First-round running backs are becoming a thing of the past. But with his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, Texas RB Bijan Robinson may bring it back in style. Already a star on the college football stage, can Robinson take it one step further and command immediate stardom at the NFL level?
Bijan Robinson NFL draft profile
Most running backs have at least one highlight where they make a defender look silly. It’s the peak of a back’s performance — the brightest moment of triumph. With a quick cut,or a subtle juke, one man wins, and another man loses. For many running backs, those moments, while exhilarating, aren’t quite as common. But for Robinson, it’s every other play.
It’s important to avoid hyperbole when evaluating, but there’s something about Robinson that screams “special.” It’s almost impossible to fathom how dominant he was at the high school level. As a sophomore, he amassed 2,023 yards and 26 touchdowns on 189 carries. As a junior, he generated 2,400 yards and 35 touchdowns on 170 carries. And as a senior, Robinson popped off for 2,235 yards and 38 touchdowns on 126 carries.
Robinson averaged 13.7 yards per carry for his high school career. He scored a touchdown on over 20% of his attempts, eclipsed 2,000 yards in a season three times, and was voted the best high school player in the state of Arizona twice. It goes without saying that Robinson was a five-star recruit. He committed to Texas, where he only carried forth his dominance.
- Position: Running Back
- School: Texas
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’0″, 221 pounds
Bijan Robinson scouting report
Robinson has already been extremely productive at both the high school and college football levels. But will his style of play translate to the professional game? That question is always important, but especially so when evaluating running backs. Luckily for Robinson, he passes the test.
Running backs in the modern NFL have to be versatile, but pure elite runners are always in short supply and heavily coveted by extension. Robinson is versatile, but he’s also an elite runner. That’s at the very core of his game.
Robinson has great size at 6’0″, 221 pounds. But with his dense frame, he’s also a fleet-footed runner who can accelerate quickly out of the backfield. He generates impressive burst on cuts and can throttle up fast with short, urgent strides. Robinson might not have quantifiably elite explosiveness, but he compensates tenfold with his incredibly urgent play pace.
Robinson’s burst easily passes the desired threshold, but other facets of his game are far more impressive. Robinson is very well-balanced. He’s able to keep his speed through arm tackles and recollect his feet after being challenged. He’s always pressing forward with urgency. But at the same time, he can lean in and out of cuts effortlessly, maintaining acceleration while pressuring angles in space.
Robinson has excellent short-area athleticism. He’s extremely fluid between cuts, very light on his feet, and carries acceleration from lateral to vertical mode extremely well. The Texas RB can cut and sink his hips with rapid quickness. And with his flexible hips and quick-twitch athleticism, Robinson can adjust cutting angles at a moment’s notice. But the most awe-inspiring component of Robinson’s game is his vision and creative instincts. It’s what ties everything together.
In the heat of the moment, Robinson deciphers congested areas extraordinarily quickly. He processes angles and manipulates space at a truly elite level. The Texas RB has the full-field instincts to create at will and control congestion, and in space, he can use ruthless footwork to put defenders on a string. He’s able to employ quick stutter steps to get defenders to hesitate, then splice through space with his quick acceleration. And from there, he has enough speed to stretch small seams.
Robinson’s instincts act as a fusing agent for the rest of his traits. He processes cutback lanes very well, and his feet act on stimulus instantly. The Texas RB naturally reads his options and has great awareness of his outlets. He maintains his speed when surveying outside runs, but he can cut back and recalibrate without losing a step. Robinson can use micro-movements to squeeze through tight lanes while churning his feet. He erodes tackling angles with successive cuts and stacks direction changes with ease.
Overall, Robinson has a rare mix of patience and decisiveness, and he’s always in control of reps. He can use quick cuts, spatial awareness, and acceleration to escape early threats of contact. Even so, Robinson doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s more than willing to lower his shoulder and use his mass against defenders. He can also sustain leg drive with his strong base. The Texas RB finishes with physicality and can generate impressive force with his burst and frame density. Additionally, Robinson proactively uses stiff arms against imbalanced defenders, and he knows when to switch hands to free up his stiff arm.
We’ve now established that Robinson is an elite runner, but he’s also great in other phases. As a receiver, he’s shown he can catch away from his frame with his hands. He can also run routes out of the backfield or motion out and line up in different spots. And when he takes short passes, Robinson can quickly transition to run-after-catch mode. He’s an excellent RAC threat with his instincts, balance, and short-area athleticism.
Finally, Robinson holds his own as a pass protector. He’s a willing blocker who actively squares up opponents and engages in the torso. He’s shown he can ID and pick up blitzes quickly, as well as match defenders with his base.
Robinson’s areas for improvement
Robinson is an exceptional physical talent, but he might not have elite explosiveness or long speed. While his speed is far from a liability, he visibly lacks the home-run gear required to extend gaps and overtake defenders in space. He also can’t always beat defenders to the edge on outside runs. The mistrust of his own speed in those situations can lead to indecision.
Going further, Robinson’s contact balance, while solid, is not elite. He won’t withstand initial contact as consistently as desired. His style, however, dictates that he can bypass direct contact fairly often. Having said this, Robinson can sometimes be more controlled with his movements. He sometimes steers himself into dead ends and will exert wasted motion in space, trying to do too much. He occasionally misses space outside and defers to congestion, and his pads can linger too high every now and then.
On passing downs, Robinson sometimes resorts to body-catching, resulting in drops against the chest plate. And as a pass blocker, he can work to be more consistent with his extensions. The Texas RB doesn’t always fully extend or effectively sustain blocks in that phase.
Current draft projection for Texas RB Bijan Robinson
It takes a special running back to command Round 1 interest. That’s what Robinson is. Considering the positional value of the RB in today’s NFL, no one is a lock to go in the first round. But Robinson is undeniably worthy of such draft capital. Especially if a team has a strong enough roster to take Robinson in the 20-32 range, it should be a serious consideration.
Robinson is a worthy first-round prospect at running back. Physically, he has more than enough explosiveness to operate out of the backfield. He has great size and can hold up in contact situations. And he ties everything together with elite vision, creative instincts, short-area athleticism, and balance between cuts.
Robinson’s explosiveness and long speed may not be quantifiably elite. Nevertheless, Robinson is a true master of space. Few running backs at 220 pounds are as fluid, abrupt, and in control as he is on a down-to-down basis. As a pure runner, he has a truly rare ability. And he also brings plenty of utility as a pass blocker and receiver.
Robinson’s status as a running back will cloud his value as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. But on a pure talent basis, he might be a top-10 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. Robinson is a scheme-versatile game-changer at running back who can be the completing piece for an explosive NFL offense.