Making the case for Bengals to trade up for Bijan Robinson in 2023 NFL Draft
The 2023 NFL Draft is just a little more than a week away and the hype is building. One prospect in particular who has seen a lot of hype is Texas running back Bijan Robinson (and for good reason). In his last year with the Longhorns, Robinson recorded over 1,500 yards on 6.1 yards/carry and scored 20 touchdowns in total, 18 of which were rushing.
He is one of the most highly touted running backs in a good while, drawing comparisons to other star backs like Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey. However, it still isn't clear who will select him and how willing teams are to take a chance on him.
Recent rumors around the NFL world have suggested that he could go as high as eighth to the Atlanta Falcons, while others have him falling as low as No. 27 to the Bills-- just one pick before the Bengals. The general consensus though seems to be in the mid to slightly late-first round, usually in the 15-25 range.
Bengals should trade up for Bijan Robinson and here's why
Now, this is entirely hypothetical, considering the Bengals' front office isn't known for making draft-day trades, especially in the first round. You could make the case for several other candidates for them to trade up for too, such as Penn State defensive back Joey Porter Jr., but I'm going to entertain this notion and make the case for why Cincinnati should trade up to select Robinson.
For starters, the Bengals' run game in 2022 was uninspiring, to say the least. They had the fourth least rushing yards and only had three games where a player had 100+ yards on the ground-- one of them coming from Samaje Perine, who is no longer on the team, while Joe Mixon only recorded two. They need an explosive back to revive the running game and bring the offense to the next level.
Don't get me wrong, Joe Burrow and the passing game were great (notably the later it got into the season), but there were too many games where the offense either stalled out or took too long to get going. Or didn't get going at all. Their five losses- including the AFC Championship Game- prove that. Even in the game against New England, the offense was held scoreless in the second half while the team barely squeaked out a win.
Having a reliable, explosive rushing attack not only would do wonders for when the passing game inevitably has a day where they just can't get it going but would also give opponents trouble having to scheme around both aspects of the offense instead of focusing mostly on how to stop the Bengals through the air. If Robinson lives up to the hype, he brings a whole new weapon for the offense to utilize and terrorize opposing defenses with.
On top of that, it would give the front office a good reason to waive Mixon after he regressed greatly in 2022, and that would save $10 million in cap space if done after June 1st. Money could be put into bringing in new players to help bring this team to the promised land or extending impactful guys like Burrow, Chase, Wilson, etc.
Not only is Robinson a great runner, but he could potentially flash his greatness as a receiver out of the backfield as well. In 2022, Robinson had 314 yards and two scores on 19 receptions. In comparison, Mixon had just a little over a hundred more yards at 441 on 41 more catches.
So now, while defenses try to key in on the Cincy's big trio of receivers in Chase, Higgins, and Boyd, they could have an ace up their sleeve in a guy out of the backfield who can get big chunks of yardage through the air as well.
There are counter-arguments to this proposal of the Bengals trading up to get Robinson though, besides the fact that the Bengals don't typically make big trades on draft day. For starters, drafting a running back in the first round is seen more and more as a risk with every passing season-- and rightfully so.
The shelf life of running backs is dwindling and they seem to be out of the league the quickest compared to other positions. Take, for example, Todd Gurley. Had one of the best seasons for a running back in recent history in 2017, scoring a league-leading 17 touchdowns on the ground while taking home OPOY honors. Less than five years later, the former Ram is out of the league due to knee issues at the age of just 26.
Also, you can find good running back talent late into the draft. Most recently, Isaiah Pacheco, a seventh-round pick who contributed greatly to the Chiefs' Super Bowl run. You don't necessarily have to take an HB in the first or even second round to get a good one.
Finally, there's the question of just what the Bengals would have to give up in order to trade up to a spot where they'd realistically be able to draft the Texas product. If the rumors of Atlanta being interested enough to take him at No. 8 come to fruition, then I'd say don't worry about it.
If he were, however, to fall past pick 15, I could see Cincinnati getting a pick in that range without having to give up an exorbitant amount. Likely their 28th pick + three or four others, either from this draft or the next, and/or potentially a player. Maybe Jonah Williams with the recent trade talks around him, or maybe a more beloved Bengals like Tyler Boyd, who is coming up on a contract year and speculated for this to be his final season in stripes.
Again, this is all hypothetical and the chances of the Bengals actually trading up in the first round are probably very low considering it would break a long-established norm for the front office, but it's fun to tackle these 'What If's sometimes.
Do you think the Bengals should trade up for Bijan Robinson?