2023 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Bijan Robinson (Fantasy Football)
By now, you’ve probably heard that Bijan Robinson is good at football. Like really, really good. The hype is real – as most respectable NFL Draft analysts have called the former Texas Longhorn the best RB prospect since Saquon Barkley came out of Penn State back in 2018. Let’s dive into his production profile, NFL Combine measurables and his film takeaways to see if the hype is warranted (spoiler – it is).
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2023 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2023.
College Production Profile
Coming out of high school as a five-star recruit, Bijan Robinson has lived up to the hype during his college career as a Texas Longhorn. The former Arizona Gatorade player of the year in 2019, Robinson’s eye-popping production profile goes all the way back to his days in high school. He became the first running back in state history to top 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. To no one’s surprise, Robinson got offers to every top school in the country, and as we know by now, he chose to attend the University of Texas where he wasted very little timing bursting onto the scene.
In 2020, he was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year with over 700 yards and four scores. After a true breakout in 2021, Bijan Robinson earned First-Team All American honors in 2022, becoming the first Texas Longhorn RB since Ricky Williams in 1998 to be named a unanimous All-American. To no surprise, Robinson took home the Doak Walker Award in 2022 as the country’s best running back. Worth noting, the last four backs to win the award: Bijan Robinson, Kenneth Walker, Najee Harris, Jonathan Taylor. Robinson finds himself in some truly elite company when you talk about his college career.
Robinson’s 2022 season was special. With almost 1,900 total scrimmage yards and 18 TDs, Bijan’s usage numbers are off the charts in our data set in the Dynasty Pass Production Profiles. The former Texas RB accounted for 37% of his team’s scrimmage yards last season, which is well above the NFL RB1 college average of 30%, and his Dominator Rating of 39% is an elite mark as well.
Perhaps even more encouraging for fantasy football purposes is Bijan’s ability to contribute as a receiving threat. Robinson posted a 12% reception share in 2021 and an 8% reception share a year ago, adding that extra layer of upside we look for in prospects. Simply put, there’s zero holes in his production profile. He checks every box and is a 98th percentile prospect in fellow writer Marvin Elequin’s prospect model.
• 2023 Rookie Running Backs •
Below are the *early* results of my RB prospect model, which factors in exp. adjusted production, efficiency, athleticism, & projected draft capital
In the thread 🧵 below, I’ll add my thoughts + how this class compares to 2021 & 2022![1 of 7] pic.twitter.com/jbwUNTCyRv
— Marvin Elequin (@FF_MarvinE) February 3, 2023
|Height||Weight||Age||40-Yard Dash||Broad Jump||Vertical|
|5′ 11″||215 lbs.||21||4.46||124″||37″|
At 5’11” and 215 pounds, Bijan Robinson has got prototypical RB size, and more specifically prototypical three-down RB size. In our database, the NFL RB1 average coming out of college is 5’11.7″ and 219 pounds. Check and check.
Robinson went to the NFL Combine and showed us exactly what we were hoping to see – plenty of speed, agility and athleticism. He also showed out during the on-field workout with some excellent footwork and burst as well as soft hands and fluid route running in the receiving drills.
All of the on-field workout reps for Bijan Robinson at the NFL Combine yesterday! pic.twitter.com/MUg9auwjou
— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) March 6, 2023
From an athletic testing standpoint, Robinson’s 4.46 40-yard dash at his weight earned him an 89th percentile speed score and his complete body of work at the combine earned him a RAS (Relative Athletic Score) of 9.83 out of 10. Again, Robinson checks every box we look for when it comes to an NFL running back prospect.
What’s On Tape
Games viewed: Texas Tech (2021), TCU (2021), Alabama (2022), Kansas State (2022), Oklahoma State (2022), Baylor (2022), Kansas (2022)
1. Robinson uses a unique combination of agility, power and vision to break tackles regularly.
According to PFF, among RBs who have logged 200+ career carries in college, Robinson ranks 2nd in their Elusive Rating, which is a metric that looks at a back’s ability to break tackles. Using that Elusive Rating metric, Robinson ranks ahead of current NFL backs like Kenneth Walker, Javonte Williams, etc.
In fact, Robinson set Pro Football Focus’ single-season record for forced missed tackles with 104. One defender in college was simply not enough to bring him down, and arm tackles are a swing and a miss all the time on film.
2. Lateral agility and quickness
We already mentioned above that Bijan has the ability to break tackles, but it’s not like he’s just lowering his shoulder and running over dudes out there. Robinson moves are fluid for a back of his size, and he knows how to use angles and footwork to setup his defender to look silly either at the line of scrimmage or in open space.
I wish we got some agility numbers at the NFL Combine just to compare apples to apples for other RB prospects, but if you watch a few games of Bijan in college, you’ll notice he’s an excellent athlete who looks quick when moving East and West to make defenders miss. After he does, he gets up field in a hurry to pick up chunk gains.
3. Bijan Robinson might have better hands than most WR prospects.
Forget the RB route tree, #Texas RB Bijan Robinson looks more than comfortable running WR routes out of the slot. Plus the ball skills? And finish through contact?
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 19, 2022
Yes, that’s a RB running a vertical route out of the slot, high pointing the football with a very impressive hands catch at the point of contact. It’s probably wishful thinking to expect a role like this in the NFL, but the fact that this is in Robinson’s bag of tricks shows us a lot. He can be a real threat in PPR formats, especially if he lands in a scheme where a RB is featured in the receiving game. Per PFF, Robinson didn’t log a single drop on 29 total targets during his final college season.
I don’t want to mislead readers, however. I wouldn’t expect an Alvin Kamara type receiving role for Bijan in the NFL, at least when we compare his yards per route run numbers to current NFL backs. Robinson’s 1.48 YPRR career mark is similar to that of good pass catchers like Leonard Fournette (1.62) and Dalvin Cook (1.38).
What’s Not on Tape
1. Elite ball security
It feels like grasping at straws with trying to identify a weakness in Bijan’s game. I did notice a fumble or two in the games I’ve watched. Just to put some numbers to it, Robinson fumbled six times on 539 career attempts. He could probably clean that up a little bit in the pros.
You probably didn’t need me to tell you this, but the fantasy outlook for Bijan Robinson is good…very good. A lot of comparables you’ll hear in the fantasy football and scouting space are some of the elite fantasy RBs we’ve seen over the last several years: Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Edgerrin James, etc. etc. etc.
Per Anthony Amico, here is the list of running backs since 2000 who have played three years in college to surpass 400 carries and 40 catches while averaging at least 6.0 yards per carry and 10.0 yards per reception:
- Reggie Bush
- Jamaal Charles
- Duke Johnson
- Christian McCaffrey
- Leonard Fournette
- Dalvin Cook
- Bijan Robinson
When you combine Bijan’s production profile with his athletic measurables and his projected first round NFL Draft capital, Robinson looks every bit the part of the next great fantasy RB who should post multiple top-12 seasons for our fantasy lineups. In dynasty formats, he’s the locked in 1.01 regardless of format, while he’s already considered an RB1 in dynasty startup rankings.
As for redraft leagues, Robinson looks like a top-24 overall selection with a chance to become a bonafide Round 1 selection depending on landing spot. As of late March, he’s currently coming off the board on Underdog Fantasy as the RB4 in best ball formats. It may seem like a lofty price to pay for a RB who has yet to play a down in the NFL, but when you look at his comps and consider the fact that he’s considered the best prospect since Saquon Barkley, that ADP may be warranted.
Bottom line – Bijan Robinson looks like a true difference maker in fantasy for years to come.