Joe Schoen’s first second-round pick as the general manager of the New York Giants was a wildly unpopular one. The selection of wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson was lampooned. Currently, there is speculation that Robinson won’t be ready to open the season after he tore his ACL last season.
Lost in the shuffle, though, was that Robinson was quietly productive in his limited action last season. Though he has more competition for his role and the road back from injury is tough, he should not be written off just yet.
By the numbers
Position: Wide receiver
Contract: Second year of four-year, $8,185,166 rookie deal | Guaranteed: $5,791,409 | 2023 cap hit: $1,860,265
Career to date
Robinson began his college career at Nebraska in 2019. As a freshman, he appeared in 10 games, starting three at receiver and one at running back. He had 40 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing 88 times for 340 yards (3.9 per carry) and three scores. He returned 11 kickoffs at 21.5 yards per return. He was a second-team freshman All-American and an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection.
As a sophomore, Robinson played in eight games (all starts) but pulled in 51 receptions for 461 yards and a score. He also ran 46 times for 240 yards (5.2 per carry) and a touchdown. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten coach selection.
Robinson then transferred to Kentucky for his junior year to be closer to home. He started all 13 games and put up a whopping 104 receptions, 1,334 yards, and seven receiving touchdowns. He took very few snaps from the backfield, rushing just seven times for 111 yards (15.9 per carry). He was named to the second-team All-SEC and won the Citrus Bowl MVP after catching 10 passes for 170 yards in the game.
Robinson decided to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. The Giants selected him with the 43rd pick even though he was widely projected to go in the third or fourth round. A knee sprain after just nine snaps and one catch in Week 1 held him out for the next four games, which started his season on the wrong foot.
However, once Robinson returned in Week 6, he began to find his role. Over the next five weeks, he caught 22 of 29 balls (75.9%) for 222 yards and a score, averaging 4.4 receptions and 44.4 yards per game. He also averaged 5.5 yards after catch per reception, per Pro Football Focus, albeit with a very short average depth of target (ADOT) of just 6.1 yards. PFF also charged him with two drops for an 8% rate, although Pro Football Reference listed it as one (3.2%). Robinson’s targeted passer rating was 108.6 in his short stint, and he had a 72.0 PFF grade.
In Week 11, during his first 100-yard game as a pro on nine receptions, Robinson tore his ACL and went down for the season.
Since Robinson’s injury occurred at the end of November, it puts his timeline somewhat in doubt for Week 1 of the 2023 season. ACL tears can take anywhere from 10 months to more than a year to fully heal with a mean time of 10.5 months. The Giants’ opening game against the Cowboys is less than a full 10 months after Robinson’s tear. This leaves the possibility that he will begin the season on the PUP list, notwithstanding his optimism that he will be ready.
When Robinson does return, the question is what his role will be. At 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, he is a slot receiver, having played 80.7% of his snaps there in 2022 and 71% in his last two years of college. However, the Giants also have Parris Campbell and first-round pick Jalin Hyatt on the roster, and both of those players are also slot receivers.
How the Giants will work Robinson into the lineup remains to be seen. However, his play prior to his ACL tear has been somewhat forgotten, likely because it was not flashy. His per-game numbers in the five mostly-full games he played would translate to 75 receptions for 755 yards over a 17-game slate.
While 10.1 yards per reception won’t turn heads, Robinson was undoubtedly an asset to the receiving corps. He demonstrated that he can get open in the slot and make things happen in the short area of the field, which is where Daniel Jones likes to throw.
Of course, the recovery from injury could limit Robinson’s explosiveness this season, which is likely one of the reasons that Campbell was signed. Still, I would expect the Giants to try to work their second-year player into the lineup to give him a longer look. He could sneak up on people as a contributor to the Giants’ offense, especially with the myriad of other weapons that could keep coverages away from him.