Texas running back Bijan Robinson is one of the most intriguing players in what promises to be an unpredictable draft. CBS Sports’ No. 5 prospect rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2022, and is considered a first-round pick on Thursday despite playing a position that NFL teams don’t seem to value as highly as they ever did.
CBS Sports NFL Draft pundit Chris Trapasso lets Robinson be selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, while CBS Sports NFL Insider Pete Prisco picks the 21-year-old with the penultimate pick in the first round, No. 30 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles . While pundits may disagree on how long Robinson will have to wait to hear his name called Thursday night, he calls the draft process a “blessing,” pointing out to CBS Sports this week that God doesn’t grant everyone these kinds of opportunities.
“Not at all man,” Robinson replied when asked if he cares if he’s drafted high or not. “I know I will be blessed with the right team and the best team God has for me. Wherever I go, I will embrace the city, embrace the teammates, embrace everyone wherever I am. For me it’s just a exciting opportunity to play on a team and transfer your skills and personality to the coaches teammates and also to the city I’m excited to go all over whoever chooses me up I’m ready to go and I’m ready to be there.”
Only nine running backs have been selected in the top 20 picks of an NFL Draft since 2010. They also don’t sign major contracts if successful, as it’s been three years since a running back resets their respective market. Christian McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million extension with the Carolina Panthers in 2020 and was traded two years later. All running backs still look up to McCaffrey’s average annual salary.
There’s no doubt a negative narrative surrounding running backs, but Robinson says his position is important because of everything that can potentially drive a player into an offense.
“When you’re a guy who can be very versatile, who can do so many things for an attack, whether it’s catching the ball from the backfield, lining up at the slot receiver, of course ‘running back’ and doing so many things at once. high level, become mismatches for defenses, that’s where I think the value of the running back position really comes into play,” Robinson said. “I think it’s going to be a high value position there. Because I think you guys like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon [Barkley] that’s about half their offense. And they can do anything to influence the game. When you have guys like that and still have a great team around you, you cook with the right ingredients. I think the running back position can be rated as highly as it needs to be if you just have those guys who can do it right and just become mismatches for everyone on the field.
One of the main reasons why Robinson is considered a top prospecthe says it is necessary to run back. His head coach, Steve Sarkisian, recently told NBC Sports’ Peter King that Robinson could be a legitimate slot receiver in the NFL.
“I probably drove some receivers on our team crazy last season,” said Sarkisian, “but he had the best hands on our team.”
Robinson caught just 19 passes in 2022, but turned those 19 touches into 314 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged no less than 16.5 meters per reception. You can expect Robinson to work more as a receiver on the next level, and it’s an area of his game that he’s very confident in.
“It’s huge. It’s through the roof,” Robinson said when asked about his confidence as a pass catcher. “I like to catch the ball and I like to catch the ball in different ways in different situations. After practice, Coach Choice and I did catching drills, and he just threw the ball in different angles, different areas that I need to catch the ball For me, by going seven-on-seven as a kid and doing it in high school, and just playing strict receiver in seven-on-seven, it really made me super confident in my pass-catching.
Robinson says he’s not big on comparisons, but if he had to compare himself to someone at the NFL level, he’d name players like McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. Dual-threat backs that could lead an NFL offense. While Robinson may put forward some high hopes for himself, it’s fair to say he’s not off-base either.
Robinson is slick and he avoided 113 tackles last season. That’s the most tackles an FBS player has avoided in the past five years. Part of that is natural ability, but Robinson is also working on that part of his game.
“It’s a lot of things,” Robinson said of his ability to make defenders miss. “Of course God gave me the gift of doing that, but you have to study a lot of film, you have to understand who your free hitters are on defense and really dissect defenders and also understand angles. I’m very good at angles.
“Definitely watching a lot of movies and how defenders are trying to hit you and if it’s low hitters, if it’s high hitters, you have to understand all that stuff beforehand.”
Robinson is not a running back, he is a playmaker. However, he wants to be even more than that. He wants to be an example on and off the field for the franchise that shoots for him.
“I think they need a guy who can be a game-changer, whether it’s running the ball, catching passes, making people miss, scoring in different situations,” said Robinson. “To be a man who can also impact the community off the field. To be a light to the city, to be a light to everyone you come into contact with. I think that’s very important.”
Robinson spoke to CBS Sports promoting USAA, Official NFL Salute to Service Partner. He visited military members stationed near Kansas City at Whiteman Air Force Base for a day in the life experience of how our military trains.
“Partnering with USAA, it’s absolutely amazing,” said Robinson. “Last week I was here in Kansas City, going to Whiteman Air Force Base and doing a lot of different things. We toured the B-2 and the A-10. That experience was absolutely amazing.”
“To talk to the men and women in the military and what they’re going through — it’s definitely pretty cool to see that we’re similar in what we do, when it comes to staying in shape, scouting what to do. My stepdad was also in the military. So by comparing different stories it was kind of cool to be a part of that. One of the coolest things I did was go up in the helicopter. That was pretty amazing just about the city drive from Kansas City and see where I’ll be called up in the next few days. I just appreciate all the men and women in the military who put their lives on the line and do so many things for this country.”