Road to RB1: Bijan Robinson

Breaking down how the sophomore running back for the Atlanta Falcons could become the overall RB1 in fantasy this season.
Bijan Robinson is ready to level up and become the RB1
Bijan Robinson is ready to level up and become the RB1 / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

Running back is arguably the most important position in all of fantasy football, so finding the top running back can bring a massive advantage to our teams. We will take a deep dive into how Bijan Robinson can level up and become the best fantasy running back in 2024.

Robinson was the 8th overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2023, the first running back to be drafted before 24th overall since Saquon Barkley was taken 2nd by the Giants in 2018. Robinson is immensely talented in all assets of the game, immediately showing off his pass-catching ability along with the quick-twitch movement and acceleration that made him an elite prospect in college.

His rookie season ended with 976 rushing yards, 487 receiving yards, and eight total touchdowns; the 12th-best running back in fantasy points after being the third back taken in fantasy drafts in 2023. While it definitely could be seen as a disappointment, Robinson proved that he has all the tools necessary to be the best running back not just in fantasy, but overall in the NFL.

The 2023 Falcons were a bit of a disaster. They had a great offensive line, a decent defense, and some of the top young weapons on offense with Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts — all early first-round selections in the NFL draft. But, they were hindered by horrendous quarterback play, averaging only 222 passing yards per game and a sub-50 QBR according to Pro Football Reference.

They were 25th in touchdowns scored with only 31 total, more than seven below the league average. Everything should improve with the addition of Kirk Cousins in 2024.

In his five healthy seasons in Minnesota, Cousins averaged nearly 4,200 yards and 30 touchdowns per season, a significant step up from anything the Falcons have seen in the last few seasons. Cousins signed a four-year, $180 million contract this offseason to bring that stability to an offense that is ready to explode. The team also signed Darnell Mooney to solidify their receiving corps, likely as the fourth option for Cousins. 

The team replaced former head coach Arthur Smith, who did not seem to be able to come up with any sort of offensive scheme to get his best players in winning positions. New head coach Raheem Morris brought in Sean McVay disciple Zac Robinson to run the offense, so we’re hoping to see a Rams-esque offense that always seems to get the ball to their best players.

PFF has the Atlanta offensive line ranked as their sixth-best entering the season, as they return all five starters from this past season including PFF’s top-ranked guard, Chris Lindstrom. With the addition of Cousins paired with the stability of the offensive line, the Falcons are poised to make a jump from a bottom-tier offense to one of the best in the league, which is a huge positive for Robinson to be able to score fantasy points.

How Bijan Robinson can make the leap to RB1

Over the past five years, the overall RB1 has averaged 320 standard fantasy points with about 380 touches, and just shy of 18 touchdowns per year while their teams average 51. What we can take from this is that a running back needs to be on a good offense and either be able to carry the ball a ton like Derrick Henry, or be able to catch the ball out of the backfield.

While Robinson only had eight touchdowns on 272 touches for a total of 188 fantasy points, he showed the talent necessary to be able to level up his game and reach the heights of guys like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Jonathan Taylor. 

Robinson is an integral part of the team’s offense, as he scored 25 percent of the team’s touchdowns in 2023. That lines up perfectly with the trend of the RB1 on the season scoring at least 25 percent for the past five years. If the Falcons improve overall as expected, they should significantly increase their touchdowns scored and have improved game scripts which should lead to more rushes for Bijan. New coach Raheem Morris has already said he plans to use Robinson more than he was last year.

The versatility Robinson showed in year one is the key to a possible RB1 season. Not everyone can carry the ball 378 times like Derrick Henry did in his RB1 season, so catching the ball out of the backfield can help close the gap in touches.

But we have also seen that catches from running backs tend to gain fantasy points at a higher rate than carries even in non-PPR leagues. Bijan was targeted 86 times in 2023, the second most of any running back. He can beat opposing teams through the air and on the ground, so he is never out of the game even when his team is trailing. We saw this for both McCaffrey in 2019 and Josh Jacobs in 2022, as being a reliable receiver was a huge part of guiding them to an RB1 finish.

With his off-the-charts talent and a significantly improved quarterback situation, Robinson has the opportunity to seize the RB1 overall not just for this year, but for the near future. He should see an increase in workload and more touchdown opportunities, which means he has the ability to be the RB1 in 2024.