2023 NFL Draft: Why Matchup Nightmares Would Make Texas RB Bijan Robinson the Perfect Atlanta Falcons Pick
The Atlanta Falcons could take Texas running back Bijan Robinson at No. 8 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft for the matchup nightmares alone. Don't get it twisted; Robinson is arguably the best offensive player not at quarterback in the entire NFL draft. However, the Falcons taking him in the first round would be a miscarriage of positional value—if you only consider him as a running back, that is. Robinson is much more versatile than that.
Robinson compares favorably to Clinton Portis as a runner with his one-cut ability, exceptional vision and contact balance, and game-breaking speed. When he has the rock in his hand, he has power to go with his speed and force missed tackles better than any running back in the entire draft. As a receiver, Robinson can align in the slot or out wide and be an effective receiver. This would give the Falcons someone that they could keep on the field even if he's not aligned as a running back.
Because of that, the Falcons could keep Robinson on the field without taking Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, and Drake London off the field. Robinson's ability to win as a deep ball receiver or as an intermediate receiver in college was never highlighted, but the Falcons could use him in that way and have an additional weapon. With Robinson in the fold, the Falcons could stress defenses out with multiple different personnel packages.
Imagine being a defensive coordinator and the Falcons have a package with Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Pitts, Smith, and London all out there. How will the Falcons align? Will they line up in a split-back formation with two tight ends and look like a standard NFL offense from the 90s? Will they line up in a shotgun set with four wide receivers and a running back? Will it be something in between? With personnel packages that have a guy like Robinson in them, it makes it tough to really scout an offense and match up with them properly.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith tried this with his offense in 2021 and 2022, but he never really had the horses to run it properly. If they threw in Robinson to the current offensive personnel with Allgeier, Patterson, and Avery Williams at running back, Pitts, Jonnu, John FitzPatrick, and Parker Hesse at tight and London, Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, and a likely pick at wide receiver, the Falcons could have one of the best mix and match groups out there for the offense.
Considering coach Smith tried to have this kind of personnel mixing and matching the last two seasons without having the horses to actually run it should give Falcons fans some excitement that the team will continue to try to utilize personnel groupings to mess with other teams' alignments and substitutions. While this is something that might be seen more in no-huddle situations than otherwise, Atlanta could have a set of just their top-five matchup problems on the field at times.
By adding Robinson to the mix, the no-huddle package with Robinson could really turn out to be dangerous with his ability to line up and be effective all over the place. The Falcons' offense could be as good as it was back in 2012 or 2016 again despite not having the Pro Bowl pedigree for their quarterback Desmond Ridder. By giving Ridder all of the options they possibly can—including a guy like Bijan Robinson, the Falcons could end up setting him up for the best success possible. In turn, the team could also end up winning 10 games in 2023 because of a move like this—potentially even more.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.