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How Bijan Robinson proved his worth as a top draft pick in 2023 -- Rookie Review

Falcons first-round pick produced over 1,450 total yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. 

Editor's note: The "Rookie Review" is a series of stories analyzing members from the Falcons' 2023 NFL Draft class. We take a look back at their 2023 production, as well as forward to what 2024 could hold for each individual.

The Falcons didn't necessarily need to take a running back with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 draft, but they really wanted Bijan Robinson.

The University of Texas product proved why he was so coveted throughout his rookie season.

The rookie running back passed the eye test in his NFL debut in Week 1 versus the Carolina Panthers, from his first 8-yard run to his first touchdown. Throughout the season, Robinson showcased a stunning talent that could make defenders look silly. Most of all, he proved he could carry the load of a consistent running back in the league.

During the pre-draft process, the Falcons liked Robinson's repertoire of crafty runs in tight windows and his receiving ability. The front office was also high on Bijan Robinson the person, not just the player. That shined through all season long. Every time the rookie addressed the media, he reaffirmed that belief in his maturity despite being just 21 years old.

"I feel like it was a good season to learn from," Robinson said ahead of the Falcons final regular season game. "There was so much positivity that hit, and there was was so much adversity too. Learning how to handle both, that was something that really helped me out."


A look back 

Robinson racked up 1,463 total yards — 976 rushing and 487 receiving — the most by a rookie running back in 2023. He also recorded eight touchdowns, four rushing and four receiving. Robinson also displayed a level of efficiency catching passes at a 67.4% rate while picking up 8.4 yards per reception.

Robinson had perhaps his best game in his second game, a Week 2 win over the Green Bay Packers. The rookie running back recorded 124 yards rushing and 48 receiving. It was the first of two times all season Robinson would break 100 yards rushing.

What Robinson learned in 2023

Coming into an already established and efficient run game, Robinson quickly learned to adapt to his environment. He earned the respect of the locker room as the starting running back and worked in tandem with second-year player Tyler Allgeier, and at times, Cordarelle Patterson.

Robinson also learned to develop a routine and stay consistent through the highs and lows of the season. Coming from college he said there's a lot more on his plate and he was able to focus more on taking care of his body for a 17-game regular season during his downtime.

The rookie has been known to see the game from different positions to better himself as a running back, and in 2023 he learned to see things from a quarterback's perspective.

"I'm trying to understand at a quarterback level, and just keep improving that way," Robinson said in late November. "Seeing things different and reading different levels of defenses, that's a big thing for me."

Areas for improvement

There weren't many demerits on Robinson's rookie resume, but he does have one key area to improve in his sophomore season — fumbles.

Robinson fumbled it four times in 2023. Three of the four fumbles led to a turnover and each time points were scored off the mistake. Only his first fumble, in Week 5 over the Houston Texans, came in a win. In the losses against the Minnesota Vikings and the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons held the lead before Robinson's fumble. Both times the opposing offense was able to capitalize off the turnover by tying the game or coming within a single point.

"I can't ever get comfortable in situations," Robinson said after his first fumble in early October. "Dudes are always trying to knock the ball out. Dudes are always trying to get the ball no matter where it's at. I got to understand that, the awareness that I need."

Ball security was an issue for the Falcons as a whole this past season, and marks an area for Robinson to improve on as well.

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