ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. may be sweating if the Ravens are on the clock at No. 22 and Texas running back Bijan Robinson is still available.
Kiper said last month that he would retire if his hometown Ravens draft Robinson in the first round. Kiper has long been adamant that he would not use such a high pick on a running back because they have a shorter "prime" and the ability to find value at the position in later rounds.
Well, Ravens Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz said he doesn't necessarily agree.
"I know Mel may retire if we draft Bijan. I'd like to see him work. If we take Bijan, we'll have to talk him into staying. We don't want to lose Mel," Hortiz joked.
"If he's a great player and you feel like he's going to impact your team and help your team, it's valuable for your team. So I'm not opposed to supporting a running back in the first round."
Robinson, who will go through his Combine workout Sunday, ran for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He also caught 19 passes for 314 yards and another two scores, and won the Doak Walker Award for the nation's top college football running back.
"He's just a really talented player. He's versatile. He plays on all three downs," Hortiz said. "Obviously he's a great runner – athletic, explosive, fast – but he can also do things in the passing game and is a willing blocker. If you get a chance to take a great player, you've got to take him."
In the eyes of numerous draft analysts, Robinson is a top-10 talent. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has him at No. 4 overall in this year's class.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah gives his updated top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Yet because of the perceived value of running backs, they typically don't go early. Saquon Barkley was the last running back to go high, as the New York Giants picked him at No. 2 overall in 2018. While Barkley was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Giants still languished overall.
Then Barkley suffered a major knee injury. He bounced back in 2022, returning to his status as one of the game's most dynamic backs and helping to push the Giants back into the playoffs, but now his rookie contract is up, meaning it's time for the Giants to pay up. So is it worth it to invest so much in a running back?
"Everybody says that Bijan Robinson is not only the best running back in this class, he is one of the five best players in this class. He is elite," Jeremiah said. "If he were to go in the top 10, he would not get laughs around the league because people know how good this guy is.
"My philosophy on running backs is I don't mind taking a running back in the first round, as long as your team is ready to win right now. … But I don't want to waste carries on a crappy team. I want to have all of his carries over that five-year period count and help push towards a championship."
With the Ravens defense returning strong, and the hope that Lamar Jackson is back under center, could Robinson push Baltimore over the top? Some draft analysts, including ESPN's Todd McShay, believe he could help "form a scary rushing attack" in Todd Monken's new offense.
Check out the top images from J.K. Dobbins' 2022 season.
It would still be a surprising move considering the Ravens already have J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. After a midseason clean-out surgery, Dobbins averaged 6.5 yards per carry over his final five games, including the playoffs.
The Ravens hope Dobbins is on the Barkley trajectory. He missed his entire second season with a major knee injury, but Dobbins' arrow is pointing up and he's eager to take on a starring role in Baltimore's offense. General Manager Eric DeCosta also expects big things from the now fourth-year back.
"J.K. finished strong. I'm really, really impressed with his passion, his work ethic, the way that he battled back from a very, very serious knee injury. It was very impressive to me to see how he really kind of matured over the course of the season," DeCosta said.
"He came back from that second procedure surgery that he had, and he started to really look like that old J.K., which is extremely exciting for the organization. And we fully expect J.K. to have a great year this year."