In Chop Robinson, Dolphins went for upside, but can he contribute now?

April 26, 2024

MIAMI GARDENS — At the end of a long first round, very late Thursday night, I asked Dolphins general manager Chris Grier where first-rounder Chop Robinson’s skillset and tool box are on the scale of raw to polished.

Dolphins Go With Chop Robinson with First Pick

“’Rawlished?” Miami coach Mike McDaniel interjected, eliciting laughter. “I couldn’t help it. I’m sorry.”

Perhaps Robinson is something in-between.

We know that Chop’s physical traits and metrics are off the charts.

We know Chop’s production, notably sacks, has not been.

And herein lies the concern.

Robinson, the Penn State edge rusher, may one day post 11.5 sacks in an NFL season.

It is also true that in three seasons – one at Maryland and two at Penn State – Chop has a total of 43 games played, but only 11.5 sacks.

“Is he a finished product?” Grier said. “No. And I think he’d probably admit that to you as well, and not many players who come into the league are.”

Chop Robinson of Dolphins not a finished product

Grier noted Robinson has first-step quickness and explosion. And I hate to bring this up, but that was the reputation of another first-round edge rusher who flopped in Miami, Charles Harris.

Grier noted that accomplished NFL pass rusher Danielle Hunter (87.5 sacks in eight seasons) had only 4.5 sacks in three seasons at LSU.

That is a relevant comparison.

Grier noted Robinson – whose physical traits have been compared to former Nittany Lion Micah Parsons – has rare speed and athletic tools for a pass rusher.

I do hate to bring this up, but that was the reputation of another first-round edge rusher who flopped in Miami, Dion Jordan.

It should be noted that Miami believes very much in Robinson’s motor and work ethic. Those were issues for Jordan. The Dolphins believe Robinson can reach his potential with strong coaching.

Our “instant” grade of the Robinson pick was a “B” and that’s because, heck, we don’t know, perhaps Robinson will develop into an elite pro pass rusher.

It’s not really fair to grade the move a “C” when scouts are, in fact, very intrigued to discover what Robinson may become.

And, yes, Grier has a responsibility to think beyond this season. He must think ahead two, three and even four years.

Miami Dolphins in win-now mode, need win-now players

But let’s face it. The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game in a quarter-century. They are in win-now mode as a franchise. They must win now.

Grier knows it.

The Dolphins caught a bad break when practically all seven of the seven players drafted right in front of them seemed to be ideally crafted to wear aqua and orange.

It was a lousy blow when Troy Fautanu, the guard/tackle from Washington, went one pick in front of them, to the Steelers.

Grier could have gone with a safer play, perhaps Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton, for example. But he went for the riskier play, undoubtedly with a higher ceiling.

Edge rusher is a position of need, no doubt.

Nobody can say for sure how much Shaq Barrett has left in his tank. And more importantly, nobody can say for sure when Jaelan Phillips (Achilles) and Bradley Chubb (ACL) will be back to full speed.

Miami Dolphins’ 2024 NFL Draft pick more risky than safe

It’s just that No. 21 really seemed like a spot where Miami could stand to luck into a safer pick.

It may take some time for Robinson to develop a full arsenal of pass-rush moves strong enough to consistently defeat NFL tackles.

It may take some time for Robinson to become as strong a run defender as he has the potential to be.

It may take some time for Robinson to learn how to best capitalize on attacking from multiple positions.

The whole thing may just take some time.

Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson (44) was the No. 21 overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2024 NFL Draft. Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

In a more ideal world, Miami would have had the option to tab someone able to undoubtedly contribute in 2024, either at guard, defensive tackle or, yes, edge.

Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy or Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner or Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse would have been an obvious fits.

But they, too, went just ahead of the Dolphins.

Could Miami have selected speedy wide receiver Xavier Worthy? Well, yeah, sure, but did the Dolphins desperately need another tiny receiver?

No, they did not, as much as it probably pained McDaniel to see him land in Kansas City.

Couldn’t Worthy have gone to Seattle or San Francisco or something?

At least he didn’t land in Buffalo, who for some reason traded that pick to the Chiefs. Very odd, that transaction.

The Dolphins made the playoffs and so they were stuck at 21 and really didn’t have much control over who would slide. A few of the guys they probably wish would have, didn’t.

Penn State's Chop Robinson tries to get past Delaware offensive tackle Blaise Sparks and get to quarterback Ryan O'Connor during a game last September.

“Chop was someone that we identified and thought he might be there,” Grier said. “If he wasn’t, there were other players we liked there as well. But he was our targeted player, so for us, we’re very excited to have him.”

The potential is certainly exciting.

McDaniel likes Chop’s upside. But – and this is important – he believes the scouts who say Robinson can help this season.

Dolphins pick Chop Robinson: NFL draft profile, college stats, highlights

Potential. Upside. High Ceiling. That’s all great, but…

McDaniel needs that. New defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver needs that.

Grier needs that.

“A guy that has plenty of room to grow, but I think from all departments, we were very, very convicted that he can be productive and help the entirety of the defense while growing,” McDaniel said.

It’s very, very important that those scouts – and outside linebackers coach Ryan Crow, who presented the team with a research project on Chop – were right.

Miami can’t afford for Robinson to be deemed as simply a raw, developmental prospect with potential.

Miami needs Robinson to live up to his draft status — quickly.

Dolphins NFL draft picks: List of selections in 2024

  • Round 1, Pick 21: Chop Robinson, Penn State edge rusher
  • Round 2, Pick 55
  • Round 5, Pick 158
  • Round 6, Pick 184 (from Chicago)
  • Round 6, Pick 198
  • Round 7, Pick 241

Chop Robinson to Dolphins in NFL draft: Instant grade, analysis, stats for 1st pick