The Buffalo Bills should be in the market for as many high-ceiling football players as they can get this offseason. Teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles have assembled rosters with a multitude of players who represent All-Pro talent. If the Bills hope to catch up to these teams in terms of talent, it will involve nailing the 2023 NFL Draft. The entry-level talent pool is the best way to affordably take big swings at upside and young talent.
One player who’s popped up a fair amount in mock drafts so far this offseason for Buffalo is Texas running back Bijan Robinson. Robinson is a near (if not completely) unanimous choice as the top running back prospect in this year’s NFL Draft class. He’s viewed as one of the select few premier talents at their position in the class.
We’ve all heard about the devaluing of the running back position in the league. That has largely been reflected from an NFL Draft perspective in recent years (four first-round running backs drafted since 2019). But Robinson is as special as it gets. He’s a true once-in-every-five-to-ten-year player at the position.
Enough talking about hypotheticals — let’s talk about what Robinson brings to the table and could improve upon after having evaluated his All-22 film from three games in 2022 (Alabama, Kansas State, Iowa State).
Bijan Robinson Scouting Report
Robinson quickly became a name to know as a true freshman in 2020. The five-star recruit out of Arizona posted a whopping 8.2 yards per carry on 86 totes his freshman year. Robinson amassed over 3,400 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns in 31 games through his college career. Most recently, he posted 1,580 yards on the ground to pair with 18 touchdowns. His lone injury to note is a dislocated elbow towards the end of the 2021 season.
- Incredibly strong lower body that he uses at a high level for increased leg drive consistently
- Arm tackles will not suffice with Robinson; Possesses a mean stiff arm that he uses to quickly discard of poor tacklers
- Perfectly capable of running NFL-caliber second-level defenders over in the open field
- Strong sense of fixing his or his offensive line’s wrongs at any moment because of lower body strength; Vision is good and he sees open space well
- Ability to chain his runs with a combination of vision and movement ability; Has innate sense to bounce out of a gap and back into the teeth of the defense in a swift manner when needed
- Texas trusted him to get vertical from the backfield in the passing game
- Ability to adjust to the football and pluck it in the pass game
- You won’t see many backs be the passing threat he is; aligns from the slot, out wide, and in the backfield — He has legitimate ability as a real receiver option at the next level
- As physically impressive as any back you’ll ever see; built like a Greek God
- Very much a zig-zag runner (A positive and a negative); It allows him to set up angles for himself but it also prevents him from gaining downhill momentum on the second level at times
- Quality speed; it’s not his strongest trait but it’s also far from a hindrance — likely average starter speed in the NFL
Bijan Robinson on the gas pedal #Big12FB x @TexasFootball— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) November 5, 2022
FS1 - @CFBONFOX pic.twitter.com/4eU5kI2Qh5
- Despite pinballing off would-be tacklers often, Robinson’s urgency and running style causes him to slip and lose footing at times
- Needs a better mental clock to understand where blitzes from the second level are coming from as a pass protector
- Could afford to just eat the play at times instead of searching for daylight that doesn’t exist
- Stops his feet too consistently to change direction when looking for his next victim — prevents him from steamrolling smaller defenders for optimal yardage
Robinson has a model build for the running back position. He will play three downs in the NFL because of his body makeup, pass protection, and pass-catching ability. He’s had a large carry count his entire career which plays even more in favor to his three-down ability. Robinson has a jagged but fluid running style that consists of him being a bowling ball on a play-by-play basis that sets himself as a moving target on the second level and beyond. Corners and safeties who struggle to tackle will be exposed in a big way by Robinson’s ability to shed defenders. Robinson’s running style is curious, but the talent is unbelievably present. Robinson could contend to be the best back in the NFL from day one in the league.
Why He Fits the Bills
It’s hard to project where running back is valued in the league for talents like Bijan Robinson in 2023. Saquon Barkley (2018) was the most recent comparable talent to Robinson and he was selected at No. 2 overall. Robinson doesn’t project to get selected nearly that high. It’s almost assured he gets picked in the first round, but pointing to one individual team to select him is difficult to peg. The Bills, at pick No. 27 overall, actually may have a shot at a talent like Robinson.
Not often does a team selecting this late in the first round have a chance at a blue-chip player in the class. But that’s where the Bills could find themselves in this scenario. Veteran running back Devin Singletary seems likely to be headed out the door in free agency, which leaves low-volume backs James Cook and Nyheim Hines as the current main options at the position. Whether it’s the right pick for the first round or not, turning down a talent like Robinson would be a very difficult choice. Other positions of need like offensive line and wide receiver are, of course, positions that the Bills may value as a whole over running back this offseason.