The running back market is in chaos league-wide. Only a couple years ago, teams were drafting running backs highly and paying them well in free agency.
Then the value of a running back position fell first in the NFL draft as teams have gotten better at getting production out of late-round picks. Then, this past year, teams stopped paying runners in free agency.
We’re just a few years removed the New York Giants selected Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick of the 2018 draft, and we don’t know where the best running back prospect since Barkley will be drafted.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson was one of the best players in college football a year ago, and is one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class. But his draft stock is all over the map. Nobody disputes that he’s a good player, but how much with his position’s cratering value impact where he’ll be drafted?
Prospect: Bijan Robinson (5)
Games Watched: vs. Alabama (2022), vs. Oklahoma (2022), vs. Texas Tech (2022), vs. Baylor (2022)
Games Played: 31
Yards (YPC): 3,410 (6.3 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 8.0 (13.4 per catch)
Touchdowns: 41 (33 rushing, 8 receiving)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 1,580 (6.1 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 315 (16.5 per catch)
Touchdowns: 20 (18 rushing, 2 receiving)
Best: Size, vision, contact balance, athleticism, receiving ability, versatility, competitive toughness
Worst: Top-end speed
Projection: A starting running back with scheme diversity and Pro Bowl potential.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson has an excellent combination of size, athleticism, play strength, vision, and competitive toughness to play the position at the NFL level.
Robinson has a powerful build at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds. He has enough size to be a power runner between the tackles or push the pile in short-yardage situations, but also has the athleticism to be a dangerous threat with a bit of daylight. He is a very versatile offensive weapon who’s able to do pretty much everything an offense will ask of him. Robinson is able to carry the ball out of the Shotgun or behind center in the “I” or Pistol sets and he has run with a fullback. He’s also a vital part of the Texas passing game, both as a receiver himself and in pass protection.
Robinson is a smart, instinctive runner who not only understands his own blocking schemes, but how to manipulate defenders. He has great field vision and is able to track and anticipate defenders at the second and third levels. He uses his tempo and path behind the line of scrimmage to influence defenders and help set up his blockers, before suddenly cutting and exploding through the hole. Robinson has great contact balance and power as a runner, allowing him to run through incidental contact around the line of scrimmage. He also has the ability to run through stumbles and regain his feet to pick up yards after contact.
Robinson is a very difficult runner for individual defenders to bring down once he gets moving. He’s able to push the pile, as well as carry defenders for additional yardage.
In addition to being a very good runner, Robinson is also a natural receiver. He not only runs routes from the backfield, but was also split out wide and caught passes as a true receiver. Robinson is a reasonably precise route runner and does a good job of locating the pass in the air. He’s a natural hands catcher who extends to pluck the ball out of the air and away from his frame. Likewise, he’s able to contort his body to haul in tough passes. He is also a capable pass protector who delivers good chips when releasing into his routes off of play-action, and is willing to meet defenders as a true pass protector.
Bijan Robinson has very few real weaknesses, most are nitpicking more than anything else. He can occasionally appear a bit tentative when taking on defenders in pass protection, attempting to delay them through his positioning, rather than meeting them with authority. Likewise, he has good-but-not-great long speed which allows him to maintain separation from most second-level defenders, but he won’t outrun faster defenders at the NFL level.
Overall Grade: 8.7
Bijan Robinson projects as a starting running back with scheme diversity and Pro Bowl upside at the NFL level.
Robinson is a three-down runner who can play in any offense in the NFL. He’s that rare kind of prospect who has a very high floor as well as a very high ceiling, and there’s little he can’t do for an offense. He’s a tough, athletic, and instinctive runner, a natural receiver, and a capable pass protector.
Robinson isn’t the biggest, strongest, fastest, or most dynamic runner in the draft class, and there are still areas of his game he can elevate. But while he might not be the premier big-play threat to come out of this draft, he might be the most dependable. His blend of size, athleticism, vision, play strength, and competitive toughness lets him maximize his blocking.
He should be a very reliable player at the next level and earn a pretty large workload early in his career.