By Adam Aniba
Washington's run game ranked 21st in the league in 2021 and led to RB being an off-season need. After selecting Antonio Gibson in the 3rd round of the '20 draft, Ron Rivera selected Alabama RB Brian Robinson Jr. 98th overall in the 3rd round this year. In '21, Washington's four backs finished with 1,596 rushing yards and 12 TDs as a group with Gibson accounting for 1,037 of those rushing yards and 7 TDs.
Gibson's fumbling issues and J.D McKissic's injury, led many fans to wonder what the future held for the position. McKissic was re-signed to the delight of fans, his role as a receiving back and safety blanket check-down weapon is imperative to the offense.
Although fans were surprised to see the Commanders select a RB so early, the trade back gave them ammo to select a RB from their familiar pipeline. Mock draft pundits, questioned why Washington selected Robinson Jr. with other higher rated backs and prospects still on the board. Need and fit, over BPA certainly seemed to be the theme for Rivera's draft.
The Alabama RB might not be the fastest back, but he very well might be the most seasoned and NFL ready of the entire class.
Brian Robinson Jr.
6'2" 225 lbs | RB | Alabama
Career (55 games) 545 att 2,704 yds 29 tds w/ 5.0 yrd avg
52 rec for 446 yards & 2 tds 8.6 per rec
'21 (14 games ) 271 att 1,343 yds 14 tds w/ 5.0 yrd avg
35 rec for 296 yards & 2 tds 8.6 per rec
Robinson Jr. grew up in Tuscaloosa, AL and represented Hillcrest HS as a 4-Star RB recruit. His senior year was his best, registering 990 yards and 18 TDs. He was named to the coveted Class 6A All-State Alabama 2nd Team, gaining the attention of Alabama HC Nick Saban. Robinson Jr excepted an offer to play for the Tide in '17.
Robinson Jr. would have to show patience during his first 4 seasons and trust the machine that Saban built at Alabama. In '17, he only rushed for 165 yards on 24 carriers with 2 TDs, but was a trusted blocker by Saban. He was frequently utilized in jumbo/short yardage packages, as an additional blocker in the backfield.
The 4-Star recruit from Tuscaloosa had to wait his turn behind future NFL backs Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and Najee Harris. In fact, from '17-'20 he only recorded 274 total rush attempts, but his time would come. In '21, Robinson became the leading man, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility. He nearly matched his four year total with 271 rushing attempts, finishing '21 with a combined 1,639 yards rushing/receiving and 16 TDs (2 rushing).
The Tide RB also showed his value as a pass catcher, recording 35 receptions for 296 yards scoring 2 TDs with an 8.5 yard per reception average. Robinson Jr was named to the 1st-Team All-SEC team for his accomplishments. He had on of his best career games in last season's semifinal match up vs Cincinnati, registering 204 rushing yards (7.8 yards per carry) and was named the Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP.
Robinson finished the year tied for 1st in the SEC with 14 TDs and his punishing running style, led to an SEC best 84 broken/evaded tackles.
Bulldozing running style leads to frequent YAC (led SEC in broken tak)
Although at Alabama for 5 seasons, legs are relatively fresh with limited wear & tear
Decisive north-south runner with busy feet
Although limited career receiving production, has the work ethic and overall ceiling to improve in this area
Overall size/strength combination should lead to an instant power-back/short yardage role
Very good blocker, who also lined up at FB in sub-packages
Limited production until final season (backup/rotational until '21)
Upright runner, will need to work on lowering his pad level (minor concern)
Not a ton of wiggle to his game, will need to develop a stutter-step move
Not slow by any means, but speed is average for the position
Limited history as a big play threat (longest career run under 40 yards)
Will need to show he's more than a "dump off" option in the receiving game to become a three-down RB
Robinson Jr.was hands down the best pass protector in this RB class, he also recorded 11 kickoffs for 166 yards (15.1 per) during his career, adding to his overall value.
Gibson and McKissic will surely receive the lions share of the reps to start the season. Robinson Jr. will get a chance to prove himself early as a short yardage runner.
Last year's lone UDFA signing, Jarett Patterson seems to be the odd man, especially considering what the Alabama RB offers as a blocker and on special teams. It could take 2-3 seasons to get an idea of how good Robinson Jr will be, but he should have an immediate impact as a reliable ball carrier in short yardage situations. Rivera's fondness for multi-faceted backfield tandems, trios in Washington's case, could lead to a productive season for a new look offense.
*Games Watched- 9/4 vs Miami, 9/11 vs Mercer, 9/19 vs FU, 10/2 vs Ole Miss, 10/9 vs Texas A&M, 10/16 vs MSU, 10/23 vs Tenn, 11/6 vs LSU, 11/13 vs N.Mexico St, 11/20 vs ARK, 11/27 vs AUB, 12/4 vs UGA, 12/31 vs Cinn and 1/10/22 vs UGA