Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson is considered the best running back prospect in the NFL Draft since Saquon Barkley in 2018.
Barkley was picked second overall that year behind quarterback Baker Mayfield. It’s highly unlikely Robinson reaches those lofty heights, but just how high can he go in next Thursday’s draft?
ESPN’s Jordan Reid and Matt Miller were asked that question, and the Atlanta Falcons joined the chat.
I’d say the highest spot the Texas running back could go is the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 overall. Atlanta loves the power run game, and while Tyler Allgeier rushed for 1,035 yards as a fifth-round rookie, he added only three scores and wasn’t a factor in the passing game. Robinson would give Atlanta a featured back and let Allgeier factor in as a short-yardage back. The lowest I could see Robinson going? That would be No. 31 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles. If teams stick to the “no running backs in the first round” mantra, he could fall right into the NFC champ’s lap.Matt Miller, ESPN+
Reid agrees with Miller’s assessment that the absolute highest he could go is to the Falcons at No. 8. However, Reid is against a team taking Robinson in the top 10.
I agree with Matt on Robinson’s ceiling. If there’s a team that doesn’t worry about positional value and sticks to “best player available,” it’s Atlanta. But I don’t think Robinson gets past the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 21 overall. With Austin Ekeler recently requesting a trade, the Chargers lack playmakers at running back. Adding Robinson would give the Justin Herbert-led offense a huge boost in multiple areas.Jordan Reid, ESPN+
Every scout I’ve spoken with says there’s no way that Robinson — a consensus top-five prospect who plays a devalued position — makes it outside the top 20. But an NFL exec says, “He’s special but not worth the investment. Look at all of the teams that signed running backs to second contracts. It’s not pretty and many never ever see the end of the deal.”
Finally free from the financial constraints self-imposed through mis-management, the Falcons have made a slew of moves to improve the team for 2023.
No position is off the table for the Falcons at No. 8. Left guard might be the most glaring hole on the team right now. There are several offensive line prospects with guard and tackle experience like Peter Skoronski of Northwestern and Paris Johnson of Ohio State.
Cornerback has been addressed with trades and free agency, but Okudah is on a one-year deal and Mike Hughes is on a one-year deal with a club option.
Edge and cornerback have significantly higher financial value than running back on a rookie contract.
But there’s no question Robinson is a premier talent. The question becomes, do the Falcons need a premier talent at running back in order to have a premier running game?
A one-two punch of Allgeier and Robinson may be too tantalizing to pass up for general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith. But is the Falcons’ roster strong enough they can take a luxury player like running back in the top 10?
We’ll find out on Thursday when the first round of the draft kicks off.