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Brian Robinson Jr
Senior Bowl

Brian Robinson Jr. Deserves More Draft Respect

  • Bryan Perez
  • January 15, 2022
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Alabama senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. is set to take his talents to Mobile for the 2022 Senior Bowl following the Crimson Tide’s disappointing defeat to the Georgia Bulldogs in Monday’s National Championship game. Robinson was held in check in the title game, running 22 times for 68 yards with an additional 28 yards on four catches, but his average night shouldn’t impact his final 2022 NFL draft grade, which could end up being higher than where he’s slotted in most rankings right now. Robinson stands an estimated 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds. He has an impressive body type; his weight is evenly distributed and he’s muscled-up enough to withstand the punishment that comes along with being a lead back in the NFL. He doesn’t always take full advantage of that impressive size and can do a better job consistently running behind his pads, but he’s an overall strong runner who plays the position like a 225-pounder. Obviously, plus-size comes with an expense. In Robinson’s case, he doesn’t have top-shelf twitch or juice. But what he does have is an innate feel for the flow of a defense. He has impressive vision both behind the line of scrimmage and at the second level, and he unleashes an effective jump cut to make defenders miss. He turns short gains into chunk plays pretty easily, even if flipping the field isn’t his calling card. Still, Robinson is a deceptive athlete. His long stride makes him appear slower than he is—he has more than enough speed to challenge third-level defenders but his final draft grade will depend quite a bit on how fast he runs at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.62 in high school, and if he runs a similar time in Indianapolis, his draft stock will take a hit. If, however, he can crack the mid-to-low 4.5s? Get ready for Robinson’s draft stock to climb. Robinson is an easy player to overlook. He’s been a reserve running back for Alabama until his senior campaign when he ran for 1,336 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s proven to be a capable if not productive receiver, too, with 36 catches, 296 yards, and two scores this year. It was the first season of his career that he had more than 100 carries and only the second year that he’s had more than 100 total touches. That’s actually a good thing for his final draft evaluation. Running backs don’t have long careers in the NFL, so adding a rookie with a lot of tread remaining on his tires is a win. Robinson reminds me quite a bit of former Chicago Bears running back, Matt Forte. Forte, like Robinson, was a big back at Tulane with good vision and a nasty jump cut. He stood just under 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine and was a star at that year’s Senior Bowl. His production in college was far greater than Robinson’s, which is an expected result from 300 more collegiate carries, but their per-touch success was pretty similar. Forte averaged 5.1 yards per carry in college; Robinson averaged 5.0. Forte’s rise up the 2008 draft board went into overdrive after he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash. It was the final bit of confirmation that he was, in fact, a top-tier prospect and ultimately resulted in his selection by the Bears in the second round. Will Robinson make a similar jump and settle in as a high day-two pick? I wouldn’t bet against it, even if it is an unpopular opinion right now. He’ll need a fantastic workout in a t-shirt and shorts to solidify a grade like that, so if he has a poor showing in the athletic tests, a rapid drop down the draft is equally possible. Here’s the bottom line with Robinson: There aren’t many running backs that I’d rank ahead of him this year. We’re a long way from submitting our final boards, but a player like Robinson profiles as a productive starter in the NFL regardless of when he comes off the board. And whenever you have a player with that kind of valuation, they usually don’t wait very long to hear their name called on draft weekend.

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Bryan Perez