Controversial RB changing positions to improve draft stock

Analysts are divided over whether or not taking a running back in the first round is wise. But what if a top prospect played another role entirely?

One of the most interesting things to watch outside of the top 10 picks of the NFL Draft is where Texas running back Bijan Robinson ends up being selected. Robinson is the best running back available in the draft, but the position is frustrating for NFL general managers because of how short-lived it tends to be.

Running backs get used so heavily that by the time their rookie contract is over, they’re infrequently still anything remotely resembling what they were at the start of their career.

Look no further than Ezekiel Elliott, no longer with the Cowboys, and the conundrum the Giants are in with whether or not they should pay Saquon Barkley.

Outside of Adrian Peterson, there are hardly any modern-day running backs you can point to that played at an elite level with longevity.

So, understandably, there are debates raging over Robinson and where he’ll land. Would it be wise to use a first-round pick on him?

The talent is clear. He ranked first in Big 12 in rushing yards, yards per attempt and rushing touchdowns in 2022. He won the Doak Walker Award as well, given to the most outstanding running back.

Most general managers are trending away from taking a player like Robinson in the first round. First-round picks come with a heftier financial commitment, a scary concept given the position-wide struggles with sustainability. But Robinson’s college coach thinks there’s a deeper layer for teams to consider when it comes to Robinson.

Bijan Robinson could be used as a slot receiver in the NFL, according to Steve Sarkisian

Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian is doing what he can to get Robinson’s name out there.

Here’s what Peter King wrote about Robinson and what Sarkisian said to him in his Monday column:

His college coach, Steve Sarkisian, told me Robinson could be a slot receiver, regularly, in the NFL. I’ve got the clip to convince you. “I probably made a couple of receivers on our team mad last season,” Sarkisian said, “but he had the best hands on our team.”

Well, that’s something… And maybe all it takes is a perspective shift to see that Robinson could be worth a first-round pick?

There may be some trepidation here. After all, we’re not far removed from Deebo Samuel requesting a trade because he didn’t want to be a dual threat at RB and WR. Robinson is definitely saying the right things so far, though.

Robinson campaigned in early March to be considered as not a running back, but a walking mismatch.

“First of all, I feel like if you’re a guy who can do all three for your offense, I think that’s a very special quality for a player,” Robinson said at the NFL scouting combine to Jeff Legwold. “You line a player up at receiver, at slot or, obviously, at running back. Just creating mismatches all over the field and being able to create space for yourself … that’s a high value everybody should look at.”

Maybe general managers avoiding Robinson early in the draft are thinking too narrowly about his role?

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