Bijan Robinson: The unquestioned RB1 for the 2023 NFL Draft?

Is Bijan Robinson RB1 for the 2023 NFL draft?
Photo Credit: Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bijan Robinson was an absolute legend at Texas. Robinson capped off his brilliant collegiate career with a stellar 2022 season; landing him ninth in Heisman Trophy voting and winning the prestigious Doak Walker award. Now, with Bijan Robinson likely turning his eye to the 2023 NFL draft, his name seems to be the only one that comes up when discussing who will be the top running back off the board. 

The value of the running back position has dropped precipitously in recent years, with many teams electing to ignore the position in the first round completely. In 2022, only three running backs were taken in the first two rounds, with none coming off the board until Breece Hall at pick 36 to the New York Jets. 

Robinson has been mocked anywhere from the top ten picks to the late second round. But, in every mock draft, one thing always remains the same: He’s the first running back selected. Every time. Is Bijan Robinson the clear best player at his position for the 2023 NFL draft? Does anyone even come close?

Tale of the tape

Photo Credit: Texas Athletics

Games watched: Alabama (2022), Iowa State (2022), Kansas State (2022)

The first thing that immediately jumps off the screen with Bijan Robinson is his size. He’s listed at 6-0, 222 pounds on the Texas official roster (the real numbers will be revealed at the combine). When bent in his stance, Robinson looks more like a linebacker than a running back. The size of his legs alone serve as a sign to defenses that it’s going to be a long day. 

Robinson is so remarkably hard to tackle. He easily sheds would-be tacklers time and time again. Whether it’s a stiff-arm or just simply bouncing off of them, Robinson rarely goes down on first contact and typically requires multiple tacklers. He also couples these extra yards with elite vision. If a hole appears, the chances are rather high that you might find number five in burnt orange bursting through it. Robinson keeps the Longhorns on schedule repeatedly with his meat-and-potatoes running style. 

While he doesn’t possess elite long speed, Robinson does have the requisite quickness and fluidity to find the hole and also hit those cuts to the outside. He has countless reps where he hits the edge and picks up some yards. His strength and contact balance make him a nightmare for defensive backs to come up and tackle.

While being one of the best runners in the country, Robinson had a surprisingly impactful role in the passing attack. He’s not a crisp route runner like Christian McCaffrey, but he is a diabolical weapon in the screen game with his ability to get downhill, follow his blockers, and shrug off tacklers. He can also catch the ball and turn up-field quickly.

Where he stands to improve in the pass game is in pass protection. He lacks instincts there and could use some work. However, there are some encouraging reps, including one against Alabama where he delivers a powerful blow to Will Anderson. 

Biggest Competitor to Bijan Robinson for NFL Draft RB1

The 2022 running back class looks like a deep one, but there seems to be a drop off after the first two names. That other name is Jahmyr Gibbs, originally a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket who transferred to Alabama prior to the 2022 season. Gibbs is a player who has the potential to be an elite weapon in the passing game.  

Gibbs excels at those angle/Texas routes out of the backfield, and also spent a good portion of his time lined up out wide and working the middle of the field. He has also shown some nice reps in pass protection. While not perfect in that area, he is good enough to make him one of the better third down backs in the 2023 NFL draft class. 

As a runner, Gibbs is incredibly dynamic. He has good vision and does a nice job following his blockers to find the green grass. His explosiveness and speed make him a threat to score on every play. Speedy guys typically don’t fight for extra yards, but Gibbs showed many times that he never quits on a play and can lower his pads to power through for extra yards. 

What’s the verdict?

Almost everyone you ask will have Bijan Robinson as the top running back in the 2023 NFL draft class. There is certainly good reason to do so. Robinson may have the highest ceiling in this class. He should without a doubt be the first running back taken. How high should that be? 

Many draft websites have him as a top five player in the class. That means he almost certainly gets taken in round one. Whether or not that is wise to do so is up in the air. Najee Harris and Travis Etienne went in the first in 2021, and Robinson looks like an unquestionably better player than both. Could he go in the top 20, which no running back has done since Saquan Barkley in 2018? We shall see.

Week 2 College Football Preview

Week 2 of College Football is finally here! Hussam Patel gives his top three week 2 college football preview and games that you need to watch.

Photo Credit: SCOTT WACHTER/USA TODAY SPORTS

Week 2 of the 2022 college football season is finally here. Here are the top three college football previews and games you need to watch

Alabama vs. Texas preview

#1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas Longhorns. 12 P.M. EST, FOX

  • Line: Alabama -20, o/u: 61.5

Alabama week 2 college football preview

This is a fully-focused Alabama team that lost a slew of star parts, and yet still ran for 278 yards last week and threw for 281 yards.

The offensive line has been worked on and tweaked to be better in pass protection. This allows Bryce Young time to to spread it around more.

The only noteworthy thing the Crimson Tide have to worry about is the notorious “horns down” penalty that Nick Saban did not even know existed.

You think Alabama is going to flinch for an instant when Texas connects on a 78-yard touchdown pass? 

Texas week 2 college football preview

This will be the biggest week 2 college football game. Texas has the guys to at least hang with Bama at home, but they need a good start and to believe they really can do this

Steve Sarkisian and the coaching staff have settled in, there’s a healthy Bijan Robinson in the backfield, Quinn Ewers – at least prospect-wise – is as promising as any quarterback in the country. You’re not crazy to hype Xavier Worthy among the best wide receivers in college football, either.

How will the Longhorns react if Will Anderson Jr. sacks Ewers twice on the first drive? What happens when the Crimson Tide stops Bijan Robinson and the run?

Prediction

Alabama 45, Texas 27

Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh preview

#24 Tennessee Volunteers v Pittsburgh Panthers. 3:30 P.M. EST, ABC

  • Line: Tennessee -6.5, o/u: 66

Tennessee week 2 college football preview

The Tennessee offense is going to go off. The Vols’ offense looks as potent as ever, scoring 59 points in the season opener against Ball State. Hendon Hooker has a plethora of help.

Four of last year’s offensive line starters are back, but that unit allowed an SEC-worst 44 sacks last season. How effective this Vols offense can be is dependent on the guys up front. 

Tennessee didn’t have a sack in last week’s game, and only had two tackles for loss. Linebacker Jeremy Banks will be looked upon to create some negative plays, as will defensive end Byron Young.

Pittsburgh week 2 college football preview

The running game was held in check, but Kedon Slovis had a terrific debut, throwing for over 300 yards. Now he gets to throw on a Tennessee secondary that struggled last season.

The Vols secondary has some experience in Trevon Flowers and Jaylen McCollough, but they were also a big reason why the Vols’ pass defense struggled in 2021. Slovis needs to feast on them.

Pitt finished third in the nation in sacks last fall, and their top havoc producers, Calijah Kancey and Habakkuk Baldonado, are still around to cause problems. If the Panthers D can create chaos and force three-and-outs, the Vols’ defense can expect to be on the field for much of the game.

Prediction

Tennessee 44, Pittsburgh 38

Kentucky vs. Florida preview

#20 Kentucky Wildcats at #12 Florida Gators. 7:30 P.M. EST, ESPN

  • Line: Florida -5, o/u: 52

Kentucky week 2 college football preview

The offense has a mayo-loving pro prospect of its own in quarterback Will Levis, coming off a 303-yard performance. He’ll keep pushing a Gator secondary that had issues with the Utah passing game late last week.

With only one starter returning, along with Auburn transfer Tashawn Manning, the Wildcats return only 45 career starts. Kentucky’s “Big Blue Wall” is young, inexperienced, and a work-in-progress.

Offensive coordinator Rick Scangarello will want to get Tayvion Robinson, who was marvelous in his Kentucky debut (6 receptions, 136 yards), the ball early and often on Saturday night.

Kentucky is also very deep at linebacker; it’s been an area of strength in Stoops’ recruiting operation. This means the Wildcats are less likely to tire late compared to Utah. If Kentucky wins, it’ll be likely because it won this battle.

Florida Gators week 2 college football preview

Led by quarterback Anthony Richardson, the Gators piled on 283 ground yards and four TDs, while averaging over seven yards per touch against a very good, and physical, team last week.

The Gators have plenty of talent up front, and start multiple five-star players on the defensive line. Still, Florida surrendered over 200 yards rushing to Utah last Saturday and was too often pushed back easily at the point of attack.

Kentucky’s top running backs are out, one with a suspension and another with an injury, so the Gators may get a break in the running game. But they still have to deal with Will Levis and his strong arm. Jason Marshall Jr. will have to keep up with Tayvion Robinson.

Anthony Richardson will be contained by the Wildcats defense, he will have to rely on his arm more than his legs. It needs to be the next step in his development in week 2 of college football.

Prediction

Florida 27, Kentucky 24

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