Thursday night was a whirlwind of surprises and shocks, as has been increasing the case in the NFL draft’s first round as of late. We saw bold trades, top players drop, head-scratching selections, and more or less every mock draft busted after only a few picks.
One thing that wasn’t a surprise? Bijan Robinson to Atlanta. The Falcons run the ball a lot. Bijan Robinson is the draft’s top running back. He was connected to Atlanta before even the start of the offseason. Countless rumors linked Robinson to Atlanta in the last week or two, with most analyst mock drafts sending the back to Atlanta at 8.
Drafting a running back early is definitely controversial. For one, the value of that position is lower, with teams able to find competent backs in later rounds (such as Tyler Allgeier in 2022). Historically, backs only last so long. A franchise quarterback, tackle, or even EDGE can go well past a decade with a team. Running backs don’t.
Controversial, but that doesn’t mean the pick isn’t popular with some analysts. Todd McShay was asked his favorite pick of Thursday night. His answer? Bijan Robinson, per ESPN.
I just love the fit, positional value aside. He is my No. 2 prospect in this class and brings a whole new element to the Falcons’ offense with his power, pass-game traits and contact balance. He’s one of the best running backs I’ve evaluated in the past decade, and with Atlanta’s run-heavy scheme, he could really dominate right out of the gate.
ESPN also asked Matt Miller (who picked Anthony Richardson to Indianapolis) and Jordan Reid (who picked C.J. Stroud to the Texans).
McShay further pointed out that the addition of Robinson should do a lot to help Desmond Ridder. While many teams have moved away from this concept, quarterbacks have historically done well when able to rely on a strong run game (such as Matt Ryan and Michael Turner). Look for a similar heavy dose of the run in 2023 with Ridder taking on a smaller role in the offense.
While not fully discussed by McShay, Robinson’s skills in the passing game should see him play a heavy number of snaps in the slot. Similar to Cordarrelle Patterson’s role in 2021 and 2022, Robinson will be able to line up all across the offense. In addition to other elite offensive playmakers (Terry Fontenot appears to have a type), the Falcons can play matchups and get the ball to the least-covered offensive weapon. Expect the offense to be even more dynamic.