By Mark Haas
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Jalen Robinette knows how to make the most of a rare opportunity.
In Air Force’s run first, triple-option offense, Robinette caught just 35 passes in 2016 (263rd in NCAA Division 1), but averaged a whopping 27.4 yards per catch (1st in NCAA Division I).
“When the ball is in the air you have to make it count,” says Robinette, who is the Falcons all-time leading receiver. “We pride ourselves on beating on people with the run and then when we do throw it up we have the guys who can make the plays.”
So don’t be surprised if Robinette makes the most of a rare invite for an Air Force player to the NFL Combine and becomes the first Falcon drafted in almost 20 years.
“We haven’t had a guy drafted since ’99,” said Robinette, referring to Bryce Fisher. “And it’s great being that guy that has a chance to open the door for other guys, too.”
Early mock drafts have mixed projections for Robinette, with some having him going as high as the 2nd round.
“I do think he will be drafted,” said ESPN NFL reporter Jeff Legwold. “If he has a good pre-draft process — and the Combine and his pro day will be very important for him — if all that goes well I think he could be a second day pick (Rounds 2-3) for a team that really likes him and projects him into their offense.”
Legwold compares Robinette to a slightly slower Demaryius Thomas in that they both come from similar college offenses where they produced similar less than stellar stats.
“D.T. (Thomas) said his biggest transition was routes, because he only ran two or three different routes in Georgia Tech’s option offense,” said Legwold. “Like D.T., Jalen is physically an opposing receiver and teams like how he attacks the ball when he catches it, but he has faced a lot of single coverage with defensive backs playing off of him because they are so worried about his team running the ball.”
Robinette says he is motivated by all the obstacles that have stood in his way, but tries not to pay too much attention to all “the outside noise.”
“With the offense I play in, and coming from the academy, but that’s how our whole team has been with people doubting us or picking other teams over us,” said Robinette. “So we play with a chip on our shoulder and I train like that as well.”
Speaking of the academy, a change in government policy last summer now allows athletes like Jalen to bypass their required active duty commitment if they go directly to the NFL.
But that doesn’t mean Robinette gets any break from his current Air Force commitments to spend more time training for the Combine in the Denver metro area.
“He met us at the fields the other day and he came up in his full uniform,” says trainer Loren Landow. “And that’s when it really hit me that this kid is burning the midnight oil preparing for this thing.”
“I’m taking six classes this semester and trying to fit in training plus my military duties,” says Robinette. “My days are pretty full.”
But Robinette says it will all be worth it, no matter what happens at the NFL Draft.
“Just keep pushing harder and this could be something that happens,” said Robinette. “And if it doesn’t, I have a pretty good Plan B with being an officer in the greatest Air Force in the world.”