The Minnesota Vikings have made a living on finding and developing mid-round pass rushers over the last 15 years with Danielle Hunter being the highest profile of the bunch. The list, however, is very impressive. Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Ray Edwards were all 4th round selections and played significant roles as starters with Griffen making multiple pro bowls and was an all-pro in 2017. While the list of hits for the former DL coach turned co-defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Andre Patterson is littered with great success stories, like any coach he doesn’t have a perfect track record.
After a two year stint with the Vikings under Dennis Green in 1998-1999, Patterson came back to the Vikings in 2014. Once he returned to the team, the Vikings have seen exponential growth with the talent they have had in the building and a good success rate with mid/late round picks.
2014: Scott Crichton-3rd
2015: Danielle Hunter-3rd, BJ Dubose-6th
2016: Stephen Weatherly-7th
2017: Ifeadi Odenigbo-7th
2018: Jalyn Holmes-4th, Ade Aruna-6th
2020: DJ Wonnum-4th, Kenny Willekes-7th
Of that list, the Vikings hit big time on Danielle Hunter and got much more than expected from both Stephen Weatherly and Ifeadi Odenigbo as 7th round picks. Jalyn Holmes has been a below average rotational guy and we don’t know enough about DJ Wonnum or Kenny Willekes to make a determination on either. The other 3 made little to no impact. Why is this important when it comes to Janarius Robinson? We don’t know what bucket he falls into yet.
A consensus 4 star recruit out of the state of Florida, Janarius Robinson chose Florida State over schools like Florida and Alabama and made 28 starts over his 4 seasons. Like a lot of his teammates on the Seminoles over the last 4 seasons, Robinson didn’t live up to expectations. He amassed only 8 sacks in his career playing alongside guys like Marvin Wilson and that kind of production is sub-optimal. While the lack of production would scare off other teams, it doesn’t scare off the Vikings and Andre Patterson. Why is that?
Danielle Hunter and his 4.5 sacks at LSU.
As a whole, we need to stop comparing every single mid round defensive lineman to the biggest draft anomaly and success story of the last decade. With that being said, the general blueprint of what Danielle Hunter was coming out of college fits Janarius Robinson to a T: incredibly raw pass rusher with elite size and length but poor production. When you watch him on film, you can see why Andre Patterson wanted to work with him. Lets talk about what he brings to the table.
While he will likely be best suited as a 5 technique edge, Janarius Robinson can do a little bit of everything. He has the length and frame to slide inside and rush from a 3 technique position. The play above shows another element to his game: the ability to stand up and wreak havoc on the quarterback. The flexibility will help him be an asset early on as he continues to develop.
Janarius Robinson is built like a brick house. Both tall and thick at 6’5″ 260lbs, he plays physical and doesn’t get impacted easily. In the above clip, Robinson gets quick penetration on the blitz and keeps his balance well when the running back engages him in the hole.
When it comes to rushing the passer, Robinson has a lot to work on. What he does show quite often is reps like the above clip where there are skills that can be developed and maximized. Robinson senses the tackle oversetting and he buries the inside shoulder with a long arm. The quick read and adjusting his pass rush around it was excellent and something you can build on tenfold. In the next clip, he does a similar move but instead works the outside shoulder with is exceptional length and brute strength.
As I talked about in the above clip, Robinson has good vision and can see what is going on in front of him. All over his film, Robinson stays patient on the read option and explodes out of his break to pursue the runner. He exemplifies that here where he crosses the formation to make a play on the running back.
When Janarius Robinson rushes the passer, he flashes elite-level athleticism and the ability to get off the ball. The explosion that you see from Robinson play after play is no secret. The first step quickness is something that you can’t teach and I know Andre Patterson loves that quick first step.
Why Was He Available In Round 4?
This is a very complicated answer. On tools alone, Robinson shows the ability of a first-round talent. What he doesn’t have to get him there is highly developed technique and a small production profile. Only having 8 sacks at Florida State is not what you would consider ideal. The age factor is where the Danielle Hunter comparison ends. Robinson left Florida State as a 5th year senior and Hunter was drafted at the age of 20. As a player becomes older, it becomes increasingly harder to develop them. Robinson currently goes into most pass rush reps looking to initiate contact and doesn’t seem to have a fully developed plan or arsenal of counters. The fact that he is as underdeveloped as he was going into the draft is why he was still available at pick 134.
What Is His Projection?
A successful career for a 4th round pick is to be a contributor within two seasons and a starter by the end of his rookie deal. With Robinson specifically, I believe he will be a contributor on pass-rushing downs early on as he continues to learn the nuances of the position. Even with the obvious comparisons to Danielle Hunter, we cannot put those expectations on him. Similar to Patrick Jones II, if he can develop a couple of pass rush moves, Robinson could be a real player for the Vikings. For now, give him time. Even though he likely could contribute day one, you don’t want him to. Let Andre Patterson develop his technique before we go ahead and anoint him as the next great mid-round edge rusher.