USC football or MLB? Duce Robinson’s path to becoming two-sport star

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Five-star tight end prospect Duce Robinson thrilled USC and college football fans when he signed his National Letter of Intent just two days before the April 1 deadline for the class of 2023.

That day, March 30, also happened to be Opening Day this season in Major League Baseball, and that’s no coincidence, as Robinson is not only an elite tight end, but Anthony Richardson from this year’s MLB Draft.

At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Robinson compares most favorably on the diamond to New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. While not an S-tier prospect, he could turn out to be an S-tier player given time and at-bats as a pro.

At tight end, Robinson would immediately become one of Lincoln Riley’s most talented pass catchers at a position that lacked production in 2022. A player of Robinson’s caliber could become what Mark Andrews was at Oklahoma or Michael Mayer was at Notre Dame last season: a 60-catch, 800-yard mismatch Nightmare.

How good of an athlete is Robinson?

He’s the most talented two-sport star since Kyler Murray.

USC signs five-star tight end Duce Robinson

USC signs five-star tight end Duce Robinson

RJ Young reacts to Duce Robinson signing with USC and shares his take on whether Robinson will play baseball or stay in college.

Murray was selected No. 9 overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB Draft, and the team offered him a deal that included a $4.6 million signing bonus. That same year, Murray started under center at Oklahoma, where he won the Heisman Trophy, beat Texas in the Big 12 title game and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.

After that Heisman season, Murray quickly became the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Knowing this, the A’s are said to offered Murray $14 million in cash to play baseball in January 2019 — a number close to what a top-10 NFL Draft pick would sign in the same year.

He declined.

Murray was selected No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and signed for more than $35 million, fully guaranteed, with the Arizona Cardinals.

Murray, 25, is an athlete on par with Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. Robinson isn’t, though he’s closer than anyone playing any sport right now.

The truth is that QBs like Murray are more valuable than TEs like Robinson, or even running backs and cornerbacks like Jackson and Sanders, respectively. But Robinson is a guy you want in any sport. His bat speed, power and ability as an outfielder make him an intriguing MLB prospect with a very high ceiling.

But is it worth it for Robinson to play just one sport in college, as a professional, or try to do both?

No matter what he decides to do, Riley is best suited to help guide Robinson through such a unique career. After all, he managed to get a full season of college football out of Murray on the A’s dime for nearly $5 million. It could also be a reason why Robinson ended up at USC and not Georgia, his other finalist. Add in the fact that Robinson played high school football at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, the same Riley alumnus and five-star QB Spencer Rattler played high school ball, and you can see that the fit is so good as can be

But the fact is, Major League Baseball can’t compete with the NFL in terms of rookie pay.

This year’s first NFL fourth-round pick is slated to make $4.1 million over four years. To earn $4.1 million in the MLB Draft, Robinson would have to be drafted No. 17 overall or higher or have a club willing to pay him that much just to keep him off a ballpark.

It’s also important to note that NFL rookie contracts typically last four years, with a team option extending for a fifth year for first-round picks. As for MLB, while there are some caveats based on when a player is called up to the majors, rookies are essentially on six-year contracts once they reach the big leagues, assuming they don’t sign an extension.

For added context, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft is slated to receive just under $10 million, while the NFL’s top pick will receive a $27 million signing bonus with an average annual value of $10.24 million. Now, you can manipulate that value, and some do, by paying leads less than the amount allotted to them to spend later. But overpaying carries a steep penalty in the MLB Draft, which could include paying an overage tax and losing future draft picks.

Paying more for a player and losing draft picks means a club has to fall in love with a prospect. In Robinson’s case, he has more to prove on the diamond before he’s considered a consensus first-round pick in the sport.

However, Robinson has enough leverage to do whatever he wants, which is a dream for every high school recruit.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The number one college football show.“Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young i subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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