Trading Laurent Robinson, a speedy, 23-year old wide receiver that was the 75th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, started six games and produced in his rookie season, in what amounts to a late-round draft pick swap, may seem a bit puzzling.
However, it really shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
Injuries limited Robinson to just six games and 7% of the Falcons' offensive & special teams snaps in 2008. That figure placed Robinson second-to-last among Atlanta's skill-position players, with the only player finishing with a lower percentage than Robinson being 36-year old tight end Marcus Pollard.
In addition to injuries hampering Robinson, he was also hurt by the Falcons' shift in offensive philosophy.
Under Bobby Petrino, the Falcons passed the ball 59% of the time, and with Robinson's speed and hands, that system maximized his talents. Under Mike Mularkey in 2008, the Falcons ran the ball 56% of the time, ranking 29th in the NFL in pass attempts, requiring receivers who could not only catch the ball, but were willing and capable blockers, which is not one of Robinson's strengths.
Between Robinson's injuries, no visible role in the offense or on special teams, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff inheriting Robinson and having nothing personally invested in the former 3rd round pick, the Falcons used the talented receiver to significantly improve the team's draft position in the fifth and sixth rounds.
Dimitroff has also done Robinson a favor by trading him to a team he has the potential to start for. As nice a guy Dimitroff assuredly is, I'm not sure how much that played into the Falcons' thought process, if it did at all.
Sure, there's an element of risk when trading a player as gifted as Robinson, but given how successful the Falcons were in last year's draft, Dimitroff and the rest of the front office deserve the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Brian McIntyre lives in the Boston area. In addition to writing for FalconInsider.com, Brian maintains his own blog (www.macsfootballblog.com) and charts games for Football Outsiders. If you’d like to e-mail Brian, you may do so here.