2023 Atlanta Falcons Round 1 NFL Draft Pick: Get to Know Running Back Bijan Robinson
The Atlanta Falcons have selected Bijan Robinson with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Robinson was one of the best values for them at the pick and will help the Falcons create matchup nightmares on offense for Desmond Ridder to take advantage of. The Falcons have truly been getting weapons for their offense with Kyle Pitts and then Drake London the last two years. To go and get Robinson just shows how good they want this offense to be.
University of Texas
Athletic Comparison and Numbers
Stats and Awards
2022: 12 Games Played, 258 Carries, 1,580 Yards, 18 Touchdowns, 19 Catches, 314 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 3 Tackles, Unanimous All-American, Doak Walker Award Winner, First team All-Big 12
2021: 10 Games Played, 195 Carries, 1,127 Yards, 11 Touchdowns, 26 Catches, 295 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, First team All-Big 12
2020: 9 Games Played, 86 Carries, 703 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 15 Catches, 196 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 1 Kick Returns, 16 Yards
Imagine a player who is willing to take blocks on for his quarterback while he's in pass protection. Now imagine that same player is also a talented receiver who can run a somewhat complex route tree for his position. Continue imagining this player, but he runs the outside zone rushing attack like he's Clinton Portis. That player is Bijan Robinson. He's got all the strengths that a guy like Christian McCaffrey does in that he can run routes, has great contact balance, and has exceptional vision.
He has all the things that make a player a great option in an offense like Arthur Smith's where he could have over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns every year in production even if he's only playing a committee role. Robinson has the explosion, football intelligence, and off-field character to build around as well. The Falcons have a centerpiece to their offense on the same kind of level as what Cordarrelle Patterson was in 2021, but he has potential to be even better.
Sometimes, the new Falcons running back has his patience look more like a processing error and he ends up picking the wrong hole. Robinson has to be coached up a bit more in the zone schemes as well. He has to get better with the one-cut-and-go nature that the scheme calls on. As a pass protector, Robinson has to vastly improve his technique. He's an extremely willing blocker, but technically, he's lacking in a lot of the aspects that would turn him from a minus to a plus there.
Intangibles & Off-Field Red Flags
Bijan Robinson is one of the best players in the draft off the field. He's known as one of the hardest workers and is about as clean as one could find off the field. Robinson has partnered with charities throughout his time at Texas. This includes a $5.00-per-yard pledge to help homeless people in Austin per CultureMap. Robinson is the kind of guy that the Falcons want to model all of their players off of for their off-the-field activities, even though he's not really a captain type.
"“Bijan is a really special player. As I’ve said all along, he’s a better human being than football player, which is hard for a lot of guys when you’re that talented. He has unbelievable work ethic, outstanding leadership, he’s team captain-worthy, and has Pro Bowl ability. He checks all the boxes.""- Steve Sarkisian
This quote was provided to Anwar Richardson of Youngbloods.com (h/t D.Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution)
NFL Stylistic Comparison: Clinton Portis as a runner and Christian McCaffrey in the passing game.
How does he fit in with the Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons will likely feature Bijan Robinson as their primary running back in the offense moving forward. It's rare to take a guy at No. 8 overall and not make him the featured back. However, with guys like Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson and Avery Williams all on offense with the Falcons at this time. He's not just a running back though. He's a true offensive weapon who will fit in with head coach Arthur Smith's schemes and will be the ideal back for his offense.
Why Bijan Robinson instead of Jalen Carter, Christian Gonzalez, Peter Skoronski or Nolan Smith?
Bijan Robinson is one of the best running backs to come out in the past few years. His abilities as a receiver will continue to create mismatches for the offense to take advantage of. Atlanta is going to have a great offense if they continue to build up the offensive weaponry for Desmond Ridder to play with. Jalen Carter is great, but he has noted character issues. Nolan Smith has all the character, but he's just not a better player than Robinson is.
The Falcons could have also gone with Peter Skoronski for an offensive line starting role. Or they could have gone with Christian Gonzalez for cornerback. However, they decided to go a different direction because they wanted the offense to take that next step and have added a ton of people to the defense during the offseason. Robinson's ability to lift the whole offense is worth more to the Falcons than building on strong units.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.