Eagles selecting Bijan Robinson at 10 would buck a league-wide trend at running back

Eagles
AUSTIN, TX – NOVEMBER 25: Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) scores a touchdown during the game against the Baylor Bears on November 25, 2022, at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles continue to be linked to Texas RB Bijan Robinson, but the fanbase remains split on whether or not the Birds should pull the trigger with their 10th overall pick.

I admit drafting a running back in the first round has its risks, but when was the last time a running back of Bijan Robinson‘s caliber was available for the Eagles to draft?

There have been nine running backs taken in the first round since 2016 and all but one were drafted to a team that had major holes on their offensive line. The lone exception? Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Bijan Robinson would be running behind a dominant offensive front in Philadelphia, but how have the first-round backs before him fared since being drafted?

The first-round predecessors to Bijan Robinson

Ezekiel Elliott

According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys’ offensive line had the 6th best run blocking offensive line in 2015. So, going into the draft, the Cowboys were set up for success if they drafted a running back to replace Darren McFadden. Ezekiel Elliot was drafted and went on to lead the league in rushing yards and yards per game.

The Cowboys were set up for long-term success with their star running back and reigning rookie of the year. However, they decided to run (pun intended) Elliott into the ground.

Carries by year (league rank / attempts per game) / Football Outsider’s run block rank

2016 – 322 (led league / 21.5) / 4th

2017 – 242 (10th / 24.2) / 4th

2018 – 304 (led league / 20.3) / 8th

2019 – 301 (2nd / 18.8) / 2nd

2020 – 244 (5th / 16.3) / 12th

2021 – 237 (7th / 13.9) / 2nd

2022 – 231 (10th / 15.4) / 17th

Elliott’s entire Cowboys career found him in the top ten of rushing attempts behind a stellar run blocking line. The Cowboys signed him to a mega deal at the start of his fourth year.

However, the ineptitude of the Cowboys franchise ultimately doomed this potential and now Zeke is a free agent and wishing to be a part of a better organization.

The Eagles have been linked to the Ohio State product, but they’ve also been linked to Bijan Robinson and that shouldn’t be a coincidence.

Leonard Fournette

Next up: Jacksonville and Leonard Fournette

The Jaguars had the 27th ranked run blocking offensive line going into the 2017 draft, so taking a running back in the first round was an immediate waste of a pick.

They decided to run Fournette 268 times behind that line in 2017, which was 7th in the league. His Jags career only lasted three years.

Carries / FB Outsiders rank:

2017 – 268 (7th  / 20.6) / 13th

2018 – 133 (only played 8 games / 16.6) / 21st

2019 – 265 (7th / 17.7) / 27th

A lot of carries behind a mediocre run-blocking line. Recipe for disaster.

Christian McCaffrey

The Eagles reportedly had interest in drafting CMC at 14 during this draft, but the Panthers pounced (hehe get it? Cats pounce? No don’t X out) and grabbed him at 8. A first-round running back to be a part of a three-headed monster? Sounds like something the Eagles would be interested in.

The Panthers had the 25th-ranked run-blocking line going into the draft, it didn’t get much better during CMC’s Carolina career.

Carries/FB Outsiders:

2017 – 117 (40th / 7.3) / 25th

2018 – 219 (10th / 13.7) / 11th

2019 – 287 (4th / 17.9) / 17th

CMC was limited to 10 games between 2020-2021.

CHARLOTTE, NC – SEPTEMBER 19: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) during the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers on September 19, 2021 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte,NC. (Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire)
Saquon Barkley

Another “generational talent” at running back gone to a team that had many more needs than a running back. The Giants had the 15th ranked run blocking line in 2017, but severely needed depth. Eli Manning was on his last legs, although he played two more seasons, so a quarterback made sense as well. Not a running back at #4 overall.

Carries / FB Outsiders:

2018 – 261 (2nd / 16.3) / 29th

2019 – 217 (18th / 16.7) / 25th

2020 – two games

2021 – 162 (13 games / 12.5) / 31st

2022 – 295 (4th / 18.4) / 24th

All those carries behind a line that was more open than a 24/7 laundromat. Bijan Robinson in Philadelphia could yield very different results.