Rashard Robinson makes sense as cornerback project for Chiefs

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 2: Anthony Firkser #86 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Rashard Robinson #30 of the New York Jets while running with the ball during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 2: Anthony Firkser #86 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Rashard Robinson #30 of the New York Jets while running with the ball during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs would do well to kick the tires on a young cornerback prospect still learning his way in the NFL in Rashard Robinson.

The San Francisco 49ers were the first to try it. The New York Jets were next in line. Now Rashard Robinson is hoping another NFL franchise will attempt to help him find his way as a pro cornerback.

The Kansas City Chiefs would do well to try it.

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Let’s be clear: the transaction history of the NFL is a roll call of fringe prospects, a player with everything right save for one or two areas that are in need of repair. Maybe the player comes with character concerns and failed to ever stay out of trouble or focus enough to make it. Perhaps the prospect couldn’t overcome poor technique and develop as a coaching staff had hoped. Not every player who is fast enough, strong enough, agile enough can put it all together on the field, and even those with a complete physical makeup can be lacking the mental toughness needed to compete at the highest level.

All that to say, Robinson likely has a short shelf life left at the pro level and even if he’s claimed by any team, Chiefs included, it’s likely not going to work out. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the story told by the numbers, of the countless “talented-but” projects before him.

That said, it’s worth a shot.

Robinson was cut by the Jets on Friday and went unclaimed over the weekend. At this point, he’s readily available for some team to take a chance, and even though the Jets and Niners failed to see things through for one reason or another, some players are simply late bloomers. For a team like the Chiefs with a need for more competition at cornerback, Robinson would make a nice no-risk bet.

Consider this: Robinson was good enough as a high school athlete to warrant a scholarship to LSU. Once there, he started only games total (and played in 15). By comparison, he’s already started 15 games (and played in 38) since joining the pro ranks in three NFL seasons.

When the San Francisco 49ers used a fourth round pick on him in the 2016 NFL Draft, it meant that scouts loved his pro potential, despite what they failed to see in college. They saw a 6’1 corner with long arms with the agility to stay with even the better receivers he’d ever face and a physical style that wasn’t afraid to get dirty. Robinson also reportedly ran unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.28 and 4.33 seconds at his pro day, despite his official Combine time of 4.49 seconds.

The Niners were not alone here. Robinson’s scouting report over at Bleacher Report compared him to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and projected him as a Day 2 pick (Rounds 2-3). Lance Zierlein of NFL.com agreed for the most part here and said he’s a future starter who can play on an island at corner. The primary downsides here were all about his character and the fact that he hated school—yet even those noted concerns were less about his real character and more about early immaturity in college.

When the Niners finally decided to give up on Robinson internally, they were also able to completely recoup their draft investment because Jets GM Mike McCagnan was willing to give them a fifth round choice (just one spot lower than originally taken) in a trade. That was a great deal for the Niners, and the Jets would soon come to the same conclusion. Now Robinson sits available to anyone, but it’s worth noting that more than one team saw real pro potential here despite the issues and lack of proven production.

Robinson does not have a clean slate even now. His college antics cost him two seasons and forced him to enter the draft earlier than anticipated. He was also suspended four games last season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy—possessing marijuana-laced candy.

But here’s the flip side to this whole character coin: whoever takes a chance on Robinson will, hopefully, find a player who has hit rock bottom. He’s been given a chance and then another and failed to make good on either one. This time around, he knows is likely his last spell in the NFL before having to think about life after professional football—a hard reality for any player on the verge of not making an active roster. Every team just passed on claiming him when the Jets placed him on waivers. That’s a real stomach punch.

Robinson is also only 23-years-old right now, and yet he has three full years in the NFL under his belt. He’s younger than some NFL rookies yet he’s on his last leg. If Robinson was ever going to sit up straight and face forward, so to speak, the time might be now.

If Robinson was ever going to turn the corner, he’d offer a team a very young yet experienced cornerback with the requisite blend of size, length, agility, speed, and tackling ability to trust on the outside. It’s also possible he will never put it all together, and NFL history favors that outcome over any inspirational story. That said, it cost the Chiefs some investigative work and nothing more to see if Robinson could pull it all together if given a chance in the heartland.

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That’s a chance worth taking in my book.