INDIANAPOLIS – There are some analysts and maybe even some teams out there who feel like drafting a running back in the first round of the NFL Draft isn't good business in today's NFL because of how the position has been devalued some due to the passing game.
Excuse Texas running back Bijan Robinson if he disagrees.
"I feel that if you're a guy that can do all three (run, block & catch) on the football field for your offense, I think that's a very special quality in a player," Robinson said Saturday at the Combine. "Whether it's lining up at receiver in the slot or obviously at running back, just creating mismatches for defenders all over the field and being able to create space for yourself and create space for the offense and opening up the offense."
Robinson is the top running back in this class and a player who has drawn comparisons to New York's Saquon Barkley. He's the best back to come out since Barkley and will be a first-round pick, it's just a matter of where.
The Lions have the No. 18 overall pick and if Robinson is there, with the way Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell value the run game, there's certainly a good case for him to be in the conversation. It's hard to think there would be a player graded higher overall at that point on their board.
The need for the Lions at the spot fits too. There's interest from both Jamaal Williams and the team to re-sign this offseason, but Williams is 28 years old. D’Andre Swift is entering the final year of his rookie contract and his future in Detroit is somewhat of a question mark.
Robinson rushed for 1,580 yards last season with a 6.1-yard average per carry and 18 touchdowns. He's also a terrific receiver, averaging 16.5 yards per reception. For his career, he averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored 60 touchdowns.
When watching Robinson, it's hard not to compare his bended knee, low-to-the-ground running style to that of Hall of Famer and Lions Legend Barry Sanders. In fact, Robinson has studied Sanders his entire life.
"I watch him every other day," Robinson said of Sanders' film and highlights. "Because I'm always trying to mimic his moves. He was so good at doing the things that you couldn't do and he was just the guy where every single time he touched the ball you were just standing up trying to see what he would do.
"There would be some games on YouTube some full games back in those times and I would watch them all just to see every single run that he did. He was just the most exciting player I've seen on a highlight tape. If God can bless me to be at that caliber one day, bro, that would be amazing."
View photos of the linebackers at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
Robinson is a tough, elusive runner with terrific balance and vision. He led all college running backs this past season forcing 104 missed tackles. That was on 258 rushes, which is pretty wild.
A back of his caliber under contract for the next five years running behind the offensive line talent of Penei Sewell, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson and Taylor Decker, plus what he'd offer as a mismatch weapon in the passing game, that's certainly very tantalizing to think about for Lions fans.