Should the Bucs select RB Bijan Robinson in the 2023 NFL Draft?

The Bucs have a lot of needs to address this offseason and they have a tough road to do it. This point has been made clear, as the team has 23 unrestricted free agents and therefore ‘’The most up-to-date numbers, the worst salary situation in the league.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

It will be a daunting task for general manager Jason Licht, vice president of player personnel John Spytek and vice president of football administration (and salary cap guru) Mike Greenberg to put together the 2023 roster. Many tough decisions lie ahead.

How does the team explore the quarterback market? Which players will need to be eliminated to meet the cap? What needs will be addressed in the 2023 NFL Draft? The last two questions could involve the team evaluating the running back position.

The 2022 season was a disappointing campaign for Leonard Fournette. He rushed for 668 yards and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. He led the team in runs, which means very little when he was the worst rushing “attack” in the NFL.

Of Fournette’s 668 rushing yards, 127 of those yards, or 19% of that total, came in the Bucs’ 19-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys. He takes that game away, and his 3.2 yards per carry average for the rest of the season looks even worse. On top of this, he was outplayed by rookie Rachaad White for much of the season.

If Fournette is eliminated, the team will save more than $3 million.

While the team may have bigger needs, taking another rookie running back from the Texas Longhorns, Bijan Robinson, makes perfect sense for the Bucs as they look to build a new identity. If the team shifts to a ground and pound style of football, it would be a good fit with head coach Todd Bowles and how he could dictate possession of the ball. It would also allow new offensive coordinator Dave Canales to build a more efficient ground kit with a generational runner perspective.

Is RB Robinson worth drafting with the Bucs’ first-round pick?

Is it worth taking an elite running back as a first-round pick? In the last five NFL drafts, there has been a mix of teams selecting running backs with that high of a pick. Only one, Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, was selected in the first half of their respective draft.

2022: none

2021: Najee Harris (24) and Travis Etienne (25)

2020: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (32nd)

2019: Josh Jacobs (24)

2018: Saquon Barkley (2nd), Rashaad Penny (27th) and Sony Michel (31st)

Based on his college performance and characteristics, Bijan Robinson is leaning more toward being the prospect that Barkley would leave Penn State.

Last season at Texas, Robinson had 258 carries for 1,580 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 18 rushing touchdowns. He had 19 receptions, 314 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. In many ways, he was the kind of playmaker the Bucs offense could have used in 2022 and needs in 2023. Check out how explosive Robinson is in this 12-play thread:

His 6-foot, 220-pound frame and style of play have drawn comparisons to Barkley from NFL evaluators. After seeing it myself, I see a lot of Jonathan Taylor through his similar cutting style and bursting type of him to get to the second level. This is further evidenced by his 41 runs of 10 or more yards in 2022.

Former San Diego Chargers Rb Ladainian Tomlinson.

Former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. – Photo by: USA Today

About him NFL Pro Football Focus (PFF) Podcast This Week, Mike Renner and Sam Monson had insightful perspectives breaking down Robinson as a prospect and his value relative to where he can go in the NFL. They also compared his ability to do it all to 2000s backups Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson.

PFF rated Robinson on another level compared to his fellow running backs. They gave Robinson a career rating of 96.1, ranking as the best in all of college football. He also recorded 104 missed forced tackles while gaining 1,071 yards after contact.

All these numbers paint a picture of an elite prospect, but would it be worth it for a roster with so many needs?

The big question is the hole at quarterback, which probably won’t be filled in the draft, at least this season. Many other needs are found on the defensive end, including safety, cornerback, defensive line, running back, and linebacker. While not in dire need, the team could use depth at offensive tackle, depending on how they approach it, and at wide receiver.

With this in mind, could the Bucs rationalize overlooking those areas of need if they can re-sign key players and use the rest of the draft to fill out their roster? Getting a player of Robinson’s stature would be hard to pass up, especially at No. 19.

At that point, the Bucs probably won’t be in a position to draft a top-tier prospect. Or at least, pick a player with a high hit rate. This is a draft the Bucs need to knock out of the park for many reasons, and they may not be able to afford to draft another development player right now.

Robinson is an unmissable player, and the opportunity cost of a player the Bucs can pass up is one they could afford to take and rationalize. For example, he’s sort of a deep corner and position group that they could tackle later in the draft. If the team brought back guys like Lavonte David, Mike Edwards, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Anthony Nelson, just to name a few, it would be easier to justify the Robinson selection.

Bucs offense would switch identities with RB Robinson

If the Bucs drafted Bijan Robinson, it would mark a complete turnaround in the football brand of last season’s offense. In quarterback Tom Brady’s final season, it was an offense that built on an NFL-record number of pass attempts by a 45-year-old quarterback who did everything he could to get the team to the playoffs.

Texas Longhorns Rb Bijan Robinson.

Bijan Robinson, Texas longhorn running back. – Photo by: USA Today

In many ways, it would be similar to what the Tennessee Titans have done with Derrick Henry. In a division that has been similarly weak to the NFC South before the rise of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Titans have been an offense that relies on Henry to control the clock and have an efficient passing game without making too many mistakes or relying on his arm. Ryan’s. Tannehill too strong.

Another example includes two teams in the NFC South last season. Both the Falcons and Panthers stayed alive for the division title due to their running game. The Falcons had the third-leading running game in the league, while the Panthers used their running game to offset the play of Sam Darnold and others.

It’s still a passing league, but if the Bucs embraced a “thug ball” brand, they could find similar success in the coming seasons when Robinson would likely be reaching his peak as a player.

Having an established offensive line already in place makes teams draft very successful running backs. The Bucs can have that kind of unit with a couple of tweaks. Regardless of whether he lines up at left or right tackle, Tristan Wirfs is one of the best tackles in the league. Center Ryan Jensen and right guard Shaq Mason are seasoned veterans. The left guard’s game needs to improve, whether Nick Leverett or Robert Hainsey fills that spot.

Moving Luke Goedeke to right tackle or consolidating left tackle via free agency or the draft arguably makes the offensive line a top 10 unit, or at least one that would provide Robinson with enough holes to pass. .

Other Bucs RBs could consider in the 2023 NFL Draft

Bucs Rb Rachaad Blanco

Bucs RB Rachaad White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

In both Pewter Report mock drafts this offseason, a running back was chosen in the fifth round in Tulane’s Tyjae Spears and Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda.

While Spears and Abanikanda have been profiled in detail, they are two of many running backs who could complement Rachaad White.

One of them is Robinson’s Longhorns teammate Roschon Johnson. Johnson is a tough guy to take down and would complement White’s elusiveness with power. He also has great character and will be a young leader in any NFL locker room.

Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh is also intriguing, having been a dual threat running back for the national champion Bulldogs in 2022. He had 829 rushing yards on an efficient 5.6 yards per carry, along with 10 touchdowns. Additionally, he caught 43 passes for 505 yards and two other touchdowns. He is similar to White, but could still be a change of pace running back.

The Bucs will add to the running room one way or another in the coming months, but the best option to do so would be to select the best running back prospect of the last five years, Bijan Robinson. Whether they decide such a high pick is worth it is debatable, but the front office should contemplate as they decide which way to steer the ship.

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