Draft capital can be a good indicator when searching for running backs that have more trust or opportunity coming their way. But the fact of the matter is, good running backs have a way of rising to the top, no matter where or when they’re drafted. This is why high-value running backs continue to appear every season and why the scouting report of Alabama RB Brian Robinson Jr. deserves attention in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Brian Robinson Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’1 5/8″
- Weight: 226 pounds
- Wingspan: 77 3/8″
- Length: 32 1/8″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
Brian Robinson Jr. Scouting Report
Let me list some names to you: Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, Najee Harris. Those are the NFL running backs that Alabama has produced since 2016. If you want to go even farther back, you can. Being a running back at Alabama has become a revered, iconic achievement. Nick Saban’s squad can be considered a factory at almost every position, but its record at RB might be strongest.
It’s important to note that Alabama running backs shouldn’t be graded higher simply because of the helmet. The status and pedigree of the position alone don’t legitimize a player. But at this point, we can confidently say that Saban knows what to look for — and he knows how to develop NFL talent. Robinson Jr. appears to be next in line. What does his 2022 NFL Draft scouting report entail?
Brian Robinson Jr.’s athletic profile
Robinson certainly looks the part as an Alabama running back. Listed at 6’1″, 226 pounds, Robinson has a dense, relatively high-cut frame. With this dense frame, Robinson shines as a physical back. He’s an aggressive finisher who uses his size to his advantage. He can lower his shoulder and grind out extra yards in short-yardage situations, and he can drag defenders with his steady leg drive through contact.
With his size, Robinson also brings excellent contact balance. He can absorb direct contact and extend runs with his physicality. Additionally, in space, he can bounce off of defenders and maintain his momentum through contact. And amidst heavy contact, Robinson knows how to contort and stay on his feet to sneak out extra yards.
Robinson’s physicality is one of the defining characteristics of his game, but the Alabama RB still has more in his athletic toolbox. He has enough long-track explosiveness to press the edges and get outside. When he has space, he can elongate his strides and reach impressive speeds.
The Crimson Tide RB can accelerate through the second level and utilize small lanes, and he isn’t too upright as a runner. Lastly, Robinson effectively carries his momentum forward in space.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Robinson’s footwork is exceptionally coordinated and perhaps the primary meshing agent for his game. The Alabama RB churns his feet as he approaches holes and can utilize shuffles, stutter steps, and gallops to adjust his angle and set up runs. He can also kick his feet up to avoid arm tackles in the backfield and has a natural feel for staying upright.
Even more impressive is Robinson’s ability to be patient and timely with his movements. He has the patience to read plays in the backfield and the explosion upfield when he has an opening. He knows how to control his throttle when approaching and navigating through congestion. Moreover, his vision is good enough to identify windows in the trenches. The Alabama product processes fairly quickly at the exchange and can react to invading defenders.
Beyond his initial utility in the backfield, Robinson also has some limited creation capacity. He’s shown he can stack cuts to evade rushers and open up spaces. With those quick cuts, Robinson can set up and displace defenders, manipulating tackling angles in small areas. Robinson has shown he has value on passing downs as well. He’s an able receiver with decent RAC ability, and he’s also alert and adaptable as a blocker — able to identify blitzers and position himself at gaps.
Areas for improvement
Robinson has an impressively high floor as a runner, but there are some areas for improvement. The Alabama RB’s initial burst is only decent. He often needs space to gather more speed. That lack of elite burst sometimes prevents him from escaping the first level of defense.
Going further, Robinson doesn’t quite have the elite athleticism to work out of early-contact situations consistently. He can become flat-footed when he tries to sink his hips too far and can get stuck in congestion. Although he has decently loose hips, there is some stiffness there, putting a cap on his elusiveness and creation capacity. Robinson is a little leggy with his hip transitions, and he’s not a very slippery or sudden athlete. He’s more of a short-area cutter, and although he has good nuance, he has fairly limited range with his moves.
Robinson appears to have decent capacity sinking his hips, but he sometimes plays too upright in and out of his cuts. Also, while he has good long speed, he’s not elite there. He can gear up relatively quickly when he has a runway, but he has a ceiling in that regard.
Expanding beyond his athleticism, Robinson’s full-field vision isn’t exceptional. He sometimes misses open cutback lanes, deferring to congested areas up the middle. There are times when he has space to bounce outside and extend runs, but he instead dives up the middle for minimal gains. Furthermore, when Robinson gets caught in the backfield, he occasionally works backward, trying too hard to create. While Robinson is a solid blocker, he does tend to go too low at times. That not only sacrifices his balance but could draw penalties at the next level.
Brian Robinson Jr.’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Robinson doesn’t appear to have the same physical upside that early-round Alabama backs like Henry and Najee Harris have shown in the past. But Robinson has the skill set to carve out a career as a solid NFL running back — and potentially at a bargain price in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Robinson lacks elite initial burst, but he has good long-track explosiveness — enough to capitalize on openings and surge to the second level. From there, his direct, physical running style enables him to grind out additional yards. While he isn’t exceptionally creative in the backfield or at the second level, Robinson does have the ability to stack cuts and instinctively evade defenders. In fact, his initial footwork might be one of his best traits.
Robinson might not be elite in any one area. But the Alabama RB boasts excellent size and contact balance, great footwork, good instincts and vision, and passable utility on passing downs. On top of that, he has under-the-radar elusiveness, which he can use to survive in the backfield and reach the second level.
Robinson is likely an early Day 3 pick, with Day 2 upside if he plays well at the Senior Bowl. Regardless, he has the skill set to be a solid NFL starter if provided the opportunity.
Brian Robinson Jr.’s Player Profile
For Robinson, who got his start at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there was never any other choice but the Crimson Tide. Robinson was a four-star recruit in the 2017 recruiting class. Having amassed 990 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns as a senior, he quickly attracted interest on the college football stage.
Running a 4.62 40-yard dash and logging a 31.6-inch vertical jump in high school testing only compounded interest for Robinson. Nevertheless, offers from Auburn and Cincinnati didn’t move the needle. Robinson chose to sign with his hometown team — a decision that likely wasn’t too difficult for the Alabama RB.
Robinson’s career at Alabama
Despite coming in as the 198th overall recruit in his respective class, Robinson spent most of his Alabama career as a mere rotational player. In his first four seasons, Robinson accrued 274 carries for 1,361 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those are numbers that some running backs match in one season. But patience paid off for Robinson. And in his fifth year, the Alabama RB nearly accomplished just that.
2021 was a banner campaign for Robinson. Not only did the Crimson Tide ball carrier amass 222 attempts for 1,064 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he also entered the fray as a receiving threat. With 32 catches for 268 yards and 2 scores, he expanded on his previously known skill set and only added to his 2022 NFL Draft scouting report.
Robinson’s NFL Draft ascension
As mentioned earlier, Robinson may not be one of the first running backs off the board. The optics of being an Alabama running back will play in his favor. Still, other players like Kenneth Walker III, Breece Hall, Isaiah Spiller, and Kyren Williams have more athletic upside.
That said, Robinson passes the necessary athletic threshold to be an NFL starter and a versatile one at that. His size, contact balance, and physical downhill style make him a good fit for power schemes, but he also has the patience, instincts, and methodical footwork to be an effective zone runner.
The Senior Bowl will be significant in determining Robinson’s stock. But as it stands, his experience and all-around utility should help him challenge for Top 100 draft capital. From there, he can carve out a steady role with his rushing style.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Brian Robinson Jr.
Positives: Tough, intelligent ball carrier who displays the ability to take over games. Possesses outstanding vision, patiently waits for blocks to develop, and finds the running lanes. Consistently turns it upfield, shows outstanding power as well as strength in his lower body, and is rarely brought down by a single defender.
Has defenders bouncing off him and picks up a lot of yardage off initial contact. Solid pass catcher who adjusts to errant throws and makes receptions in stride. Remains disciplined with blocking assignments.
Negatives: Plays to one speed, lacks quickness, and does not have a burst. Not a creative ball handler and struggles to turn the corner or improvise when things break down.
Analysis: Robinson is a hard-charging interior ball carrier who was a major asset last season for the Alabama offense. His game has limitations, though Robinson offers potential as a short-yardage ball carrier who can also catch the ball out of the backfield and block for his quarterback.