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No, the Giants should not draft Bijan Robinson

The Texas running back is immensely talented, but he’s not what the Giants need

Iowa State v Texas
Bijan Robinson
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Saquon Barkley contract drama has at least some New York Giants fans thinking crazy thoughts. Like wanting GM Joe Schoen to use the 25th pick in the draft on Texas running back Bijan Robinson, should he still be available that late in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

A couple of those thoughts/questions found their way to the Big Blue View mailbag this week.

From Richard Repasky ...

I have done a number of mock drafts using Fanspeak, using a variety of big boards. The predominate (42%) first round draft pick for the G-men was running back Bijan Robinson. Can you see this happening if he is available when the Giants draft? The Giants need an insurance policy in case Saquon is injured again, and/or Saquon doesn’t come to terms with the Giants at the end of the season. Bijan would also be an excellent choice based on value if he is picked at 25. Robinson has been described by some as a “generational” player. Can you imagine Saquon and Bijan playing together? Maybe some would rethink the NFL being a passing league.

From Tom Riccobono ...

I don’t know how realistic it is, but suppose Bijan Robinson is available to the Giants at pick #25. Should the Giants take him? In such a scenario, several WRs, CBs and pass rushers would be off the board and Bijan would almost certainly be the best player available. Obviously, RB is less valued in today’s NFL, but I plenty of recent mocks have had the Giants take a center in the first round. Just curious what your take is since I haven’t seen such a scenario discussed at BBV.

Let me be 100 percent clear in my stance on the ‘should the Giants draft Bijan Robinson?’ question.

No. Make that NOOOOO!!!

Absolutely not. There are a lot of reasons. So, let’s talk about this.

Robinson is a stud

Let’s start there. He is absolutely a first-round talent. Along with Will Anderson and Jalen Carter, Robinson might be one of the three best non-quarterbacks in this draft class.

In a different NFL, OK, in Dave Gettleman’s NFL, there is no doubt that Robinson would be a top 10 pick in the draft. He might even still be one this year, but the NFL just doesn’t value running backs the way it used to.

Barkley, selected No. 2 overall by Gettleman in 2018, is the last running back chosen in the top 10. Since that pick, a running back has not been selected higher than No. 24 (Josh Jacobs, Raiders, 2019; Najee Harris, Steelers, 2021). In 2022, not a single running back was selected in Round 1.

Barkley, in fact, is Robinson’s NFL comparison. Matt Miller of ESPN writes:

Robinson is the total package as a running back prospect. He plays with amazing patience but can also lower his shoulder with a 215-pound frame and create space for himself. Robinson’s contact balance and vision in traffic are some of the best I’ve ever seen. He rushed for 1,580 rushing yards and 18 TDs last season, and he’s also a very good receiving threat out of the backfield (314 receiving yards). There are few players more talented than Robinson in this year’s class.

So, no, this is not about Robinson’s talent.

Not a sidekick

If you happen to be a wrestling fan, you are probably aware of the recent “not a sidekick” promo by WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. (Go look it up and scroll to the three-minute mark). Robinson is also not a sidekick. You don’t draft him to pair with Barkley, especially not in a league where you have to pass to win and the Giants have so many other holes to file before truly becoming a title contender.

You draft Robinson to replace Barkley, not to be his running mate. The Giants aren’t there yet.

I seriously doubt Barkley will go the Le’Veon Bell route and sit out the 2023 season. Turning down $10 million and perhaps killing your career isn’t smart business, and Barkley isn’t a dummy.

Either a deal gets reached, or Barkley signs the tag at some point this summer and suits up.

Luxury pick

I reached out to several people who have worked in various capacities in the NFL, and that was the first response I got back from each of them. Robinson would be a luxury pick, and the Giants are not in a position to make that type of selection.

“Heck of a player, but I think they understand they are not far enough along in their build for luxury items,” said Scouting Academy Director Dan Hatman.

Former Minnesota Vikings GM Jeff Diamond said the idea of drafting Robinson was an “obvious no” for the Giants.

The days of a team building around a running attack like the Larry Csonka-Mercury Morris-Jim Kiick Miami Dolphins are long gone. The Carolina Panthers had a pair of first-round running backs (Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams) who each gained more than 1,000 yards rushing in 2009, but that was a different NFL.

The NFL has changed even since the Giants made Barkley the No. 2 overall pick in 2018. You only draft a running back in Round 1 if you think he is a finishing piece. That is what the Kansas City Chiefs did when they selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire No. 32 overall in 2020.

It makes sense for the Buffalo Bills or Philadelphia Eagles to select Robinson, especially since the Eagles have two first-round picks.

The Giants? No. Running backs just don’t move the needle enough, and the truly productive part of their careers generally doesn’t last long enough, for building teams to make that selection. It certainly makes sense for the Giants to look to supplement the running back position in the draft, likely anywhere from Round 3 on depending on how the board falls.

Just as a point of reference, the 2008 Giants had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in 2008. Brandon Jacobs (a fourth-round pick) had 1,089 and Derrick Ward (a seventh-round pick) had 1,025. For good measure, seventh-round pick Ahmad Bradshaw had 355.

What about the locker room?

12th Annual NFL Honors - Arrivals
Saquon Barkley
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Anyone who has ever worked in an NFL front office knows that every personnel decision you make has some type of an impact on the locker room. Shoot, reporters who get to occasionally venture into those rooms can see how certain players react to each other and sense the vibe of a happy locker room, or an unhappy or split one.

Did you notice the outpouring of support for Barkley, and Lawrence, from the locker room when players spoke to media Monday as the voluntary offseason program began?

Here is what quarterback Daniel Jones said:

“Obviously he’s a good friend of mine, good teammate. I’m hoping for the best for him. There’s a business side to all this, he’s a great teammate, great friend, everyone in the building knows that. I’ll support him through it all.”

Xavier McKinney said this about the Barkley and Dexter Lawrence contract situations:

“I don’t think it’s an issue,” McKinney said. “They’re dealing with their own things, that’s for them to work out. We know what type of guys they are. We know what type of players that they are. We all love ‘em.

“We all kinda know what it is.”

My instinct is it would be an issue in the locker room if the Giants were to draft Robinson, which would be a clear signal that the Schoen-Brian Daboll regime intended to move on from Barkley after 2023.

Considering Barkley’s stature with the locker room, ownership and the fan base I’m not sure that’s a hill Schoen wants to climb.

Final thoughts

I do not believe Schoen would have drafted Barkley No. 2 overall the way Gettleman did. He was cryptic on Thursday when asked about drafting running backs in Round 1, not ruling it out but not exactly sounding excited about the idea, either.

“I think there are several good backs in the draft. And again, if it’s a good player and a team decides to take them, and they have success for their system, then I don’t think you can go wrong with taking good football players,” Schoen said. “I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into saying I would never take a certain position in the first round. It’s a good running back class. It’s got some depth to it, and Bijan is a good player.”

I think, as the sources I mentioned above indicated, Schoen understands that taking Robinson — especially while he still has Barkley — would be the wrong move.

I was fortunate to have NFL Network insider Mike Garafolo on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast this week. Garafolo pointed out that Schoen and the Giants have been more than fair to Barkley, offering him at least double the $6.35 million average annual value Miles Sanders got from the Carolina Panthers in free agency.

It really isn’t Schoen’s fault that Barkley and his agent, Kim Miale, appear to have misread the market.

Schoen knows he has Barkley for at least 2023, and appears perfectly willing to wait for Barkley’s asking price to drop or simply let him play the upcoming season on the franchise tag. That’s fine.

Drafting an obvious replacement while Barkley is still a Giant, though, would be the wrong thing to do.