Bucs Projected to Land Talented Running Back

Leonard Fournette

Getty Leonard Fournette averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2023.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t have a shortage of positions to address in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.

And while many analysts believe the Bucs should address the quarterback, offensive line or defensive side of the football with early draft capital, other draft pundits believe there is a case to be made to draft the standout running back prospect from the University of Texas, Bijan Robinson.

Robinson is one of the most intriguing running back prospects to come out of the collegiate ranks since the likes of Saquon Barkley back in 2018.

Robinson’s blend of size, speed, elusiveness, contact balance and pass-catching skills are what helped him produce 41 touchdowns and 4,215 yards from scrimmage during his time as a Longhorn and why many project him to be an instant three-down back in the National Football League.

NFL.com NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein describes Robinson as a “Full-menu back blending a smorgasbord of position-specific traits that allow him to affect games,” on his prospect profile at NFL.com.

“There are elements of both fight and flight in his running style,” added Zierlein, “but defenders can never be quite sure what they are going to get… He has a chance to become of the more productive runners in the league very quickly.”

Multiple Mock Drafts Link the Bucs to Bijan Robinson

One of those voices is NFL.com’s NFL Media Analyst Daniel Jeremiah, whose February 21 mock draft had the Buccaneers foregoing a handful of other needs to select a running back at No. 19 overall in the upcoming draft.

“The Bucs need to figure out what they’re going to do at quarterback in the wake of Tom Brady’s retirement,” wrote Jeremiah, “but Robinson will take pressure off whoever is under center.”

One can certainly make a logical argument for Jeremiah’s line of thinking with this selection. The Bucs ranked dead last in the league in rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt last season. The Bucs are still a complete unknown at the quarterback position for 2023. After Tom Brady decided to retire from the sport of football back on February 1, only Kyle Trask is the only Bucs quarterback currently under contract for 2023. The Bucs also have a first-time offensive coordinator, Dave Canales, calling the shots on the offensive side of the football. Robinson could help instantly improve the Bucs’ porous rushing attack and help bring some much-needed balance to a Tampa Bay offense that already features the talented wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Sure, one could argue that the Buccaneers should address the struggling running game by selecting offensive linemen, who will be the ones opening the rushing lanes for any running back toting the rock in 2023, but top-flight running back prospects can be deployed in so many different ways in today’s NFL and make life much easier for everyone else on the offense by simply finding ways to get him the football.

On the flip side, many organizations have shied away from investing early draft capital into the running back position over the last decade. Running backs get hit early and often in their careers, which can affect their long-term productivity.

Since 2010, only 19 running backs have been selected in the first round of the draft. That trend seems to suggest that many teams simply do not value running backs quite as highly as other positions.

For some perspective, five running backs were selected in the first round back in 2000.

What Would the Selection of Bijan Robinson Mean for the Other Bucs Running Backs?

One of those 19 running backs taken in the first round since 2010 is currently a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Of course, I am referring to Leonard Fournette, who has been mentioned as a potential salary cap casualty for 2023.

Then, there is Rachaad White, who certainly flashed moments of potential during his rookie campaign.

It would be hard to imagine the Bucs keeping Fournette if they decided to draft Robinson, but the idea of pairing Robinson and White together certainly could make the Bucs backfield one of the more exciting backfields to watch for years to come.