Playoff Lenny is a thing of the past. After the Buccaneers cut him earlier in the offseason, then subsequently signing Chase Edmonds, Rachaad White is currently planted as the top running back on the roster. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Offensive coordinator Dave Canales had a front row seat to White’s coming out party in Germany when the Bucs beat the Seattle Seahawks and he certainly liked what he saw - but the NFL is no longer a league that focuses on single back systems.
And for a team that seems dedicated to the run - as Canales, Todd Bowles, and Baker Mayfield have all stressed throughout different points of the offseason, a running back is a major need for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bijan Robinson’s Collegiate Career
Robinson was a top tier recruit coming out of high school - which should come as no surprise after posting three 2,000-yard seasons. After committing to Texas, Robinson set the school record for yards per carry as a true Freshman, averaging 8.6 yards every time he ran the ball.
He followed up his Freshman year with a 1,127 yard rushing season then 1,580 yards as a Junior. Increasing his touchdown production from four to eleven to eighteen, Robinson became a wrecking ball for the Longhorns. Beyond that - he was extremely effective in the passing game as well.
Robinson had 60 receptions for 805 yards and eight touchdowns in his Texas career, averaging 13.4 yards per reception on top of his 6.3 yards per carry.
Robinson was rewarded with the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back as well as a First Team All-American as well as First Team All-Big 12.
Pro Day and Scouting Combine
Robinson performed as expected at the combine, impressing all who watched him work. He finished with a 4.46 40-yard dash with a 1.52 10-yard split, a 37” vertical, and a 10’4” broad jump.
Robinson’s athletic score was an 85 - second among running backs - but combined with his 99 production score, he finished with a 96 overall - top among running backs - according to NFL NextGen Stats. You can see his combine performance here.
Robinson didn’t participate in the Texas Longhorns pro day, opting instead to just speak with team representatives and support his teammates.
Haven't gotten official combine splits yet, but Bijan Robinson otherwise stood on his times.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 9, 2023
Bijan Robinson is a RB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.81 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 32 out of 1628 RB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/hE37rdBCUi #RAS pic.twitter.com/E0wbmZ3u0l
What Robinson Could Do For The Bucs In 2023
Here’s the thing - people hate the idea of drafting a running back in the first round. Not sure exactly why this fad has been around the last few years, but it is. So bringing up the Buccaneers drafting Robinson at 19 is immediately divisive. However, here’s the truth of the matter - Robinson would be a game changer for the Bucs.
It’s not every day you have a top-5 overall prospect that’s likely to fall to you at 19, but that’s a very real possibility for the Buccaneers and they’d be wise to take advantage. Think of the mistake of drafting O.J. Howard at 19 over Dalvin Cook. This could be the chance for Jason Licht to remedy that mistake.
We know that there’s going to be stress placed on the rushing game and for the Bucs, that’s a rushing attack that was the NFL’s worst in 2022. Robinson is hands down the best prospect at a position of need for the Bucs. He’s a three down back that can split time with White - and under running backs coach Skip Peete, think the type of attack the Cowboys had with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. That takes a lot of pressure off Baker Mayfield and a passing attack that was throwing the ball over 40 times a game for most of the last three seasons.
Robinson might be the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley - and he’s the kind of player that could hit 1,200 total yards and double digit touchdowns as a rookie.
And don’t stress about the offensive line. There’s still going to be tackles in the second round that could start on the right side while Tampa Bay will also see the returns of Ryan Jensen and Aaron Stinnie while Robert Hainsey is expected to return to his natural position as guard. Health alone means this offensive line is much improved.
Within three years, Robinson is the kind of player that could be the top running back in the NFC South, maybe the entire NFC. Game changing back, with home run speed, pass catching and blocking ability, with a nose for the end zone. He’s good in short yardage, finds minimal creases to break through for big gains, and can be the tone setter for the offense.
For a position that many GMs don’t want to pay big money on the open market, this could give the Bucs one of the top backs in the league for the next five years at a very team friendly cost. The NFC South is still wide open for the foreseeable future and Robinson is the tone setter the Bucs have been missing.
If you look at the Bucs as a two season project to return to postseason contention, getting the best running back in this - or likely next - year’s class then addressing quarterback in a much better and deeper class next year, the Bucs could find themselves set for half a decade minimum.
Robinson is a top five prospect at any position in this draft, but because of his position he’s going to slip into the teens - or maybe twenties. The question is, do you want your team to take the second, third, fourth, even fifth choice at one position when you can get the unquestioned top player at a different position you need?
Robinson is going in the first round to someone - and right now his average draft position is 21st and the Los Angeles Chargers. Over the last few weeks, he’s been mocked as high as 8th to the Atlanta Falcons and as low as 30 to the Philadelphia Eagles. Currently, 9.8% of all mock drafts have the Bucs taking Robinson - the highest percentage of any individual player right now.
On The Clock...
Let’s hear it Bucs fans. Is the talent - some say generational talent - of Bijan Robinson enough to ignore current positional trends? Vote in the poll and discuss in the comment section!
The Buccaneers Should Target Bijan Robinson In The NFL Draft...
This poll is closed
With The 19th Pick
Early (Trade Up To Early Teens)
Late (Trade Back From 19 Or Trade Back Into First)
Never. He Shouldn’t Be On Their Board
For more on this and all things Tampa Bay Buccaneers check out James Yarcho and David Harrison on the Locked On Bucs Podcast!