When evaluating an NFL draft pick, multiple years of tape are needed to decide if a player has panned out or busted. The rule of thumb tends to be that after three years you can come to a conclusion on a player. Well, Greg Robinson just concluded the third year of his NFL career. At this point, it should be obvious to the LA Rams and the rest of the league that Robinson is a bust. The 24-year-old left tackle was selected second overall out of Auburn in 2014 by the Rams. But after 42 starts in three years, it’s quite obvious he isn’t a franchise left tackle, or even a competent one for that matter.
What He Was Supposed to Be
Greg Robinson was supposed to be the Rams next Orlando Pace. He was supposed to shore up the offensive line for a decade. He was supposed to overcome his lack of technique with his magnificent athleticism. The 6’5”, 332lb tackle from Auburn shot up draft boards late in the 2013 NCAA football season due to the Tigers’ impressive run to the National Championship,which gave him more exposure. He was ideal in their run-first spread offense. He could use his athleticism to get in front of defenders and maul them. He also played in front of a mobile quarterback in Nick Marshall that could help hide his pass blocking inefficiencies.
After the season, Greg Robinson declared for the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore, while his stock was high. He was always going to be the type of player to dominate “the underwear Olympics”, aka the NFL Scouting Combine. Among offensive linemen, Robinson ran the second fastest 40-yard dash, had the third best broad jump, and benched the seventh most reps. Everybody fell in love with Robinson’s elite athleticism for a man of his size. On May 8th, 2014 with the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Rams selected Greg Robinson, offensive tackle, Auburn University. For context on how much talent was drafted after Robinson, here’s a list of other first-round picks in 2014.
2014 NFL Draft First-Round Picks Taken After Greg Robinson
|#4||Buffalo Bills||Sammy Watkins|
|#5||Oakland Raiders||Khalil Mack|
|#7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Mike Evans|
|#11||Tennessee Titans||Taylor Lewan|
|#12||New York Giants||Odell Beckham Jr.|
|#13||St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams||Aaron Donald|
|#16||Dallas Cowboys||Zack Martin|
What He Is
There’s a large enough sample size to know exactly what Greg Robinson is at this point. The only positive takeaway from his career is his ability to stay healthy. Robinson has started 42 of a possible 48 games in his career. In those 42 starts, Robinson has rarely shown an ability to be even an average NFL offensive lineman. The biggest worry about him coming out of Auburn was his poor technique in pass protection. That technique hasn’t been fixed at all by the Rams’ coaching staff. He doesn’t know how to use his arm length nor his hands when pass blocking. His athleticism can’t makeup for poor technique. His poor technique has led to him taking far too many penalties. It’s clear he’ll never be able to play left tackle and protect the quarterback’s blindside in the NFL.
What seemed like the surest thing about Robinson’s game coming out was his ability to move and maul as a run blocker. Somehow, that ability hasn’t translated to the NFL game at all. He’s arguably a worse run blocker than pass protector. Robinson’s athleticism and power at Auburn were easily noticeable on tape. Against NFL competition, where he isn’t the biggest, strongest, or most athletic lineman on the field, he doesn’t stack up. There’s questions about his work ethic and drive to improve. He was overweight at the Rams training camp prior to this past season. Athletic gifts can only take players so far –they need to work to fit into the faster, stronger, and harder NFL game. To this point, Robinson hasn’t shown the drive to improve and hasn’t been given the coaching he needs to be reliable at any positon.
Best Case Scenario
At this point, the Rams best case scenario with Greg Robinson is not having him become a franchise left tackle, as that simply isn’t happening. There’s no way he’ll develop into a capable NFL pass blocker at this point. If he couldn’t do it in college or the first three years of his NFL career, can he really improve now? Doubtful. Sean McVay’s offense has a lot of downfield passing plays, which mean giving the quarterback a long enough period of time for receivers to come open. In Washington, McVay had All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams. There’s no way he’ll trust Greg Robinson to protect Jared Goff in his offense.
Robinson’s best bet to rectify his career and at least become an average starter is to move to left guard. Left guard is usually the spot along an offensive line where the worst pass protector is put. Offenses can hide a left guard’s pass blocking downfalls by having the center almost always at minimum chip block to help out. Robinson could benefit from rarely being asked to pass block one-on-one. For this to truly work out, though, the Rams would need Robinson to come around as a run blocker. He flashed his heavy hands plenty of times in college when getting out in front of defenders on run plays. His college tape often showed a technique-lacking pass protector, but an athletic run mauler. Best case scenario is that the Rams turn him into a starting left guard that makes an impact in the run game.
Worst Case Scenario
The current situation is basically the Rams worse case scenario with Robinson: drafting an offensive tackle second overall based on potential in one of the most talented drafts in recent memory and then not having him pan out. Robinson is already a complete liability at left tackle and hasn’t been given a lot of opportunity at other positions. He’s played a bit of guard in his career, mostly as a rookie. He isn’t good enough to get on the field as a tackle especially with a new playbook and a young quarterback. The Rams worse case scenario is nothing changes.
Greg Robinson is already on the fourth year of his rookie deal. The amount of dead money that would result from cutting him isn’t worth it. With the 2011 NFL CBA, all first round rookie contracts have fifth year team options. The Rams have until May to exercise the option in Robinsons contract. There’s essentially no chance they’ll exercise it. Unless the best case scenario for the Rams and Robinson happens in the 2017 season, he’ll go down as one of the biggest draft busts ever. The Rams are currently living their worst case scenario.
What Rams Should Do
The Rams should give up on the ‘Greg Robinson at left tackle’ project, and they likely have. Rodger Saffold is the best option to keep Jared Goff’s blindside protected. He has been their best and most consistent offensive lineman for some time now. He has played all over the o-line and the left tackle job should be his. With Saffold at left tackle and Rob Havenstein looking like a 10-year starter at right tackle, the Rams should be comfortable with their bookend tackles. The interior offensive line is a far bigger question mark. Tim Barnes will almost certainly be starting at center once again in 2017. That leaves the guard spots.
The starting guard spots should be up for grabs in Los Angeles. With Saffold most likely moving to left tackle, the Rams need to begin the battle in training camp to replace him. Greg Robinson, Jamon Brown, Cody Wichmann, and Andrew Donnal will most likely compete for the starting guard spots. Despite what Greg Robinson was supposed to be, it’ll be tough for him to claim the starting left guard spot. Come the 2017 regular season, the Jamon Brown will likely be starting at left guard with Cody Wichmann at right. If Greg Robinson can’t crack the starting lineup, his career in LA is over. His NFL career may even be over. 2017 is Greg Robinson’s chance to save himself from being one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.