin a breather on kickoffs or filling the need for a punt returner. Honestly though the Vikings didn't draft Robinson for his ability to return punts.

Why the Vikings desperately needed a cornerback.

This is still a passing league the last time I checked and the Vikings had a historically poor pass defense last season. The Vikings allowed oppossing QB's to post a 107.6 passer rating on avg, the second-worst mark in NFL history. Who was the worst? The 0-16 Detroit Lions of 2008 (110.9). Great, so the only team that had a worse pass defense was arguably the worst team in NFL history.

It starts with our division and if we cannot compete in it we cannot start to get better. We have no hope in doing so if we cannot stop the QB's of the NFC North. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Chicago's Jay Cutler went 5-0 against the Vikings while completing 72.3 percent of their passes for 1,457 yards, 13 touchdowns, no interceptions and an average passer rating of 125.3.

As far as specific game examples go I got them too. In a 26-23 overtime victory at the Metrodome on Sept. 25, Stafford erased a 20-0 halftime deficit by completing 22 of 30 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns. In a 33-27 victory at the Metrodome on Oct. 23, Rodgers completed 17 of 20 passes in the first half. The only incompletions: two drops and one spike to stop the clock.

In one of the worst performances ever by a Vikings secondary, Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards (412) and five touchdowns while completing 80 percent of his passes (32 of 40). And he did it while sitting out the final 12 minutes of their 42-20 victory at the Metrodome on Dec. 18 last season. If that doesn't display for you just how historically awful the secondary was in 2011 then take this next statistic into account.

The Vikings were 30th in the league defending the pass despite a league-high 50 sacks, and they tied a franchise record for fewest interceptions (eight) while setting an NFL record for consecutive games without a pick (nine). The streak lasted a rage inducing 298 consecutive pass attempts faced without an interception.

The Vikings didn't intercept a pass after Week 5 against the Arizona Cardinals, when Jamarca Sanford picked off Arizona Cardinals' backup quarterback Richard Bartell on the Cardinals' final offense play all the way until Week 16 at Washington when Redskins' quarterback Rex Grossman dropped back to pass, missed Santana Moss, and found rookie safety Mistral Raymond in the fourth quarter of the game.

While that is one of the most ridiculous streaks in the history of the Minnesota Vikings this interception problem is nothing new. They finished tied for 17th in 2010 with 15, tied for 26th in 2009 with 11, tied for 21st in 2008 with 12, and tied for 20th in 2007 with 15. It's pretty clear they've been in the bottom half of the league for years in this regard.

It's high time they get Jared Allen some help, someone who can cover and take advantage of the kind of pressure he brings off the edge. Robinson has the skills in the form of his physical ability and his coverage ability to get turnovers for this defense. I don't want to see another season where the aerial circus comes to town each week. The weekly jailbreak of wide-open receivers running unchaperoned through the Vikings secondary. I can't take another season of that, could you?

Robinson can change the very nature of our secondary.

GM Rick Spielman feels it's his upside and athletic ability to his game that has him believing that one day he'll be a star corner in this league. " ... His athletic skillset when you watch [him] on tape and watch his feet and watch his cover-ability [on] some of the plays really stand out because of those unique athletic traits," Spielman said. "When you look at his tape he has some unique cover skills [that fits what we like to do]."

He also pointed out that Robinson's speed will come in to play when, "... Sometimes, just like [all] DBs [tend to do], you'll [see] him maybe bite on a double move but just watching his recovery speed if they do get a step on him and how quickly he can recover, those are some of the unique traits that he does have."

"He does have the foot speed, the quickness, how he can flip his hips, the burst out of his transition to close back underneath, and close to the ball. The anticipation and that unique trait as far as anticipating when a receiver's going to break."

It's clear Spielman believes in his ability to be successful playing off the receiver. Robinson does do a good job with his backpedal. With nimble feet and fluid hips he has no trouble at all transitioning from the backpedal to sprint in those crucial instances when the receiver turns on the speed. Corners that stumble or fall will get burned in a heartbeat if they don't have that fluid hip transition down pat. Robinson has showed us his good balance, fluidity, and change of direction in positional drills at the combine where he looked good flipping the hip and running without any hitches.

I agree with Spielman that he's ready to come in and contribute to a secondary that was completely bereft of talent. He's got the quickness to play in the slot but also the upside to start at right corner where his athleticism allows him to mirror team's top receivers down the field. He fits our defense in multiple spots.

Robinson just fits our scheme perfectly.

The Vikings have based their defensive scheme on the Tampa-2 framework since 2006, when Mike Tomlin took over as defensive coordinator. Current head coach Leslie Frazier, who like Tomlin is a protégé of Tony Dungy, maintained that scheme when he replaced Tomlin as defensive coordinator in 2007.

The goal of the scheme is to find elite pass-rushers to create havoc among the front four and allow the remaining seven players to flood the coverage zones. GM Rick Spielman has gone on record saying that the Vikings aren't a pure zone team, which is true, but considering Frazier's roots with Dungy and the Tampa-2, and a similar history for new defensive coordinator Alan Williams who came over from Indianapolis, I expect to see the same defense in place in 2012-13.

Robinson possesses legitimate NFL cover skills and can take advantage of his speed and acceleration in our zone coverage scheme using his impressive instincts and timing to make a break on poorly thrown or late pass. With a quick burst he jumps in front of the receiver to pick the ball off and the has the straight line speed to take it back to the house for a pick six. His 4.3 speed will assure nobody can catch him. "I can react quickly," Robinson said. "I have a quick reaction, and of course everyone has speed at the next level so I never really say that as a strength."

What is an advantage and a strength for him though is his long arms. He has prototypical arm length (31 ¼") and gets his hands on a lot of footballs but needs to do a better job of turning opportunities into actual interceptions. While Robinson's ball skills may not be on the same level as Asante Samuel, recording 10 int's despite breaking up 36 passes over his three seasons in college, he does do a good job knocking passes away as the receiver attempts to secure the catch.

Robinson excels at playing off coverage, which we run almost exclusively, showing sound understanding of route progressions occurring behind and in front of him. But while Robinson is more experienced playing off zone than press man coverage he does have the long arms and upper body strength (17 reps on bench) that you look for here to develop as a press corner. In man coverage, he does a great job of trailing the receiver down the field before closing quickly at the last second to either bat the ball away or cut in front of the wideout to make the interception. Robinson speed won't let him be burned when asked to cover receivers alone on an island either.

"I always tell everybody that I'm versatile. I can do whatever you want me to do," Robinson said. "Whether it be man, zone, anything. That's something that I've done at UCF. I don’t want to just cover the deep routes or the 12-yarders. I’m trying to take away those five-yard plays and three-yard routes too. I just want to improve my game all the way around."

With his game changing speed and ability to accelerate quickly out of his breaks he's got the talent to make plays in short areas. He has exceptional instincts for the cornerback position which allows him to recognize and react to passes in order to bat them down or make the tackle shortly after the catch -- something that often goes overlooked.

"[Another thing] we really stressed in our meetings this year on, is this guy a willing tackler?" Spielman said. "Is he able to do the things that we need to do on [our] defense?" And one of the main things about a Cover 2 scheme is sound tackling. Veteran Antoine Winfield is probably the prime example of what a prototypical Cover 2 corner should be like.

"So, as we watched this tape, and especially [when] we went through the DBs, both in coverage and his ability to (run) support, and we got on the same page as far as everybody agreed this kid was more than willing enough to come up and hit you."

With numerous wide receivers in the 6'2" to 6'5" range in the NFL, one would think Robinson's height would become an issue. While Robinson is only a shade above 5'10" I point to many other small stature NFL corners who have been successful, including our very own Antoine Winfield, as proof that size doesn't always matter.

Robinson may struggle to cover the bigger receivers in the division like Calvin Johnson and new Chicago Bear and former UCF Knight Brandon Marshall but what Robinson lacks in height he more than makes up for in athletic leaping ability.

You don't have to look any further than the NFL Scouting Combine numbers to see Robinson's great athleticism on display. While many more highly-touted prospects shied away from performing at the combine and opted to wait until their Pro Days, Robinson took full opportunity of the stage to showcase his skills and he might have stolen the show. Coming into the pre-draft process he needed to run well and perform well to stand out and that is exactly what he did.

Unofficially his forty yard dash times were 4.29 and 4.31 and his official time stood as the fastest time among all players at the combine at 4.33. I can hear the voice of Al Davis still "you can't teach speed." His leading 6.55 time in the 3 cone drill and 3.97 seconds time in the short shuttle was just just as impressive if not more so considering it shows his agility and ability to change direction, not just straight line speed. He had the second best vertical jump at 38.5" and best amongst his position broad jump of 11'1". He also showed good strength for the position with 17 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.

"They told me I wouldn't be drafted in the top three rounds," Robinson said at the Scouting Combine. "So 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."

While I'm not a big proponent of letting combine numbers determine draft status his performance there still stands out to me and as NFL Network's Mike Mayock said, "That’s what the Combine’s for. [It gives you reason to] go back to the tape and see if it’s really 4.3 speed."

"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," Mayock said. "And what happens is when you go flat-footed trying to come out of that transition on a vertical is difficult."

With Leslie Frasier and Alan Williams' tutelage he'll be playing sooner rather than later.

He'll need some time to develop being a bit inexperienced in his technique but all the things he struggles with can be coached and considering how our new defensive coordinator Alan Williams has a extensive history of coaching up that position group after 10 seasons working with the Colts and Buccaneers secondary, coaching up Pro Bowlers like Ronde Barber and Bob Sanders, I think he'll be in good hands.

I'm confident if anybody could get the most out of Robinson, to get him to reach his full potential or even to just get him to be able to come in and play at a high level as a rookie and contribute as a starter right away, it's Williams with his proven expertise in aiding and developing DBs.

"What I do best is to be able to develop a young player and have him at a winning level early in his career," Williams said in a interview shortly after being named Vikings' defensive coordinator. "And when I say early, I mean in the first part of his career, the first year. ... What I did in Indianapolis was, I developed the young players so that when a veteran was out, a young player could hold down the fort and play winning football until that veteran, until the starter came back."

While I'm definitely confident in our coaches ability to get him ready and I'm more than confident in Robinson's unique skillset and tremendous upside, I am a little bit skeptical that he's ready to come in and start right away. More than likely he will be a back up and the heir apparent to Antoine Winfield early on in his career before he gets full time starter duties.

That being said I could see them giving him a long look at right cornerback in the offseason --- and there's no doubt in my mind that he'll one day end up as a future starter there -- but it's not likely that Robinson will come out of camp as the day one starter as a rookie. That doesn't mean he won't contribute early though as he'll provide quality depth coming in to play at times or if injuries hit the secondary again. Who knows he may just develop quicker than expected and end up starting some games by seasons end. I have no doubt though that he'll be entrenched as a starter by the start of his second season.

To sum it up:

He played in all 38 games, starting 36, throughout his time on UCF's secondary where Robinson's instincts, coverage ability and impressive speed made him a virtual man among boys in Conference USA. He's a corner owning a skillset that projects favorably in zone coverage, which is exactly what we need in the Cover 2. A savvy defender with the ability to drop back, diagnose the play in front of him, before breaking on the ball. Alert and excellent at timing pass breakups. He's got the rare speed to play man when we decide to run that on occasion and he does a good job of flipping the hips and keeping pace vertically. A willing tackler, more of a drag down guy but he can lay a hit from time to time. Also a special teams/return specialist.

He's a playmaker in every sense of the word with all the tools to start at the next level. His physical traits give him immense upside and he's only going to get better when coached up a the next level. He's put up back to back to back solid seasons which prompted him to leave school early and make the jump to the NFL.

The choice to skip his senior year is a steep one. Many scouts felt had he returned and played well again, he likely could've been considered as high as a 1st round pick. While Josh may have benefited from staying in school for another year, luckily for the Vikings, he didn't heed their advice because if he had he likely would've been a 1st round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and so we got someone that has immense upside and already is a very intriguing player at the next level which is solid value for where we drafted him. If he reaches his potential teams will look back and wonder why they passed him up allowing him to fall to the Vikings.

Josh chose to leave for the NFL after his junior season, when many felt he should've stayed for another year, because he simply felt he was ready. He's gone on record stating his being ready and wanting to achieve his goal of becoming one of the best cornerbacks to ever play in the NFL as reasons for coming out now.

"My primary motivation [for coming out early] was that I could get it done, that I had the ability to be a shutdown corner, [possibly] one of the best corners to play the game," he said. "So, that's something that really motivated me to want to pursue this career and try to accomplish my goals. I'm just thankful that they did draft me, to give me that opportunity to prove to the world that I can get it done."

He's confident in himself and he feels he belongs in the NFL, the game is not too big for him. I bet he's one of those guys who will come in and play above expectations. He has the potential to outplay the draft position we selected him in and I hope he reaches that potential because if he does we'll have made out like bandits with this pick.

Ultimate Josh Robinson Highlights (2012 Draft 66th Pick - Minnesota Vikings) (via TheVikingsworld2011)

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.