Why Bijan Robinson is poised to show he’s Texas’ next great NFL running back

Is Bijan Robinson a first-round running back?

That was one of the biggest questions ahead of the 2023 NFL Combine. Robinson had an impressive three-year career with the Longhorns. The Sporting News first team All American rushed for 1,580 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and totaled 20 touchdowns in 2022.

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Overall, Robinson compiled 3,410 rushing yards over three seasons, ranking fourth all-time in Texas behind Ricky Williams (6,279), Cedric Benson (5,540) and Earl Campbell (4,443) and one spot ahead of Jamaal Charles (3,328). That’s an impressive company considering the NFL careers of these players.

It’s admittedly a different game now. Running backs’ draft fluctuates from year to year, and Robinson needs to impress at the combine to maintain his draft.

Still, he fits in with the prototype as the next great running back from Texas. Here’s why:

Bijan Robinson College Career

Robinson, who played his high school ball at Salpointe Catholic in Tucson, Arizona, was ranked #1 in 247Sports’ recruiting rankings for the Class of 2020. As a freshman, he previously rushed for 703 yards (8.2 yards per carry). consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022.

He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and had 33 TDs over his three seasons, but he also showed high-end receiving ability from the backfield. He averaged 20 catches for 268 yards a year.

The 6-0, 215-pounder lived up to the hype despite Texas’ 20-15 record during his time there.

Bijan Robinson & Texas RBs in the NFL Draft

We mentioned the list of Texas running back greats. Robinson has a lot to do to keep the conversation going. Williams, Benson, and Campbell were all top 5 picks in the NFL draft.

Texas RBs in the first round of the NFL Draft

player Year Choose NFL Rushing Stats
Rick Williams 1999 5 10,009 yards, 66 TDs
Count Campell 1978 1 9,407 yards, 74 TDs
Cedric Benson 2005 4 6,017 yards, 32 TDs

We don’t see an NFL general manager trading an entire draft like Mike Ditka did for Williams in 1999, but the point is made.

Other Texas running backs also found success at the next level. Priest Holmes was an undrafted free agent in 1997, finishing with 8,172 yards and 86 TDs. Jamaal Charles was a third-round pick in 2008 with 7,563 yards and 44 TDs.

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Robinson is compared to all of these backs as the combine unfolds. He’s also been compared to first-round running backs in recent drafts.

Bijan Robinson & the youngest RBs of the first round

No running back was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Breece Hall was the first running back selected last year when the Jets brought him number 36. Kenneth Walker III (No. 41) of the Seahawks and James Cook (No. 63) of the Bills were also second-round picks.

Nine running backs have been selected in the first round of the last six NFL Drafts.

NFL first-round RBs since 2017

player Year Choose NFL Stats
Leonard Fournette 2017 4 4,478 yards, 34 TDs
Christian McCaffrey 2017 8th 4,726 yards, 38 TDs
Saquon Barkley 2018 2 4,249 yards, 29 TDs
Rashaad Penny 2018 27 1,918 yards, 13 TDs
SonyMichel 2018 31 3,243 yards, 18 TDs
Josh Jacobs 2019 24 4,740 yards, 40 TDs
Clyde Edwards Helaire 2020 32 1,622 yards, 11 TDs
Najee Harris 2022 24 2,234 yards, 14 TDs
Travis Etienne 2022 25 1,225 yards, 5 TDs

Robinson is unlikely to be a top 10 pick; It was Fournette, McCaffrey and Barkley. Barkley was named the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.

Robinson is expected to be selected in the back half of the first round. In recent drafts, other running backs have been second-round value picks, including Dalvin Cook (No. 41, 2017), Joe Mixon (No. 48, 2017), Nick Chubb (No. 35, 2018), and Jonathan Taylor (No 41).

Bijan Robinson draft projection

If SN’s NFL mock draft prediction comes true, Robinson will get more attention in the Lone Star State. Vinnie Iyer picks the Cowboys #27 Robinson in the 2023 NFL Draft.

MORE: Cowboys appear poised to tag Tony Pollard as a franchise if no deal is reached by deadline

“With the possibility of Tony Pollard exploring freelance following his breakout season and Ezekiel Elliott being cut due to salary cap concerns, Jerry Jones may be interested in replacing her with a potential Austin superstar,” Iyer writes. “Robinson is a threesome with explosive qualities like vision, speed, determination and offensive power as a runner and receiver.”

Dallas is just one possible landing site. If Robinson falls in the back half in the first round, there’s a good chance he’ll end up with a Super Bowl contender. The Eagles, Bills and Ravens are all potential passers for a player who would be considered luxury picks for those teams.

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