There are some players who scouts simply know they will like. High-profile guys who make game-changing plays for the best college teams. The kind who excites fans and lands high on mock drafts because he appears in highlight packages just about every weekend. It can be easy to evaluate them since it’s clear where the path is heading.
Then there are players who are surprises, who a scout or an executive had very little information on and no clue that he’d soon fall in love with.
Central Florida cornerback Aaron Robinson was one of those. And it made him a third-round pick of the Giants and the only selection by the team in the first two days of action that they felt so strongly about that they traded up to get.
"I remember sitting here in the office through the pandemic and threw on the UCF tape and his instincts, his toughness and his tackling jumped out to me immediately," Giants director of college scouting Chris Pettit said on Friday. "He was a little unknown, I didn’t know much about him, threw the tape on one day, and he really caught my eye with his competitiveness and instincts."
That began the process of the formal courtship of Robinson, which included two interviews with him at the Senior Bowl and a visit for a face-to-face meeting at his pro day.
"That really helped us get to know him as a person," Pettit said.
It was, however, the football player who made that first impression on Pettit in the film room that resulted in his selection.
"Aaron gives us more perimeter muscle," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "The best defenses have the best tackling secondaries and Aaron Robinson is a really good tackling corner."
That’s something he said he prides himself in.
"That pretty much comes with the game of football," he said of his physicality. "I always say that the defensive side of the ball is a little more like that growing up playing it, and that’s pretty much a plus in my game that I take advantage of and come with it every play."
Robinson played mostly nickel in college but got some experience as an outside cornerback at the Senior Bowl. He even had a few reps in the all-star game’s practices against wide receiver Kadarius Toney, his new teammate and the Giants’ first round pick on Thursday.
Where he’ll fit into a very crowded Giants secondary will be sorted out in the season. The Giants have two solid starting corners in Pro Bowler James Bradberry and free-agent acquisition Adoree’ Jackson, have a number of versatile corners to fill in other roles such as Julian Love, Darnay Holmes and Sam Beal, and some safeties who can shift into coverage spots such as Xavier McKinney and Logan Ryan.
"There is going to be a lot of competition with our defensive backs, both corners and safeties," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "He’s a physical player, he has good traits, he gives us versatility. The demeanor he plays with, the physicality, and his ability to play in both press and off [coverage] gives us some options how we can use him."
"We think he’s a great fit for our defense," Gettleman said. "You can never have too many assets back there."
No matter where — or when — your scouts find them.