Bijan Robinson is all the rage in the world of fantasy football. The eighth overall pick of the Falcons in the 2023 NFL draft, he’s already a locked-in first-round fantasy pick across the board. His best-ball average draft position at Underdog is 7.8, and he’s the second running back coming off the board behind just Christian McCaffrey.
All the hype dates back to his impressive collegiate career.
Robinson was sensational in his final two seasons at Texas, putting up a combined 2,707 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns. He also averaged nearly six yards per attempt. Robinson can catch the ball out of the backfield, too, posting 45 catches for 609 yards and six scores as a receiver. Heck, he would even line up in the slot, showing that he can run routes and be utilized in multiple roles.
There are those fantasy managers out there, however, who believe taking a rookie in the top eight overall (or even in Round 1 at all) of a redraft is a big mistake. They would argue that a rookie hasn’t ever even stepped foot on an NFL field in a real game, so how can we trust him to produce at an elite fantasy level?
It’s a valid argument, but it’s one I’ll completely ignore in this case. Here’s why.
Aside from Robinson’s skill set, he’ll also have the advantage of joining a Falcons offense that loves to run the football. Last season, only the Bears had a higher run percentage, and the Falcons led the league in rushing attempts (559).
History is also on Robinson’s side as it pertains to running backs being picked in the top 10 of the NFL draft and finding instant success in the stat sheets since 2010.
The last runner to go in the top 10 before Robinson was Saquon Barkley, who came off the board second overall to the Giants in 2018. He went on to lead all backs in points as a rookie. Two running backs went in the top 10 in 2017: Leonard Fournette (No. 4) and Christian McCaffrey (No. 8). They went on to finish ninth and 10th, respectively, in fantasy points among runners. Fournette would have ranked even higher as a rookie but he missed three games due to injuries.
The next back picked in the top 10 was Ezekiel Elliott, who went fourth overall to the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. He led the league in rushing yards with 1,631 and finished second among backs in PPR points, scoring 22 points per game. In 2007, Adrian Peterson went seventh overall to the Vikings. He rushed for over 1,300 yards, scored 13 touchdowns and finished fifth in points at the position.
The final three running backs drafted in the top 10 in the last 13 years include Todd Gurley (2015), Trent Richardson (2012) and C.J. Spiller (2010). Gurley played just 13 games as a rookie for the then St. Louis Rams, but still finished as the RB9 and Richardson, drafted third overall by the Browns, was the RB7 as a rookie. Spiller, the ninth overall pick of the Bills, failed to meet expectations, ranking a mere 57th among backs while losing work to Fred Jackson.
Despite Spiller’s rookie failures, the vast majority of our top-10 rookie running backs have thrived right out of the gates. Based on our research, each of the last seven backs who fit our criteria have ranked no worse than 10th in points in PPR formats. That includes three of the last four who finished as RB4 or better.
Robinson should be the next in line to find success as a top-10 running back, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the fifth straight such rookie to finish in the top five. So, when you’re up in the first round of a redraft and Robinson is the best player on the board, don’t hesitate to draft this future fantasy superstar.