Grading the Brian Robinson Jr. pick
Washington’s other pick on Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft was one I personally did not see coming and while I believe they do need a running back, I’m not the biggest fan of the selection at No. 98 overall.
Let’s start here: I’m the guy that wrote about Antonio Gibson’s struggles once before. I know his limitations. I watch the tape. I believe Washington needed to draft a running back and I believed they were going to.
The running backs I envisioned were either Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III, Iowa State’s Breece Hall, Cincinnati’s James Cook, Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller, Arizona State’s Rachaad White and lastly Florida’s Dameon Pierce, all of whom provide a unique skillset that isn’t currently present on this roster.
Whether it’s versatility out of the backfield as a receiver, explosiveness with second and third level burst, wiggle and juice with the ball in their hands out in space, high polish in pass-protection, or lastly, the ability to be a bell cow on any given Sunday, I figured the Commanders would add one of those guys that are better pure-runners while also adding a new dynamic into the Scott Turner offense.
With the selection of Brian Robinson Jr., the Commanders added a one-cut, short-yardage, low-volume running back that essentially offers little to no 2nd or 3rd gear out in open space and very little upside a receiver. Robinson is a better “pure-runner” over current Washington bell-cow Antonio Gibson, but he doesn’t offer much of a different skillset over Gibson.
Both Gibson and Robinson lack true explosiveness and burst. In the case of Gibson and projecting with Robinson, neither provide much as pass catchers out of the backfield, both are average-to-below-average in pass protection, and both are essentially one-cut north-south running backs. Both win with their physicality, their “bruiser” running style, but with limited vision as ball carriers.
There’s a bit of positional and attribute overlap here with the selection of Brian Robinson Jr. and if you’re the Commanders, this makes even less sense when you consider that this was supposed to be a team that values “positional flex”, RAS scores, among other things.
With that in mind, Robinson was productive at Alabama last season, cracking over 1,300 yards and double-digit scores for the Crimson Tide. He had 22 carries of 15+ yards last season and he forced the sixth-most missed tackles last season as Alabama’s bell cow.
He produced against the top SEC defenses, like every Alabama running back has since the early 2000s. So while there are some things to like about Robinson’s play at the collegiate level, he projects to be a short-yardage, low-volume running back for a team that needs the opposite of that in the backfield going forward. Not only that, the skillset that Robinson possesses is not one that is hard to find.
You can find short-yardage, gritty running backs that can pick up a few yards for you in UDFA or off the street here during the second portion of free agency. Essentially wasting a premium pick for a non-premium player with a skillset that is one-dimensional doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from my point of view. I wish to be wrong about this a year from now, for what it’s worth.