Depending on where you look, Bijan Robinson is either the third or fourth betting favorite to take the Offensive Rookie of the Year, sitting anywhere from +1600 to +2400.
C.J. Stroud, Puka Nacua, and Jamhyr Gibbs are all ahead of Atlanta’s rookie, but it’s really Stroud’s award to lose. He’s in the conversation for the MVP at this point, though not a serious threat to Patrick Mahomes, Tua Tagovailoa, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow.
Stroud has been a revelation in Houston, leading the Texans to a 4-4 record with a middling roster. The Falcons haven’t exactly utilized Bijan Robinson the way many had envisioned, but Bill Barnwell of ESPN still sees him in the top 3 of the OROY race.
Through four games, Robinson looked every bit like the generational running back prospect the Falcons hailed him as when they drafted him in Round 1. Since then, he has missed most of a game with a mysterious illness, has averaged 4.0 yards per carry and has as many fumbles as touchdowns (two). He has been in a legitimate rotation with Tyler Allgeier, with each back racking up 15 touches in Sunday’s brutal loss to the Vikings.
The story the Falcons told about Robinson serving as some sort of hybrid star and slot weapon hasn’t held up. Per NFL Next Gen Stats data, he has run 78 routes outside of the backfield, or about eight per game. Those routes have produced a total of 43 yards, for an average of 0.6 yards per route run. That figure ranks 185th out of the 202 players who have run at least 50 yards outside of the backfield this season. Robinson has done more out of the backfield, but he’s averaging 1.0 yards per route run; he hasn’t been an impact receiver on any sort of regular basis.
He has been better as a pure runner, although most of his best work came over the first month of the season. He generated 106 rush yards over expectation (RYOE) across his first 103 attempts, which is notable when you consider that Allgeier has racked up minus-43 RYOE on his 116 carries. At the same time, consider that fellow rookie Achane leads the league with 236 RYOE on just 38 attempts. Achane is within 57 rushing yards of Robinson’s total despite the fact the Dolphins draftee carried the ball just 38 times before hitting injured reserve with a knee injury.
Robinson has been the best rookie back this season, although Gibbs has looked more explosive over the past month and Achane is set to return from injured reserve after the Dolphins return from their bye. Vikings fans might feel as if wideout Jordan Addison deserves to be ahead of Robinson in this top three, and I wouldn’t begrudge them. Robinson was the prohibitive favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year before the season, but he feels closer to dropping out of the top three than to the lead spot right now.
I actually would get a wager in on a Bijan Robinson Offensive Rookie of the Year future because the odds are juicy. The Falcons have to eventually get him involved if they want to win football games, which bodes well for his OROY chances.
Moreover, quarterback play, especially among rookies, is volatile. C.J. Stroud has excelled thus far and looks like a home run for DeMeco Ryans and the Texans. However, regression may come, which provides an opportunity for Bijan Robinson to close the gap. As of right now, it’s a long shot, but those are the bets we love the most.
Photographer: John Adams/Icon Sportswire