With the Cowboys continuing to look at possible wide receivers targets in the draft, we do the same with today’s look at SMU’s Reggie Roberson.
Name: Reggie Roberson
Weight: 192 pounds
Combine Results: 29” vertical jump, 114” broad jump
Reggie Roberson was once considered to be on track as a top 50 draft pick, but injuries have derailed his course somewhat. After starring in both football and track at Horn High School in Mesquite, Texas, Roberson committed to West Virginia. However, he transferred to SMU after one year, wanting to be closer to home and earn a chance at more playing time.
Right out of the gate, Roberson looked like a genius for making the switch. He exploded in the Mustangs’ Air Raid offense, tallying 800 yards and six touchdowns in ten games. The next season, Roberson hit those same marks in just eight games, but he suffered a season-ending foot injury. Roberson returned looking even better in 2020, racking up 474 yards and five scores in five games. Unfortunately, a torn ACL ended his season once again.
That caused Roberson to return for the 2021 season, taking advantage of the COVID-19 eligibility freeze. Roberson managed to play in all 12 games for SMU, a good sign after consecutive seasons ended with injury, but he didn’t look like the explosive version of himself from years prior. Part of that had to do with the emergence of teammate Danny Gray, and another is either rust or lingering effects of the injuries. That makes his evaluation difficult, but Roberson still has plenty of appeal.
Route Running: Roberson’s route running is what first caught my eye a year ago, before he opted to return for 2021, and it remains as excellent as ever. He is slippery and fluid with his routes, and has a great tool bag of tricks to shake his defender. SMU’s offense didn’t ask him to run an overly developed route tree, but Roberson still showed enough nuance on the routes he did run to stand out.
Hands: Roberson has plenty of instances where he effortlessly hauls in the ball, rarely having to rely on his body to make the catch. That said, he does have some challenges making the catch in contested ball situations, though his route running and speed make these instances pretty rare.
Playmaking Ability: Roberson was a consistent playmaker at SMU, with some of his biggest wins coming on vertical routes. He creates separation so naturally with his route running skills and is great at tracking the ball. While he shouldn’t be considered exclusively as a deep threat receiver, that’s definitely where he shines the most.
Release: Roberson was afforded a lot of clean releases due to the scheme SMU ran, and he showcased a superior ability to make the most of them. On the occasions where he was pressed, though, he was able to get into his route running moves quicker and more efficiently to get open. He’ll have a tougher time against NFL defenders, but Roberson has the skills to adapt.
Run After Catch: Roberson isn’t quite the run-after-catch demon that teammate Danny Gray is, but he’s still dangerous in this regard. He has great contact balance and burst, which allows him to reach top speed soon after making the catch and then make guys miss once they do reach him.
Blocking: He’s not a very physical player in general, and that’s evident in Roberson’s blocking résumé. It doesn’t help that he is slightly undersized for his position, but this isn’t someone you want to rely on in your run blocking scheme.
Versatility: Roberson played almost exclusively on the outside at SMU, and he has the skills to thrive there at the next level. However, he also has the route running and run-after-catch traits to succeed out of the slot; his blocking issues would limit any slot usage, though. Roberson had just nine kickoff returns and five punt returns in four years at SMU; he shouldn’t be viewed as a return specialist.
Size: Roberson is short and lean and doesn’t have overly long arms, but he makes up for a lot of that with his movement skills; notably, he creates separation and tracks the ball well enough to mitigate his lack of size. It shows up in contested catches and blocking situations, but there are plenty of other ways for Roberson to make an impact.
Intangibles: The injuries are where every team’s line of questioning will begin and end. Roberson looked like a star every year except for his last, and that was the one that came after all the injuries. Was it rust? Adapting to a new quarterback? Or is the 2021 version of Roberson here to stay? Teams’ medical evaluations will play a pivotal role in where he ultimately gets drafted.
Were it not for the injuries, we may be talking about Roberson as a likely second-round pick with the potential to sneak into the very end of the first. His route running, speed, and ability to work after the catch are all traits that tend to translate directly at the next level. The two biggest things working against Roberson are those injuries and some really poor testing numbers at his pro day, which could themselves be a result of his continued recovery from said injuries.
Instead, much of Roberson’s evaluation now relies on projecting whether or not he’ll be able to recapture the form that had him stealing national headlines. In a year where the receiver class is stuffed to the brim with talent, that only pushes Roberson’s stock lower and lower. With the Cowboys having such a need for wide receiver play after trading Amari Cooper and likely not having Michael Gallup right away, that probably decreases the chances they target Roberson.
That said, Roberson could become a key part of the Cowboys’ receiving corps if he’s able to return to form. That’s a big if, which is why he is likely to be selected somewhere in the fifth or potentially even the sixth round. With the Cowboys having four picks just in the fifth round, though, they may be a bit more willing to roll the dice on the hometown prospect.