2023 NFL Draft: Here’s why Bijan Robinson is worthy of being picked in the top 10

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By Webdesk



Texas running back Bijan Robinson, the winner of the 2022 Doak Walker award (awarded to the best RB in the country) is generating a stir as the big night approaches. Earlier this week, NBC Sports reported that the Falcons, who own the eighth overall pick, were betting favorites to draft Robinson. NFL Network also reported a few NFC teams doesn’t want the Eagles, who own the 10th pick, to draft Robinson. Robinson said on ESPN’s “NFL Live” on Wednesday that if he could play with a QB of his choice, it would be Jalen Hurts.

For those reasons and more, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Robinson crack the top 10, despite zero RBs going into the first round for the third time in the common draft era (since 1967) last year.

Scouts and metrics love him

Whoever you ask, most have Robinson as a top five or ten prospect. He is the fifth best prospect according to CBS Sports (full scouting report HERE).

Scouts Inc., a scouting agency in partnership with ESPN, gives Robinson a grade of 96, tied with Bryce Young for the highest grade of any player in the league, and the highest grade since Saquon Barkley, who placed second overall in 2018 . .

Robinson may be the first running back in the top 20 since Barkley, and there’s reason to believe he’ll go even higher. That’s because Robinson is one of nine RBs with a 96+ Scouts Inc. rating since 2005. All but one running back was a top-seven pick (Rashard Mendenhall).

Reggie Bush from 2006

99

2nd

2008 Darren McFadden

98

4th

Adrian Peterson from 2007

98

7th

Ronnie Brown from 2005

98

2nd

2018 Saquon Barkley

97

2nd

Trent Richardson from 2012

97

3rd

2005 Cadillac Williams

97

5th

2023 Sesame Robinson

96

?

Rashard Mendenhall from 2008

96

23rd

Robinson earned the highest overall draft score (96) of all prospects this year according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He had a production score of 99, the highest by an RB in at least the last two decades. NFL Next Gen Stats production score is based on their overall school production which takes into account box score data (career per rush etc…) and advanced data (missed tackles forced per carry etc…).

Why is everyone so high on Robinson?

In case it’s not blatantly obvious, Robinson is one of the best RB prospects in a while, and he’s got all the high marks and scores for a reason. He had an extremely productive college career, performing well on the field and projecting as a three-down back in the NFL with size, speed, strength and athleticism to excel as a rusher, pass catcher and blocker.

His raw talent was on display in his final season in Texas. He forced 104 missed tackles, the first player to crack 100 in a season in the PFF headway (since 2014).

That translated into a lot of productivity. He had 1,580 rushing yards at 6.1 yards per carry in 2022. He also had 19 receptions for 314 yards, last season leading all FBS running yards in yards per reception (16.5), while showing off nice hands in the passing game.

Add it all up and he was a special playmaker. Since 2017, there have been 121 instances of a player having 200+ carries and 15+ catches in a season. Robinson’s 2022 season is the only season to produce both more than 6.0 yards per rush and at least 16.0 yards per reception.

The last first-round RB to get both points (6.0 yards per rush and 16.0 yards per reception) in their final college season was Bo Jackson, the top pick in 1986. And even Jackson only had four that season catches.

Robinson backed up the numbers on the combine with a 4.46 40-yard sprint of 215 pounds, going with a 37-inch vertical and 10-foot-4 inch wide jump.

You can see why any NFL team would be terrified of an Eagles offense, including Jalen Hurts, AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert AND Robinson behind the best offensive line in football.

Against the argument that it is a bad idea to set RBs high

So you shouldn’t be shocked at all to see Robinson crack the top 10. But is he worth it? That’s a bit more complicated.

Of course, most would argue that drafting running backs in the top 10 is a bad idea, and that’s where things could go with Robinson. Jerry Jones, who held court earlier this week, said Ezekiel Elliott, the 2016 fourth overall pick, was drafted too high.

Jones would be far from the only person to subscribe to the popular opinion that it is questionable to run back early. It’s well documented that it’s easy to find RB value later in the draft, running backs have a shorter shelf life and often don’t land big, second contracts in the NFL.

However, there are exceptions to every rule. The 2022 draft proved there was value to be had at the top, even by older running backs.

  • The top eight RBs in rush yards in 2022 have all been drafted in the first or second round. Six of those eight were at least 25 years old
  • Four of the top six RBs in terms of fantasy points from last season had their second contract. The two who weren’t, Josh Jacobs and Saquon Barkley, were franchised earlier this offseason

Josh Jacobs

1,653

1st

24

Dirk Hendrik

1,538

2nd

28

Nick Chubb

1,525

2nd

27

Saquon Barkley

1,312

1st

25

Miles Sanders

1,269

2nd

25

Dalvin Cook

1,173

2nd

27

Christian Macaffrey

1,139

1st

26

Travis Etienne

1,125

1st

23

The five running backs drafted in the top 10 since Trent Richardson’s disastrous selection (third overall in 2012) have produced a good return on investment.

Last five RBs drafted in the top 10

  • Saquon Barkley 2018: Three career 1,000-yard rushing seasons
  • Leonard Fournette 2017: 448 scrimmage yards and 4 TD in 2020 playoff run with Buccaneers
  • 2017 Christian McCaffrey: Three seasons with 1,800 yards of scrimmage
  • 2016 Ezekiel Elliott: Led NFL in rushing yards per game in each of first three seasons
  • 2015 Todd Gurley: led NFL in touchdowns in 2017 and 2018 (2017 MVP runner-up)

I’m not sure this evidence would convince the naysayers who shout “get off my lawn!” to anyone who would consider drafting a running back in the first round or top 10.

What I do know is this. Running backs as well as Robinson are drafted in the top 10. The last few top 10 running backs have been usually valuable assets. And a majority of the best RBs in 2022 were drafted high. Whether Robinson is worthy of a top-10 pick is up to you. I’m saying that at least a case should be made and that you shouldn’t be surprised at all if he comes off the board so early.





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