Running back isn’t an obvious priority for the Baltimore Ravens this offseason, not compared to wide receiver, pass-rusher and cornerback. That could change if a “special” talent like Bijan Robinson is still available for the 22nd pick in the 2023 NFL draft.
If so, CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson believes the Ravens won’t hesitate to select the Texas star and pair him with J.K. Dobbins in a backfield that would be “a problem for the rest of the AFC.”
Ravens Can Buck Franchise Trend for Bijan Robinson
Wilson knows Robinson “is special, and while he is probably one of the best players in this class, he could still be around late in Round 1 because he’s a running back.” The Ravens haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since Jamal Lewis in 2000.
Robinson is worth reversing the trend, especially since Wilson believes Baltimore’s offense “will still revolve around Lamar Jackson and the run game.” That’s a reasonable assumption even after Greg Roman stepped down as offensive coordinator on Thursday, January 19.
Head coach John Harbaugh told Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic during his end-of-season press conference how he wants to continue with Roman’s run-heavy system: “We’ve established an identity for our offense; I think everybody knows that who plays against us and watches us play. That’s important; that’s a good identity. That’s an identity that we’re going to carry forward.”
One problem is the approach demands a deep backfield, but Wilson noted how “there isn’t a lot of depth” in support of J.K. Dobbins. The latter enjoyed moments of brilliance late last season, particularly when he amassed 120 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14, mostly on the strength of this 44-yard gain:
Dobbins averaged 9.6 yards per carry a week later during a 125-yard effort against the Cleveland Browns. He showcased big-play potential, a quality the Ravens can protect and keep fresh by having Dobbins split carries with a natural workhorse like Robinson.
As Wilson pointed out, the combination coupled with dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson’s rush skills, would torment every defense in the conference. The same exciting formula might even help encourage Jackson to sign a new long-term contract.
Elite Playmaker an Incentive for Lamar Jackson Stay
Jackson still doesn’t have a new deal and could end up playing on the franchise tag. Either way, adding a marquee playmaker like Robinson would only make Jackson better.
Robinson firmed up his playmaking credentials by rushing for 1,580 yards during his final season with the Longhorns. The 21-year-old averaged 6.1 yards per rush, while also establishing a mark for missed tackles USA Today NFL editor Doug Farrar called “not normal.”
Being durable enough to run through defenders helped Robinson develop a true nose for the end zone. He translated the trait into 18 touchdowns on the ground last season.
Robinson is the kind of game-breaking threat every run-first attack needs. He also runs with enough toughness between the tackles to be a power back in the mold of Ravens’ incumbent Gus Edwards.
A trio of Edwards, Dobbins and Robinson would make running back the strongest position group on offense. The current contingent is set to be depleted with Justice Hill and Kenyan Drake ticketed for free agency, per Spotrac.com.
Having younger, more dynamic running backs support Jackson will ensure the Ravens continue playing to the strengths of their franchise QB1. The running game will be strong and productive enough for Roman’s replacement to focus on refining the play-action passing game and helping Jackson improve throwing the ball.
A stronger supporting cast and a more nuanced system will help sell Jackson on staying a Raven for the long haul.