Bijan Robinson’s Rookie Season Looked a Bit Like Trent Richardson’s, But There Is No Need to Panic Yet
Image Credit: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Bijan Robinson.

Bijan Robinson came into the NFL heralded as the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley. His landing with the Atlanta Falcons, and Arthur Smith’s skills in utilizing the ground game in his offense, made mouths water at the prospect of what his first season in the league could be like. It’s fair to say that the early returns were . . . underwhelming. But just how did Robinson fare in 2023? What does the future hold for him in 2024 and beyond? Let’s find out in the latest of the RotoViz Rookie Comparisons.

By The Numbers

Robinson finished 2023 with 976 rushing yards, the third most by a rookie in Falcons history. There is little doubt that this number should have been higher. But Smith refused to fully unleash his rookie runner, instead trusting him with just 41% of the team’s rush attempts. Tyler Allgeier handled 36%. Robinson did enjoy a healthy workload in the passing game, such as it was in 2023, and was targeted 86 times. This was third among all RBs. Robinson saw at least five targets in 11 games and racked up at least 40 yards five times. He had as many 100-yard receiving games as he had on the ground (1).

Shackled

Robinson had 15 games in 2023 with at least 10 rush attempts, but just one in which he toted the rock 20 times. There were 41 different RBs with a 100-yard game in 2023. Of those, 26 had more than one. Robinson had the same number of 20-attempt games as Allgeier, La’Mical Perine, and Emari Demercado. Which is exactly how you should use the RB you drafted eighth overall, I’m sure you agree.

It was all the more frustrating when you factor in just how run-heavy the Falcons were last season. They had the second-lowest neutral pass rate at 49%. They passed the ball on just 53% of their plays overall. The Falcons’ pass rate when trailing by seven points or more was just 58%, “good” for 32nd in the league. So you run, and run, and run, but don’t feed the talented back you spent serious draft capital on? Alright. . . .

Making the Best of Things

It would not be accurate to say that Robinson did nothing to earn a greater share of the ball. Of the 25 RBS with 200 or more rush attempts, Robinson was sixth in yards before contact and 11th after contact. He averaged 4.5 yards per attempt. He broke tackles at a 10.9% rate, the fifth best of his cohort, forcing a missed tackle on 8% of his runs (sixth). Still, he could not keep his coach from giving the ball to Allgeier more than he probably should.

Fantasy Impact

Robinson was still able to make plenty of noise in fantasy football, thanks in no small part to his receiving work. He finished as a top-12 performer eight times, with a season-high 27.3 points in Week 12, good enough for an RB3 overall finish. But there were also seven games in which he was a back-end RB2 or worse, including the bizarre “Headache Game” in Week 7.

Historical Comps

To find players who enjoyed comparable seasons, I did what we’ve done in the past when carrying out this series. I set the RotoViz Screener to find rookies from 2010 to 2022 and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player — in this instance, Robinson.

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Neil Dutton

Lead Writer, soft spot for the tight end position. Will never stop loving Duke Johnson.

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