Should Denard give it a go at RB instead of WR?

Submitted by DrWolverine23 on January 25th, 2013 at 7:59 AM

With a lot of recent reports saying that Denard is struggling to impress NFL scouts as a WR, what about if he gave it a go as a RB? 

Before everyone goes off and says he'll get killed as a RB, I say look at Chris Johnson. Johnson is 5,11 and 191. 

Denard weighed in at 196(double check) and measured 5,11. 

After all he did break the Rushing Record, and looked more then capable as a RB against Ohio and USC. 

What are your thoughts? I just wish this kid the best and hope he has a heck of a NFL career, because gosh does he deserve it.…


Lucky Socks

January 25th, 2013 at 8:38 AM ^

I hate this argument.  What about the 20+ carries a game he took in college (plus QB hits) makes you think he can't handle 5-15 touches a game in the pros?  He really didn't get injured that much.  Dinged up here and there and returned shortly after in every case, except when it affected his throwing (which won't be an issue in the pros).  

You cite his "body type."  I realize he doesn't have the thick lower body of Ray Rice or MJD, but he's 5"11 196 which isn't a stick figure.  Nobody is going to mistake him for Ray Rice in terms of what they'll ask him to do.  And sure, he'll get hammered now and then but Denard's toughness is underrated.  He doesn't writhe in pain and exaggerate after big hits.  He usually gets back up and taps the defender on the helmet.  If you're worried about him getting injured you should be concerned about high level running back that plays the game just as much.  

I think he's a more natural fit at RB, but the poster below me makes some great points.  Ultimately I think he's making a good choice to attempt this move.  He'd have a lot of work to do at either position.  


January 25th, 2013 at 9:19 AM ^

Think of Reggie Bush...not much bigger, was too slight to run between the tackles, few years in, he played slot, returner, and some tb and is now a solid starter. Denard has better vision running between the tackles than Bush when he came out and is more patient


January 25th, 2013 at 8:12 AM ^

I'd say no.  I don't necessarily agree with LightTheLamp.  I think he lasts longer than 3 games, but his career wouldn't be very long.  He also will have similar issues (learning to block among them.)

Sure his draft status may have dropped, but going to RB won't rise his draft status and increase the amount of money on his first contract.  I think he's just going to have to dedicate himself to route running.  I think his hands will be fine, but he needs to be crisp with the routes.

In short I think he'll have a better, longer career at WR / Slot than if he went to RB.  He's going to be an investment, but could wind up being a steal in this draft.   His route running is underdeveloped, yet he still can gain separation from his defenders.


January 25th, 2013 at 8:18 AM ^

There is no way he is a full time WR or RB.  Whomever drafts him is going to use him in creative ways to change the pace and get him the ball in space.  Not sure it matters if he is lined up as a RB and taking a pitch, sweep, or a pass out of the backfield or in the slot and taking a quick slant or a deep ball.  He definately needs to work on his hands, route running and blocking to be viable in those positions as the threat or a decoy.  I just don't see him lining up for every play and banging game in and game out at that size.  Chris Johnson seems to have a different mentality where he wants to hit hard whereas, Denard is more of a speedster that would rather dance around you and make you look silly.  The latter tends to make for more awkward hits when he expects to ellude defenders and gets snagged.  I hope nothing but the best for him and that his longtime girlfriend is real.  


January 25th, 2013 at 9:35 AM ^

Unless Im wrong, he is just as big as Chris Johnson, and just as fast.

And if the Broncos can draft a runt like Ronnie Hillman (who is TINY) in the 3rd round to play the change-of-pace Sproles-type role, then the NFL can use Denard in this exact same way, provided he can handle blocking assignments, and to me that is the big unknown.


January 25th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

I never say that he is any different in size than Chris Johnson.  I simply feel like they have a different running style that makes it difficult to compare them.  I would classify Denard as more ellusive of a back so when he does get snagged it makes for more awkward hits that increase the liklihood of an injury.  Just my opinion.  


January 25th, 2013 at 8:19 AM ^

This is almost getting cliche at this point, but I have said since his freshman year that this kid is percy harvin playing the wrong position. I think he is in the review category as far as draft day goes. One team will be way high on him on draft day. Now, with Robubson that means probably mid 3rd instead of 1st round, but he will get his opportunity. I wouldn't expect an extremely prolific career from him, But at 8-13 touches a game. He is durable enough. He actually has less injury concern than harvin (migraines)

Shakey Jake

January 25th, 2013 at 8:24 AM ^

If Denard can't over come his ulnar nerve injury, all of this talk will be moot. He has to get healthy and/or hope some team decides to take a chance on him in the last round because right now his prospects look pretty grim.


January 25th, 2013 at 8:25 AM ^

#43 Running Back New OrleansNew Orleans
Height: 5-6
Weight: 190
Born: Jun 20, 1983 - Waterloo, Iowa
College: Kansas State
Draft: 2005 - 4th round 29th pick by the San Diego Chargers
Rush Yds Yds/Game TD
vs CAR 1 1 0
Season 244 18.8 1
Player Profile
Split Stats
Situational Stats
Career Stats
Game Log
News & Notes
Darren Sproles: Career Statistics

Career Stats Rushing Receiving Fumbles
Season Team G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Rec Tgt Yds Y/G Avg Lng YAC 1stD TD Fum FumL
2005-06 San Diego 15 8 50 3.3 6.3 0 3 4 10 0.7 3.3 6 5.7 0 0 0 0
2007-08 San Diego 15 37 164 10.9 4.4 2 10 12 31 2.1 3.1 14 6.6 3 0 0 0
2008-09 San Diego 16 61 330 20.6 5.4 1 29 34 342 21.4 11.8 66 12.4 14 5 1 0
2009-10 San Diego 16 93 343 21.4 3.7 3 45 57 497 31.1 11.0 81 12.5 20 4 0 0
2010-11 San Diego 16 50 267 16.7 5.3 0 59 75 520 32.5 8.8 57 8.5 25 2 1 1
2011-12 New Orleans 16 87 603 37.7 6.9 2 86 111 710 44.4 8.3 39 8.4 35 7 0 0
2012-13 New Orleans 13 48 244 18.8 5.1 1 75 104 667 51.3 8.9 44 9.0 29 7 0 0
Career Totals 107 384 2001 18.7 5.2 9 307 397 2777 26.0 9.0 81 9.5 126 25 2 1

No way Denard could be used like this. He's to small "Right".


January 25th, 2013 at 9:36 AM ^

There is a major difference between 5'6" 190 and 5'10.5 195. I'm not arguing that Denard's too small or anything (I think he's somewhat undersized but not terribly so, and he's also very good at avoiding the big hits), but Darren Sproles is simply short. 190 at his height is plenty 'thick' enough to be effective.

Bill the Butcher

January 25th, 2013 at 10:31 AM ^

I understand your overall point, but this is a horrible horrible comparison.  

No one is saying Denard is too short to play RB in the league, they are saying he is too slight.  

Sproles is a solid brick, he is 4.5 inches shorter than Denard but only weighs 6 pounds less.  The man is rock solid. 

Denard at 5'10 196 is light compared to other NFL Rbs his height.  Most running backs denards height are 210-225.  This is the point everyone is making when they say he is too small, not that he is short.

Doctor Wolverine

January 25th, 2013 at 9:05 AM ^

Well Doc, I think this is the multi-million dollar question. When Denard is healthy, he is the most electrifying athlete in the entire draft. As long as he is expected to fully recover, I just don't see him falling past the third round. Realistically, I think someone takes him in the second round and uses him at a couple of positions until he gets more practice catching NFL passes.


January 25th, 2013 at 9:23 AM ^

I dont think this is going to be taken right but il try..Denard has wiggle and can make the best of them miss..but he has a straight upright style of running and to me i just dont see him as a me he is a one cut and go RB..i dont think he will ever be a full time WR or RB in the league but a guy that can be used in situations..The way he runs really does remind me of Joshua Cribbs..and Cribbs has never become the every down WR some people thought he could be.


January 25th, 2013 at 9:32 AM ^

Ive been saying RB all along.....   why? Because hes as fast as Chris Johnson, and similar build.... and the size concerns.... well, Denard is bigger than  Ronnie Hillman, too.  


January 25th, 2013 at 9:42 AM ^

He should play RB why would he play WR if he never played it. That the problem with these NFL coaches always making a player play a different position that never played before no wonder they always get fired.


January 25th, 2013 at 10:19 AM ^

"No one doubts that Robinson has the talent to make plays with the ball in his hands, but he may be too small to play running back." - from PFT article

The size argument against Denard at RB, which the ProFootballTalk article mentions, is something I never really bought, so I sort of took a random sample of 70 current NFL running backs, which I believe should be fairly representative, and the average height and weight comes out to 5'11" and 215 pounds. So, if Denard checked in at 5'11" and 198 pounds, then he is in fact at the average height of an NFL running back based on the sample, and only about one standard deviation off the mean weight, and indeed, there are some pretty effective rushers that are even smaller than Denard Robinson as others have pointed out in this thread. He won't be the 6'2", 250 lbs. guy that can run straight into the defense, but if you want agility at the position and someone who can simply get away, Denard would be a good choice.



January 25th, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

Look at CRex's post below. It's not so simple as looking at height and weight. Denard has strong legs, but he has relatively long legs and a high waist compared to a lot of RB's. That's part of the reason he runs high and it also makes you susceptible to lower body injuries as time goes on. It's not just height and weight, it's his build/proportions and his running style. He also doesn't have a particularly large neck or trap muscles like some of these other runningbacks, either. Denard is a little smaller than Michael Vick, and even though he plays QB, you can see that he's not a big guy and he's going up against linemen and LB'ers on a normal basis and it's taken its toll. 


January 25th, 2013 at 9:49 AM ^

hes not gonna get drafted as either till at least the 5th round.. at least thats where id draft him. he has had trouble fielding kicks and punts as well as running crisp routes. at this point the only teams that will take him are those who can afford the luxury of drafting someone with the skill set of a randell cobb...

i know it has been said before on this board but he didnt do himself any favors by staying a full time qb his sr year


January 25th, 2013 at 9:55 AM ^

The key to Denard's success in the NFL is to be drafted by a team that has the patience to develop and maximize his talents rather than one that expects him to contribute right away.  

An ideal situation would be to get drafted by New England and be developed to be the successor to Wes Welker.  He could be catching passes from Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett for the next 10-15 years.  A nighmare scenario would be to get drafted by a team that expects him to contribute right away.

In a way, his dropped balls at the Senior Bowl practices could a a blessing in disguise, because it lowers expectations while allowing him to showcase his athleticism.  He might not get the big paycheck right away, but he could make up for it in a longer career with big paychecks down the road.  

WestVirginia W…

January 25th, 2013 at 9:55 AM ^

Next season Denard will see a lot of action as a scat back playing with.......

Wait for it....

The New England Patriots- who will take him in the second round. (They have enough draft picks to take the chance.)


January 25th, 2013 at 10:09 AM ^

While you can discuss body type and size for NFL backs, one key issue is Denard's injury history.  In RR's last year, when the offense involved Denard carrying a heavy load, Denard struggled to complete games and we saw things like DG burning a redshirt.  In Hoke's first year Denard had that knee issue that hung around for a lot of the season.  This year of course was the nerve injury.  

Think back to Chris Perry, excellent Michigan rusher, good for 30 carries a game.  Good body size for the pros.  Yet he had a short and injury ridden career in the pros because he had so much wear and tear on his body before he went pro.  Hart also spent a lot of his time in Indy on the IR.  RB is posistion where a lot of people only make it a few years due to the hits and it doesn't help when you took a lot of hits in college.  I'd be worried that Denard would face an end similiar at RB.  That said if WR doesn't work, he'll have to settle for being a change of pace back I suppose.  

On a side note, I'd also disagree with just height and weight being the determing factors for a good NFL back.  A lot of the 5' 10", 5' 11" guys are built like boulders with no necks and really powerful legs.  You have to consider things like torso sizes, the percentage of the height that is legs, etc.  Denard is more on the lithe side.  


January 25th, 2013 at 10:40 AM ^

I agree. You can point to guys like Chris Johnson all you want, but the fact is that he's not the norm. If you run a 4.2 and has had sick numbers at RB through high school and college, than yes, his size is not as much of a factor. But, most RB's don't have Chris Johnson's build, who is pretty thickly built himself if you see him in person. I remember thinking Clinton Portis was on the small side, and while that may have been true, he had more of a RB build. 


January 25th, 2013 at 10:36 AM ^

The reason he's projected to be a WR is partly due to what other QB's have done, Denard's build, injury history, and his upside. I understand Denard was successful running the ball between the tackles, but I don't know why people are so quick to judge Denard at WR when he hasn't been playing the position very long. Whether he goes to RB or WR, he will have to learn a lot of new skills. Let the guy continue to learn and develop. Teams will probably give him some handoffs, but if he wants to grow and "own" a position, it's probably going to be as a slot WR. 

Kinda OT, but Denard is a guy who I could see blowing up in some capacity in the CFL, just sayin'.


January 25th, 2013 at 12:33 PM ^

He is such a good athlete you could make the argument he could "learn" lots of positions, but fergodsakes, he ran for 4500 yards. You don't do that running only "in space" like some people have said. He has proven he can run inside, outside , break tackles or break ankles, he has shown he can do it all running the football. As for his size, he is already bigger than 2 of Mel Kiper's top 5 RB prospects. Why aren't they being slotted for WR? I also think he may not have had a focus on gaining weight for the QB position, I  think he could easily add 10-15 punds of good weight if gaining weight was a focus for him. As far as blocking, it is nice if he can learn to do it, but Barry Sanders and Chris Johnson didn't really seem to do much of it and they both are single season. 2000 yard rushers. He has no experience at WR, why have him start from scratch learning a role vs playing a posoiton he would be able to learn much faster and has already shown good performance at?


January 25th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

 ok he doesn't have a spot in the NFl right now. He might be a RB, receiver, return guy or even a DB. He has auditioned for a RB spot last few games of his Michigan career. Some teams think of him as a WR so why not use the senior bowl as an audition for those teams? He still has the combine to be a workout warrior. Seems like a good strategy to me. I don't see Denard going past the 2nd round

Lazer with a Z

January 25th, 2013 at 2:08 PM ^

I don't think getting hit is the issue with Denard playing running back. He got tackled just as much as any running back during his time in the winged helmet. 

His issue, especially in the NFL, is pass protection. I'm not sure he can pass protect well enough to be an NFL RB. 

If I recall correctly, he was in for about one pass play as RB in the Outback bowl where he had to pass protect, and it didn't go well for him. 

He's a "project." NFL teams don't really want projects. They want dudes who can play, and play right away. 


January 25th, 2013 at 4:47 PM ^

 He might be a "project" as you say but he is a playmaker and plenty of NFL teams want those.

 He's still having nerve issues in his elbow tho which i thought would have healed by now. it must need surgery but he is trying to wait till after the combines.


January 25th, 2013 at 2:26 PM ^

""Denard weighed in at 196(double check) and measured 5,11. ""


That would not be a discount double check, because IMO Denard will be selected late in the First Round by a good team looking to add that explosive offensive piece.

Denard absolutely is a better fit at Running Back than trying to learn to play WR in the NFL.  I do not understand why more people do not see this.  He is a threat at RB right now and is at least a year or probably two away from being a decent WR.


January 25th, 2013 at 3:50 PM ^

Looking at Denard's speed, my guess is Chip Kelly must be licking his chops to grab Denard. If Chip Kelly does indeed look to run his up-pace offense in Philly, Denard would be a great additional asset. 


January 25th, 2013 at 3:59 PM ^

I would draft Denard to be RGIII's backup.  That way you can have a QB that can run the same offense as the starter.  Obviously not as well, since that's why he's the backup, but offensive continuity is valuable.  This would help RGIII as well, since it would lessen the value of attempting to injure him.  You could even run a few plays with them both on the field if you were comfortable with it.

If I were another team, I'd take Denard as a WR.  Year 1, he mostly is on the field for a few special plays designed to get him the ball in space, and decoys of those plays.  (Yes, Borges, Denard can be the decoy.)  Year 2, after he's hopefully better at route running and catching, he can be a full-fledged receiver.  I would have no problem picking him in round 3, because if I'm an NFL team I'm used to selecting receivers in the third round who have upside but sometimes bust, and upside wins you championships.


January 25th, 2013 at 4:24 PM ^

Tom Brady was a late-rounder, and turned out fine.

Denard will be OK. He'll work hard and reward the team that adds him to the roster, he's just a bit raw right now.


January 25th, 2013 at 5:33 PM ^

I've said for quite some time that he should play either rb or kr/pr in the NFL. Running back definitely suits him best. He was a good enough passer to get by at the college level, but his biggest asset has always been his legs. Chris Johnson is the obvious comparison, but I think Denard can be better. Between his obvious talent, attitude, coachability, and work ethic, I believe he could develop into a special talent at the rb position. I think that every team needs a power back and a fast back to have a successful ground game in the NFL. For example if the Lions had Best and LeShoure. Not to mention Denard has proven his toughness and won't have to carry the ball 20 times a game. As long as he can come back okay from his nerve injury, he should be fine...assuming some team plays him at rb.

The Truth Hurts

January 25th, 2013 at 7:22 PM ^

i say he should go and run the fastest 40 time ever then every team will come running for him. The lions should take him in the later rounds if he is still availabe on day 3.  he will be their javid best.  you can line him up anywhere in the offense, even throw megatron one of his oh ohs jumpballs.


wustl wolverine

January 25th, 2013 at 7:58 PM ^

Same thing I said in the Staples article discussion, I think Denard also can be compared to Jamaal Charles and CJ Spiller.  Charles especially seems like a good comparison.  Watching his college and pro highlights he certainly seems to look pretty similar to Denard when he's running, and this draft analysis for Charles sounds a lot like how I would view Denard right now.…

Obviously Charles had the advantage of playing rb while in college, and even then he was just a 3rd round pick.  But I think I would be comfortable spending a 4th round pick to get Denard to be that type of running back.  10-16 touches plus a valuable 2nd option if / when your 1st rb option gets dinged up seems like a worthwhile investment.  I just wish Denard was working on learning to pass block, and maybe adding 5 lbs to show scouts that he can be that second rb option, while style keeping his playmaker speed.