Miami Dolphins bolster pass rush, taking Chop Robinson of Penn State with 21st pick of NFL draft

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins selected Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson with the 21st pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, hoping to bolster a defense that has seen a mass exodus this spring.

General manager Chris Grier used his first opening-round pick since 2021 to try and restore some talent to a defense whose losses include standout defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who signed a $110 million contract with Las Vegas.

Robinson figures to fill an immediate need for new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver with his quickness, but his college production didn't quite match his athleticism — he had 9 1/2 sacks, 31 tackles and three forced fumbles over the past two seasons with the Nittany Lions, along with two sacks at linebacker with Maryland in 2021.

The 6-foot-3, 254-pound Robinson, who switched to defensive end after transferring to Penn State in 2022, said his lack of production in college was because of “inconsistencies” with his hand placement.

“That's something I've been working on this whole offseason," Robinson said, "and I feel very confident because I've been working on it so much repeatedly. And I know it's going to be natural when it comes time to put my hands to use.”

Grier said while Robinson's sack numbers were low, the team values his disruptive skills.

“Over the years we've talked about the sacks and stats part,” Grier said. "For us, it's an important part, but we've always talked about the ability to disrupt the passer. And his disruption numbers are all very high.

“The guy that comes to mind for me would be Danielle Hunter, (who) had four career sacks coming out of college, and he's been a really good player in this league. Not putting that pressure on (Robinson) to be Danielle Hunter, but ... we think a lot of his traits and the things you see on film translate.”

Robinson gives the Dolphins an option to plug in right away with linebackers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips coming off significant injuries and at risk of missing the start of the season. Even with the production of Chubb and Phillips, who combined for 17 1/2 sacks in 2023, Miami needed pass rushing depth behind them.

The Dolphins signed veteran linebacker veteran Shaquil Barrett in March, but the addition of Robinson gives them a solid rotation at the position.

“I feel like that's going to be a great situation for me,” Robinson said. “Coming in and learning from those guys. Take things from them and take it into my game and vice versa.”

Miami coach Mike McDaniel didn't rule out putting Robinson, Chubb and Phillips on the field at the same time.

“All scenarios are live,” McDaniel said. “I think it's key to remember, ‘Man that team — they had too many pass rushers. That was their problem.’ That's never been said. ... You let the players set the orchestration of all the multiple things you can do."

Robinson said he hasn't talked much with Weaver about how he will be used in the defensive coordinator's creative playcalling, but added that Weaver's defense is the same one that Robinson played in at Penn State, moving to both nose tackle and on the edge.

Robinson was a third-team AP All-American last season and has drawn comparisons to Dallas Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons because of his explosiveness. Robinson ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash at 2024 combine. Parsons ran a 4.39 in 2021.

“I would say the speed and bend that we both have,” Robinson said. “Micah has the speed — he ran a fast 40. He plays like it. I have the speed. Micah also has a great bend. He's able to bend around a big offensive lineman and turn tight corners, and I feel like that's a part of my game.”

Including Robinson, the Dolphins have essentially used three first-round picks on defensive rushers in the past three years — Miami drafted Phillips 18th overall in 2021 and sent a 2023 first-rounder to Denver to acquire Chubb in 2022.