First-round running backs are becoming a thing of the past. Top-16 running backs? Forget about it. But with his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, Texas RB Bijan Robinson may bring those back in style. Robinson has been an unbridled star at every stage of his football career, and he may be the rare RB prospect who transcends his positional value.
Bijan Robinson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Texas
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 5’11”, 215 pounds
- Arm: 31 1/8″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
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.
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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.
Bijan Robinson Scouting Report
True to form, Robinson dominated in 2022, with 258 carries for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns, along with 19 catches for 314 yards and two additional scores. The hype has always been present with Robinson, but are the most hyperbolic statements — top-three player in the class, generational prospect, et cetera — merited? Let’s dive into the tape.
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 5’11” and 215 pounds. But with his dense, compact frame, he’s also a fleet-footed runner who can accelerate instantly out of exchanges. He generates impressive burst on cuts and can throttle up fast with short, urgent strides. Robinson might not have quantifiably elite explosiveness, but his 37″ vertical signals more than enough explosive capacity, and 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 unnaturally 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 hyper-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.
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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 narrow 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 stimuli 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 expertly uses 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 plays. 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 use body control and 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 initial explosiveness or long speed. His speed is far from a liability — timed at 4.46 — but he doesn’t quite have the home-run gear required to extend gaps and overtake defenders in space. He also can’t always beat faster 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 prospect to command Round 1 interest. To be mentioned in the top-10 conversation, you have to be even better than that. Robinson is in that tier as a prospect. Saying he’s generational as a runner sounds hyperbolic, but we truly haven’t seen an RB prospect like Robinson in years, and we won’t see anyone match him for a while.
Robinson is a top-three talent in the 2023 NFL Draft, without accounting for positional value, and a blue-chip prospect with his amalgamation of traits. At 5’11”, 215 pounds, he has the size and contact resistance to churn through congestion and take a workhorse’s volume. He’s a physical finisher who kicks off every other run with a jaw-dropping display of finesse and short-area instincts.
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If you’re someone who likes to check boxes for each prospect, you’ll find yourself searching for boxes to leave blank with Robinson. He’s well-built. He’s a high-level receiver and a sturdy pass blocker. And he ties it all together as a runner with hyper-elite vision and creative instincts, lateral agility, hip flexibility, burst, and balance through and between cuts.
With his combined short-area athleticism and telekinetic processing ability in tight areas, Robinson is a true master of space. Few running backs at 215 pounds are as fluid, abrupt, and in control as he is on a down-to-down basis. He’s a rare running talent who rarely shies away from contact and provides legitimate utility in the passing game.
This reads like a love letter, but when a prospect of this caliber comes along, the only path forward is to appreciate. Robinson is a scheme-versatile game-changer at the RB position who has the ability to make his linemen better and be the final piece for an explosive NFL offense.