Swapping out Jarvis Landry for Amari Cooper was a great move by the Cleveland Browns to improve their passing offense, but the wide receiver room still needs work, and Wan’Dale Robinson from Kentucky could be a player that adds something different to the group.
Robinson is a tiny 5-8 178 pounds with a small catch radius and won’t be winning jump balls any time soon, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in skill and athletic ability. He’s very quick and agile, able to stop and start on a dime and bounce in and out of his routes. Robinson's Combine testing was decent, but certainly not as impressive as what he displays on tape, and as we found out last year, the Browns prioritize GPS tracking and on-field athleticism over the underwear olympics.
He spent his first two seasons playing for Nebraska, cathing 91 passes for 914 yards and 3 touchdowns. He then transferred to Kentucky and topped those numbers in 2021 alone, hauling in 104 balls for 1,334 yards and 7 scores.
Robinson was deployed in a variety of ways as he moved around the formation and exploited matchups. That’ll be his role in the NFL, as there isn’t a long track record of players his size consistently holding up as traditional receivers. His excellent field vision is his best trait, and that enabled him to gain 599 of his 1,334 yards after the catch, with a solid average depth of target of 10.4 yards.
Robinson spent time both inside and outside in college, but his role in the NFL would almost certainly place him exclusively in the slot. He can be a seam and YAC threat, working underneath Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Njoku, giving Deshaun Watson a dumpoff option who can turn a 5-yard drag into an explosive 50-yard gain.
It's going to be very difficult for Robinson to catch the ball downfield unless there is a significant amount of separation. He accelerates well, but his steps are so small that it does take him a while to pull away from defenders, and if he's getting off coverage it will be tough for him to win deep. That makes it all the more important that he perfects his game in the short area of the field and can take advantage of any space he receives.
Another question is that of his athletic ability; his testing numbers are good, but are they good enough to overcome his lack of size? NFL defenders are much bigger, stronger, and faster than the ones he was able to out-quick in college.
NFL Mock Draft Database has Robinson as the consensus 78th-ranked player, which is right where the Browns are picking in the third round. That seems a bit rich for someone with Robinson's limitations, and he'd make more sense if he's still on the board at 99 or 118, even if they’ve already added a receiver at 44 or 78. The presence of Demetric Felton as a slot/jet option should not preclude the team from adding a player like Robinson (or, better yet, Calvin Austin III, if Cleveland is willing to bend the age guardrail just a tad) to the WR group, as he does provide a different skillset and athletic profile, one that this offense could really use.
Wan’Dale Robinson is an interesting player whose size didn’t prevent him from being an effective college player, and in the right role, he can find some success in the NFL, providing playmaking ability in a small form factor. The price has to be right though, and he may ultimately not make much sense for the Browns for that reason.