Bijan Robinson ready to be even more dangerous receiving threat in 2022

Bijan Robinson, Texas Football Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Bijan Robinson, Texas Football Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

We all know about what Texas football and second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian have in the star junior running back Bijan Robinson. This Heisman contender and preseason All-American could very well be the best running back in the entire country in 2022.

Most assume it is the insane efficiency that Bijan runs with play-in and play-out that makes him such a special running back. But Bijan also makes things happen when he gets the ball in his hands as a receiver out of the backfield too.

Bijan definitely had his faults as a receiver out of the backfield last season, but he was very potent when he was able to lock in and reel the ball in. In the receiving game last season, Bijan registered 26 catches for 295 receiving yards (11.7 yards per catch) and four touchdown catches.

And when you look between the lines, there are some pretty impressive numbers for Bijan from his snaps as a receiver last season. Bijan registered nine missed tackles forced on receptions last season, along with 10.7 yards after the catch per reception, and a dozen first downs.

Bijan was just incredibly elusive when he got the ball in his hands as a receiver last season. And you can be that Sark knows that good things tend to happen when Bijan is able to get the ball in space in the receiving game.

It was evident last season just how efficient Bijan was when he got the ball in his hands as a receiver.

When looking at Bijan’s numbers per reception last season, you can see just how high the success rate was for the Longhorns when they got the ball in his hands. Bijan was tied for second among Power Five running backs last season in receptions per touchdown (6.5) and in receptions per first down (2.2).

It’s also worth noting that Bijan’s nine missed tackles forced on receiving plays last season were good enough to post the second-best elusive rating among running backs in the Big 12.

So, what do all these numbers mean as far as Bijan’s usage as a receiver in 2022 is concerned?

At a minimum, I believe that Bijan is going to get the same number of targets in the passing game per game that he did last season. And while Bijan isn’t ever going to lead the Longhorns in receptions in a season, he should be the most effective pass-catcher out of the backfield again this fall.

However, I want to mention that while good things happen more often than not when Bijan got the ball in his hands as a receiver last season, he did have his fair share of mistakes too. Bijan led the Big 12 in fumbles on receiving plays last season with two. And he had one of the worst drop grades in the Big 12 among running backs in 2021.

There were just some flat-out bad drops that Bijan had last season (i.e. the pass that bounced off his hands from Casey Thompson out of the backfield against the Oklahoma Sooners).

Some Texas fans might come to think, why don’t we just give the ball to Bijan more often on run plays instead of risking mistakes from him as a receiver out of the backfield?

The answer to that is pretty simple.

Sark wants to get his best athletes out in space to let them do what they do best, pick up yards in chunks after the catch and/or after initial contact. Bijan will have more space to work sideline-to-sideline if opposing defenses have to respect the threat he poses in the passing game and the ground game.

If the Texas offense becomes too one-dimensional, that will ultimately let opposing defenses stack the box more often when plays look to be clear running situations for the Longhorns.

We saw teams like the Baylor Bears, Arkansas Razorbacks, and Iowa State Cyclones do that with varying degrees of success against Bijan last season when the Texas offense was forced into a corner.

Texas football star RB Bijan Robinson ready to continue his upward trend as a receiver in 2022

When you dive into the numbers, it becomes more evident why it’s worth taking the risk by using Bijan as a receiver. The rate of success that the Longhorns had when getting Bijan the ball in the passing game last season is really unparalleled by most other Power Five running backs.

There is a metric that does a good job illustrating this point. A metric provided by College Football Data called “Predicted Points Added” estimates both the success rate and scoring probability of each play that a certain player touches the ball on offense.

And among the Big 12 running backs last season that were on the field for at least 100 passing plays, Bijan led the conference in Predicted Points Added, at 0.716. In the eight years that College Football Data has tracked that metric (since the 2014 season), Bijan has the highest number of Predicted Points Added among Texas running backs.

That is also the highest number of Predicted Points Added for any Big 12 running back on passing plays since Kennedy McKoy averaged 0.909 during the 2018 season.

This essentially goes to show that, despite his shortcomings last season in terms of drops and fumbles, Bijan still was the running back with the highest success rate on passing plays in the Big 12 in four seasons. That level of effectiveness that Bijan can bring to the table on any one play obviously won’t be overlooked this fall.

Moreover, if any of the returns from fall camp in the last few weeks are any indication of Bijan’s progress as a receiver heading into the 2022 season, he won’t drop as many catchable balls as he did in 2021. I have to say that we’ve heard more about the plays that Bijan has made with his hands on nice catches during fall camp than we did at any point in the prior two offseasons.

He’s also worked to improve his grip on the football on rushing plays in the last couple of seasons. Ideally, that will translate to receiving snaps for him this fall.

All in all, if Bijan gets at least 35 targets in the passing game this season, I’d expect him to easily surpass 300 receiving yards and still get around the four touchdown catch mark. Last season, he was targeted just over 30 times in the passing game, resulting in his 26 catches.

At the same rate, if Bijan was targeted let’s say 35 times in the passing game (all else the same in terms of per-catch averages), he would register 30 catches for 351 receiving yards, 321 yards after the catch, 14 first downs, four or five receiving touchdowns, and a double-digit number of avoided tackles.

And if Bijan is able to reduce the number of mistakes he had last season as a receiver, his production in the passing game will only have a higher floor this fall.

You also have to take into account the fact that Bijan missed roughly the last two and a half games of the regular season after getting knocked out in the loss to the Kansas Jayhawks with an upper-body injury. If not for the injury, he probably would’ve easily surpassed 30 catches on the season.

If he stays healthy throughout this fall, Bijan should realistically get more targets in the passing game than he did in total last season.

Next. 3 takeaways from Steve Sarkisian's final fall camp press conference. dark

Texas finished up last season with a record of 5-7 (3-6 Big 12), missing out on bowl season for the first time since 2016. Bijan and the Longhorns will open up the 2022 regular season at home on Sep. 3 against the Lousiana-Monroe Warhawks.