RB1: Bijan Robinson (Texas)
No surprise here. Texas running back Bijan Robinson has been RB1 in the 2023 draft class since he was a senior in high school. Not often does a recruit with the hype of Robinson live up to expectations — or surpass them as he did.
Robinson was the No. 1 running back recruit in his class and took the Big 12 by storm in limited action as a freshman. In 2021, Robinson assumed more of the load, eclipsing the 100-yard mark six times, including a 216-yard outburst vs. TCU.
Robinson saved his best for last, setting career highs in rushing attempts (257), rushing yards (1,575), and touchdowns (18). He used an otherworldly blend of elite vision, top-tier patience, sky-high football IQ, and impressive pass-catching chops to dominate the collegiate level.
Expanding more, Robinson is the best pure runner in the class. He wins just as easily between the tackles as he does breaking outside. Robinson’s vision allows him to see holes before they form, and his explosiveness allows him to create holes of his own when needed.
The contact balance Robinson displays is phenomenal. He is a bowling ball as he moves upfield. Additionally, the Texas star knows how to make a defender touch grass after a juke. It’s hard not to chuckle at some of the broken tackles Robinson put on tape.
What makes Robinson such a surefire pick is his immediate three-down ability. Others in the class have the potential to fill a bell-cow role, but no one can do it from day one the same way Robinson can. He is polished, confident, and has been waiting for the chance to be the next franchise-caliber player at running back.
Robinson has dealt with a few nagging injuries, which are worth mentioning. He also has lapses in pass protection at times, but I chalk these up to concentration rather than a lack of technique. NFL coaching can clean this up, and a conditioning program will hopefully keep Robinson healthy and on the field.
In a draft class full of uncertainty up top, Robinson is a special case. He is the rare safe pick that also serves as a high-upside swing. At worst, you get an average starter in the league if injuries arise. At best, you are drafting the best running back in the NFL for the next half-decade.
“Running backs don’t matter” is a trendy saying that continues gaining more steam by the year. While there is some merit to not wanting a running back this early in the draft, you simply don’t pass on a talent like Bijan Robinson. I would take him anywhere in the middle of day one and dance my way up to the podium to announce the selection.
NFL Draft Grade: Early-to-Mid Day 1
NFL Draft Honorable Mentions:
-Eric Gray (Oklahoma)
-Keaton Mitchell (East Carolina)
-Mo Ibrahim (Minnesota)
-Evan Hull (Northwestern)
-Deneric Prince (Tulsa)
-Camerun Peoples (App State)
-Tiyon Evans (Louisville)
-Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Kentucky)
-Lew Nichols III (Central Michigan)
-Khalan Laborn (Marshall)