First-round running backs are a thing of the past. But with its 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, Texas RB Bijan Robinson can bring it back in style. Already a star on the college football scene, can Robinson go one step further and establish 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. This is 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 loses. For many running backs, these moments, while exhilarating, aren’t as common. But for Robinson, it’s all the other games.
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 in high school. As a sophomore, he had 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 had 2,235 yards and 38 touchdowns on 126 carries.
Robinson averaged 13.7 yards per carry for his high school career. Scored a touchdown on more than 20% of his attempts, eclipsed 2,000 yards in a season thrice, and was twice voted Arizona State’s Most Outstanding High School Player. Needless to say, Robinson was a five-star recruit. He committed to Texas, where he only continued his dominance.
- Position: Come back
- School: Texas
- Current year: Junior
- Size weight: 6’0″, 221 pounds
Bijan Robinson scouting report
Robinson has already been extremely productive at the high school and university level. But will his style of play translate into professional play? This question is always important, but especially when evaluating running backs. Luckily for Robinson, he passed the test.
Running backs in the modern NFL must be versatile, but pure elite runners are still rare and highly coveted by extension. Robinson is versatile, but he’s also an elite runner. It’s at the very heart of his game.
Robinson is tall at 6’0″, 221 pounds. But with his dense frame, he’s also a quick runner who can accelerate out of the backfield quickly. He generates an impressive burst on cuts and can accelerate quickly with short, urgent strides. Robinson may not have quantifiable elite explosiveness, but he makes up for it tenfold with his incredibly urgent pace of play.
Robinson’s flurry passes the desired threshold easily, but other facets of his game are far more impressive. Robinson is very balanced. He is able to maintain his speed through arm tackles and remember his feet after being challenged. He always moves forward with urgency. But at the same time, he can lean in and out of cuts effortlessly, maintaining acceleration while squeezing angles into space.
Robinson has excellent short-distance athleticism. It is extremely fluid between cuts, very light on its feet and supports acceleration from side to vertical mode extremely well. The Texas RB can cut and sink his hips with rapid speed. And with his flexible hips and quick athleticism, Robinson can adjust the cutting angles on the go. But the most impressive element of Robinson’s game is his vision and creative instinct. This is what ties everything together.
In the heat of the moment, Robinson deciphers congested areas with extraordinary speed. It deals with angles and manipulates space on a truly elite level. The Texas RB has the full-field instinct to create at will and control congestion, and in space he can use ruthless footwork to put defenders on a rope. He is able to use quick stutter steps to make defenders hesitate, then smash through space with his rapid acceleration. And from there it has enough speed to stretch small seams.
Robinson’s instincts act as a fusing agent for the rest of his traits. He treats reduction pathways very well and his feet act instantly on stimuli. The Texas RB naturally reads his options and has great knowledge of his selling points. He maintains his speed when surveying the outer tracks, but he can scale back and recalibrate without losing a step. Robinson can use micro-movements to squeeze through tight lanes while spinning his feet. He erodes tackle angles with successive cuts and stacks changes of direction with ease.
Overall, Robinson has a rare mix of patience and decisiveness, and he always controls the reps. He can use quick cuts, spatial awareness, and acceleration to evade first contact threats. Even so, Robinson isn’t shy about getting in touch. He’s more than willing to drop his shoulder and use his mace against defenders. It can also support leg thrust with its solid base. The Texas RB finishes with a physical and can generate impressive strength with his burst and frame density. Additionally, Robinson proactively uses stiff arms against off-balance defenders, and he knows when to switch hands to release his stiff arm.
We have now established that Robinson is an elite runner, but he is excellent in other phases as well. As a receiver, he showed he could catch his frame with his hands. He can also run routes out of the backfield or move and line up in different locations. And when he’s making short passes, Robinson can quickly go into run mode after receiving. He is an excellent RAC threat with his instincts, balance and close range athleticism.
Finally, Robinson defends himself as a pass protector. He is a willful blocker who actively takes on his opponents and engages in the torso. He has shown he can identify and recover blitzes quickly, as well as match defenders with his base.
Robinson’s areas of improvement
Robinson is an exceptional physical talent, but he may not have elite explosiveness or long speed. While his speed is far from a liability, he noticeably lacks the equipment needed to extend gaps and outrun defenders into space. He also can’t always beat defenders on the edge of outside runs. Distrust of one’s own speed in these situations can lead to indecision.
Going further, Robinson’s contact balance, while solid, is not elitist. It will not resist initial contact as regularly as desired. His style, however, dictates that he can sidestep direct contact quite often. That said, Robinson can sometimes be more controlled with his movements. He sometimes goes to dead ends and will exert unnecessary movements in space, trying to do too much. He sometimes lacks space outside and relies on congestion, and his pads can linger too high at times.
During transmissions, Robinson sometimes resorts to body grabbing, which results in falls to the chest plate. And as a pass blocker, he can work to be more consistent with his extensions. The Texas RB does not always fully extend or hold blocks effectively in this phase.
Current projection project for Texas RB Bijan Robinson
It takes a special running back to generate first-round interest. That’s what Robinson is. Given RB’s positional value in today’s NFL, no one is a lock to go in the first round. But Robinson is undeniably worthy of such a capital project. Especially if a team has a strong enough roster to take Robinson in the 20-32 range, that 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 a large size and can hold his own in contact situations. And he ties it all together with elite vision, creative instincts, short-distance athleticism and balance across cuts.
Robinson’s explosiveness and long speed are perhaps not elite quantifiable. Nevertheless, Robinson is a true master of space. Few running backs at 220 pounds are as fluid, snappy and in control as he is on a downbase. As a pure runner, he has a truly rare ability. And he also brings a lot of utility as a pass blocker and receiver.
Robinson’s status as a running back clouds his value as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. But based on his sheer talent, he could be a top 10 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. Robinson is a versatile game changer at running back who can be the centerpiece of an explosive NFL offense.