So what makes for a seemingly can’t miss, second pick in the NFL draft offensive tackle’s failure to stick with the team that drafted him only three years ago? How about playing for Gus Malzahn?
… It’s been sort of mystifying; he’s a top-tier athlete, a guy that consistently bullied defensive linemen in the run game in college, and yet he can’t seem to beat anyone at the pro level. What happened?
He was essentially playing a different game at Auburn. The Tigers’ offense was a spread-out, space-based option system, a modern derivative of the Wing-T, and it required completely different things of Robinson than what the Rams’ old-school, I-formation-style scheme would. Robinson, like many college linemen transitioning to the NFL of late, had little experience with the types of blocks he needed to be able to execute at the next level. In former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz’s informative piece on SB Nation breaking down the difficulties of transitioning to the professional game, he notes that “Robinson played in [a college offense] that barely resembled anything that exists in the NFL. I could hardly find any clips to make comparisons [for what he’s done with the Rams].” [Emphasis added.]
The lack of overlap in technique from the college game to the pros is becoming an increasingly common issue for scouts and evaluators, making a position that’s traditionally been considered a relatively safe bet much trickier to hit on in the draft. “Sometimes you go through 80 plays [on a college tape] and only eight of them are truly gradable, where they’re at the point of contact and they’re actually doing something you’re going to ask them to do,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said at the combine in February.
“A lot of the [spread offense] offensive linemen, they’re not necessarily asked to run off the ball, and [set] a guy up, and try to move [a big defensive end] three yards down the field,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said in 2016. “They’re kind of asked to just ‘zone and occupy,’ and let the backs cut off the blocks. So you really have to dig through those plays where you can really see him unroll his hips, and dig his cleats in, and really get moving.”
It appears it’s not just the Nick Marshalls of the world who have trouble transitioning from Auburn’s offense to the pros. I hope Kirby and Sam Pittman are printing off copies of this article to pass around to as many high school lineman recruits as they possibly can.