The running back position has become something of a polarizing one. There will always be runners to come out of college who excite and amaze coaches, scouts, executives, and fans. However, there’s also a feeling that good running backs don’t necessarily need to be widely heralded.
The 2022 NFL Draft doesn’t have a particularly exciting running back class, particularly in comparison to the previous year. However, there will still be good, productive runners selected throughout the draft.
Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. is one of those players who isn’t particularly exciting, but he is consistently effective. The New York Giants could be approaching a big question regarding their running back position and its future.
Could Robinson Jr. be an answer if they find themselves with a question mark for the future?
Games Played: 66
Yards (per carry): 2,704 (4.96 per carry)
Yards (per catch): 446 (7.96 per catch)
Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 31 (29 rushing, 2 receiving)
Games Played: 14
Yards (per carry): 1343 (4.95 per carry)
Yards (per catch): 296 (8.45 per catch)
Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 16 (14 rushing, 2 receiving)
Best: Contact balance, vision, play strength, quickness
Worst: Pass protection, long speed
Projection: A starting, or short-yardage, running back in a down-hill rushing attack
Running back Brian Robinson Jr is a big, tenacious, and hard-running ball carrier typical of the type produced by Alabama.
Robinson has near-prototypical size for the position at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, with solid quickness and speed despite his size. He has experience playing out of the shotgun as well as the I-formation, and running in a number of different blocking schemes in Alabama’s diverse offense. Robinson is a very efficient runner, wasting no motion behind the line of scrimmage. He shows just enough patience for holes to develop and for blocks to be established before exploding downhill and through the line of scrimmage. Robinson has great vision behind the line of scrimmage, both to pick out running lanes as (or before) they develop, and to anticipate defenders at the second level.
Robinson consistently shows a very effective jump-cut. His are at once incredibly abrupt yet deceptively smooth. He shows an instinctive understanding of angles, and consistently puts himself in position to break defenders’ angles to the ball or receive only glancing blows. While Robinson is over the 6-foot mark, he runs with exceptional pad level and contact balance. He is remarkably difficult to bring down, able to run through arm tackles, bounce off shoulder checks, and routinely carries defenders for yards after contact.
Robinson was seldom used as a receiver in Alabama’s offense, with the bulk of his receptions coming in his final season, but he flashes reliable skills as a pass catcher. He is a “hands” catcher who extends to pluck the ball out of the air, and shows good concentration when making the catch.
While Robinson is a solid athlete, he appears to lack truly elite athleticism. He doesn’t quite have the speed to gain the edge on off-tackle runs if his blockers don’t win early in the play. Likewise, he is capable of picking up chunk yardage, but he doesn’t quite have “breakaway” speed and can be run down from behind.
Robinson is also inconsistent in pass protection, which can be a liability for the offense. He is a willing blocker and unafraid of contact when he commits, however his effort is inconsistent. Some plays he is frustratingly passive as a blocker and waits for defenders to come to him. Likewise, he seems lost at times in protection and can find himself standing around while defenders swarm into the backfield. Robinson has the physical and athletic tools to be a capable pass protector, but isn’t consistent in that area yet.
Overall Grade: 7.3
Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr.’s projection in the NFL depends entirely on his pass protection.
If he is able to make improvements to his pass protection and become a more reliable pass protector, he has the skills to be a starting running back for a team that uses a down-hill rushing attack. His efficiency behind the line of scrimmage, vision, contact balance, power, and explosion should make him a good runner in a variety of in-game situations. Robinson has the potential to be a “bellcow” back in the right scheme and a thorn in the side of the League’s run defenses.
However, if Robinson isn’t able to become a consistent and reliable pass protector, that will significantly reduce his appeal. Robinson would find his fit as a change-of-pace and short-yardage back in the NFL. His presence would likely tip the hand of the offense that there’s a good chance of a running play, but he is a good enough receiver that scat protection (that is, using the runner as a quick check-down option rather than a blocker) is an option.
Robinson’s upside for the right team and performance at the end of the 2021 season could see him be one of the first runners off the board. However, those questions and the reduced value of the running back position overall could make Robison a good value later in the draft.