Cleveland Browns UDFA No. 8: Craig Robertson, inside linebacker, Class of 2012
Is this a familiar theme? A linebacker stars for a smaller school like North Texas in the Sun Belt, but does not get drafted because of the uncertainty surrounding the small school plus a less than scorching 40-yard dash time (4.76 seconds in Craig Robertson’s case).
Robertson didn’t attract any attention from NFL scouts and did not get a single invitation to try out during rookie camps around the league. However he kept working out, and eventually, when NFL rosters started to get thin in December, he was signed to the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns.
Funny thing is that some players continue to improve after they leave college. Robertson was one of those players and actually made the team in 2012 as a backup linebacker. He got his chance to play due to injuries (and let’s face it, the Browns were never terribly deep on defense), and the Browns used him as an extra linebacker in coverage situations and in the nickel formation.
He managed to start three games as a rookie, which is not bad for a UDFA. Remarkably, he had 93 tackles that year while playing in only 53% of the defensive snaps. That has to be some kind of record.
In 2013, he was an every-down linebacker but didn’t have the same kind of amazing statistical year with only 85 tackles.
In 2014 he played less, moving from left inside linebacker to the right side, with only 11 starts and 57% of the defensive snaps, but 99 tackles.
By 2015, Christian Kirksey had emerged as the starter at inside linebacker. Robertson still was part of the rotation, but the Browns decided to let him go in free agency. Hence Robertson became a New Orleans Saint.
Of course, the Dawg Pound hates it when a player becomes a star when he plays for another team? Robertson blossomed after leaving Cleveland, sorry to say.
While he was perceived as a situational linebacker by the Browns, the Saints played him as an every-down player, and he responded with 115 tackles, making him 18th in the NFL in 2016. That’s our Browns, stumbling to 1-16 while giving away a guy who became the leading tackler for the New Orleans Saints. We in the Pound really do not want to hear about that, but it is part of his legacy.
In all, he played nine seasons in the NFL between the Browns and Saints.