After the Falcons selected Bijan Robinson with the eighth overall pick, the odds stood at just +300 that another running back would be selected in the first round, according to DraftKings. Yet, four picks later, the Detroit Lions drafted Jahmyr Gibbs out of Alabama and stunned most spectators.
The Lions already held D’Andre Swift and newly acquired David Montgomery on the roster, which made this move even more shocking. They would later trade Swift to the Eagles for draft capital a little while later, but even then, they likely could have gotten Gibbs at No. 18 and selected linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 34, leaving them room at No. 12 to select another major playmaker for this young, ascending team.
All of this seems like questionable management and draft strategy, but to fantasy players, that’s all just rigamarole. If Detroit was willing to ship out a (somewhat) proven Swift, reach on Gibbs, and put him alongside Montgomery who they just signed to an $18 million deal. . . Well, they want to give him the football. And man, were they excited to get him:
Just look at those happy faces!
Gibbs’ talent is undeniable. Athletically, you won’t find many players who can match him. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash – the 8th fastest among running backs ever. His balance, game speed, and vision are all extremely impressive. Sure, he could stand to put on a few pounds, but he will instantly become one of the more impressive athletes at the running back position. He has great instincts, just like Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry before him out of Alabama.
And speaking of generational abilities, his pass-catching is among the best we have ever seen as a prospect. His 92.6 career receiving grade leads all running backs in his class, and his 25 receptions of 15-plus yards lead all running backs in the last three seasons of college football, according to PFF. And get this: Gibbs lined up out wide 44 times last season and another 33 times in the slot. This guy is not just a dink-and-dump pass-catcher. He is a serious receiving threat.
Jahmyr Gibbs looks to be a plug-and-play into any offense. This seems especially true for the Lions, who now have a 15-percent target share deficit to make up for in their backfield since Swift left. Gibbs should fill this gap, if not expand on it given his talent.
What will the coaches plan for him? Well, Dan Campbell’s experience as the Saints’ assistant coach should tell us all we need to know. The former duo Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara both gained over 1,500 yards in 2017 and Kamara alone has had over 6,000 yards from scrimmage over Campbell’s time in New Orleans. Gibbs’ and Kamaras’ profiles are pretty similar and likely part of the reason Campbell liked him. It’s what he is used to and will likely lead to him being used similarly.
“We really liked Gibbs early in the process,” Campbell said on the Green Light Podcast. “He really stood out to us and when we saw him, we thought of him, you know, it wasn’t a running back that we saw. We saw weaponry.
And, he reminded me of a lot of (Alvin Kamara). Certainly, when I was at the Giants, we had played with Tiki Barber, in this kind of mold of these backs that can do more than just carry the ball. And so that’s how we thought of him.”
It seems he tried to repeat this type of success last season with Jamaal Williams and Swift. Detroit running backs ranked second among all teams in expected fantasy points per game (XFP/G) with 28.3. Their roles were very similar to Ingram and Kamara, but Swift had some inconsistency problems that may have led to him being shipped off to Philadelphia and Williams ultimately left for Campbell’s old team, anyway.
Now, he has a new duo. The prospect of splitting carries can be intimidating for fantasy owners, but the way Gibbs commands a target share, this should be no problem. We have seen the same story play out with the previous Saints duo we discussed, or even Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Despite splitting carries, Ekeler was able to finish as RB4 before Gordon was let go and Ekeler became the lead back.
The next great receiving back may be gearing up in Detroit. Defenses, beware.
QUICK 2023 FANTASY OUTLOOK
Right away, Gibbs has definite fantasy RB1 potential. But, he’ll be drafted as and will be a very safe RB2 — especially in PPR leagues. As of now, Gibbs slides in at RB19 (-2 vs ECR) on The Wolf’s 2023 Fantasy Rankings, right between Miles Sanders and D’Andre Swift. Expect The Wolf to boost Gibbs’ stock once he starts to tear up camp and is deployed around the formation.
Gibbs is locked in as the second-best running back in his rookie class behind Bijan Robinson. He is locked in at the 1.02 in one QB leagues and 1.05 behind the big three quarterbacks SuperFlex on The Wolf’s Rookie Rankings.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
“Overall, Gibbs doesn’t have ideal size or run power for NFL punishment, but he is an electric athlete with the explosiveness, vision and pass-catching skills to be an exciting NFL weapon. Though his workload will need to be managed, his talent is a mixture of Alvin Kamara and Chris Johnson,” described The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.