Which rookie RB will be this year's Walker?
Chris Simms and Connor Rogers examine why Bijan Robinson has the potential to become this season's Kenneth Walker, meaning a Day 1 or 2 RB who becomes a big piece of the team's offense.
CONNOR ROGERS: So this next group, these guys play as rookies almost all of them, and that's the running backs. You could be drafted-- you could be undrafted and find your way into reps. And we'll get there in a second, but let's start with the high-end guys. Who will be this year's Kenneth Walker, is the question? A day one or two running back that becomes that big piece for an offense.
CHRIS SIMMS: Well, I mean, to me, this is one of the best picks of the draft. One of the things I've been saying, Connor, and agree or disagree here, but I just think, I don't know if one pick changes a team and has more of a effect on that team right away than Bijan Robinson in Atlanta.
CONNOR ROGERS: No doubt. It's no doubt.
CHRIS SIMMS: I mean, they have a quarterback that's unproven. They were already an awesome running football team, and now they become awesomer. I mean, so, that's where it takes it to the next level. It takes it to, wait, you know we're going to do this, we know we're going to do this, but you still can't stop it. That's what they're getting to.
So, it's hard for me not to go there. Of course, you know, I love Jahmyr Gibbs too. Those top two picks, to me, are phenomenal. I mean, I think those are two teams that are made to run, and they can, of course, take advantage of every yard that's there to be had with their skill set.
CONNOR ROGERS: So here's the thing with Bijan. Head coach is Arthur Smith. Everything I'd heard, no surprise. This was who he was dying to get in the draft. They spent a lot of money on defense. They traded for Okudah.
CHRIS SIMMS: Exactly.
CONNOR ROGERS: They've done a lot on defense.
CHRIS SIMMS: Jessie Bates.
CONNOR ROGERS: Yeah, we feel like we can do this.
CHRIS SIMMS: Resign Lorenzo Carter, Bud Dupree.
CONNOR ROGERS: Exactly.
CHRIS SIMMS: David Onyemata. Right.
CONNOR ROGERS: Arthur Smith, offensive coordinator for the Titans, 2019, 2020. Derrick Henry went from 215 carries to 303 in Arthur's first year. 378 in that second year. In the era of committee backfields, Bijan Robinson is going to be a workhorse out of the gate.
CHRIS SIMMS: 100%.
CONNOR ROGERS: He could lead the league in rushing this year.
CHRIS SIMMS: I don't think that's crazy either.
CONNOR ROGERS: Like, very well, just from opportunity.
CHRIS SIMMS: That's not crazy.
CONNOR ROGERS: And they drafted your boy, Matthew Bergeron.
CHRIS SIMMS: Exactly.
CONNOR ROGERS: So now, Lindstrom and Bergeron are their guards.
CHRIS SIMMS: They got good tackles. They got everything. I mean, they're stacked. I'm with you, you know. And yeah, one, it's a system fit, right, you're saying with Arthur Smith. That's what he wants to do. Two, for Arthur Smith personally, I think this is his best pick to save his own ass as well.
CONNOR ROGERS: 100%. This is what he does.
CHRIS SIMMS: Now you don't have to worry about Desmond Ridder throwing for 300 yards.
CONNOR ROGERS: Or Taylor Heinicke at some point.
CHRIS SIMMS: It doesn't have to be on them to do anything special. They're going to play the same way they've played, except they're just going to be better at it in all areas. And there's a reason they've been a sneaky 7-10 football team. Now watch out. This is going to be a team that can be 10 and 7 with what they did because of that right there. So I'm with you.
All right, so, wait, hold on. I'm seeing here two in the sheets, right? So we both agree on Bijan Robinson.
CONNOR ROGERS: Yeah.
CHRIS SIMMS: I think we both agree that Jahmyr Gibbs is going to be great for Detroit.
CONNOR ROGERS: Could be their Kamara. Like, their version of Kamara. They got David Montgomery, and use Kamara-- use Gibbs as your Kamara.
CHRIS SIMMS: Right. And again, I'm not mad of them taking him at 12, right? I know it's a little high, but to risk, oh, let's trade down to 22, and then we might not [BLEEP] get him, OK, that's the risk, but we got our guy. And you know, like we've talked about too, he's elite. He was in my tier one with Bijan.
CONNOR ROGERS: I had him in the top 20 of this draft.
CHRIS SIMMS: So I would agree too.
CONNOR ROGERS: I mean, good player in a not-so-great draft.
CHRIS SIMMS: Where he's got Bijan beat too is, like, he's more of a house call threat than Bijan. A screen at his own 20, if you said who's more likely to go 80 to the house from a screen on their own 20, I'd go, well, that's Jahmyr Gibbs, for sure. Or take a toss sweep and go 80 around the edge, that's Jahmyr Gibbs. There's a tremendous value in that. So I love that.
But I want to comment on your second part there. Don't sleep on Zach Charbonnet. I know you like him.
CONNOR ROGERS: Yeah.
CHRIS SIMMS: I like him too. You like him more than me.
CONNOR ROGERS: So I look at Kenneth Walker last year, who everyone loves, and I get it. He came into the season with significant injury, and they got him ready eventually, and he finished the season banged up.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yes.
CONNOR ROGERS: You don't take Zach Charbonnet in the top 60 unless you at least have in the back of your mind a little bit that Kenneth Walker might not be a 17-game horse.
CHRIS SIMMS: Well, agreed, agreed, agreed. Now, so what I didn't want to understand here was very if you thought he was going to supplant, you know, and that's a little rich.
CONNOR ROGERS: Pass game, yes. I think so.
CHRIS SIMMS: I mean, but nobody's supplanting Kenneth Walker.
CONNOR ROGERS: No, not as a runner, no way.
CHRIS SIMMS: But I think what your point there too, I understand what you're saying then. OK, I just wanted-- that's where I wanted to get to because yeah, I think this pick is more about saving Kenneth Walker. Kenneth Walker's special.
He's one of those rare guys where you can go, wait, he can run over two or three people on one play, and then the next play, like we just talked about with Gibbs, go 80 yards down the sideline, and you go, whoa, there goes 4.39, just like Jahmyr Gibbs, right? So, I hear-- all right, so, I just wanted to clarify that because I think the world of Kenneth Walker as a runner.
CONNOR ROGERS: He's a great player.
CHRIS SIMMS: I think as a pure ball carrier, he's probably in the top five running back conversation for me. The injury thing is definitely real, there's no doubt
CONNOR ROGERS: And I think for Seattle, then you get him fresh when you go into the playoffs.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yes.
CONNOR ROGERS: And imagine-- imagine being on the field, and first and second down you have to tackle Kenneth Walker, and then, oh, third down--
CHRIS SIMMS: Or fourth quarter, you're like, damn, it's Zach Charbonnet time?
CONNOR ROGERS: Lovely.
CHRIS SIMMS: I agree. That's where I think the beauty of it is. That's where--
CONNOR ROGERS: I liked the pick. People were like, how do you take another running back? I'm like, do you watch the offense and what it wants to be?
CHRIS SIMMS: Exactly. It's Seattle. It's Pete Carroll too. He believes in that. And then that's the right combination too of, oh shit, we got to worry about Kenneth Walker, we got to worry about Zach Charbonnet. Oh, there goes DK over the top for 80. Oh shit, I forgot about him there.
CONNOR ROGERS: Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
CHRIS SIMMS: It's a perfect combination. I'm with you there, all the way.