Jahmyr Gibbs: Unexpected Fantasy Football Star

May 01, 2023
Jahmyr Gibbs: Unexpected Fantasy Football Star

Heading into the NFL Draft, Alabama RB Jahymr Gibbs was viewed as a fringe first-round pick by most draft analysts. The Lions didn’t share that same sentiment, selecting him 12th overall after trading back with the Arizona Cardinals. It was a reach by almost all accounts and was just four picks after Bijan Robinson. The Lions could have easily stayed at sixth overall and selected Bijan if they preferred him. This is extremely telling and could be a massive indicator of fantasy success in 2023.

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Jahmyr Gibbs Prospect Profile

Gibbs stands at 5’9, 199 pounds, and played college football at both Alabama and Georgia Tech. He ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine along with a 1.52-second 10-yard split and a 33.5-inch vertical jump. Gibbs is a true dual-threat in the NFL, racking up 103 receptions in three collegiate seasons. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry in his time at Alabama but wasn’t just efficient on a good team. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry in both seasons at Georgia Tech, as well. It’s also worth noting that Gibbs was never a workhorse in college, with just 113, 178, and 195 touches each season.

How Jahmyr Gibbs fits on the Detroit Lions

The Lions have completely overhauled their running back room this off-season. Jamaal Williams is now on the Saints and the Lions traded away D’Andre Swift during the draft to the Eagles. The Lions signed David Montgomery in the offseason as well to a 3-year, $18M contract with $11M guaranteed. The Lions currently have 94.6% of their running back carries, 93.6% of their total touches, and 100% of their touches inside the 5-yard line available heading into 2023.

With a new-look backfield of Gibbs and Montgomery, there is some uncertainty surrounding their projected roles. I anticipate Montgomery and Gibbs to be a similar 1-2 punch that Swift and Williams were when both fully healthy. The Lions probably don’t want to be slamming the diminutive Gibbs in between the tackles and will likely rely on Montgomery for short-yardage opportunities. Gibbs will likely be the primary back in almost every other situation if we rely solely on the immense amount of draft capital they spent on him. I anticipate most of Gibbs' touches being in space which will be a positive for his efficiency and fantasy upside. With that being said, it will be interesting to see how frequently the Lions mix in Montgomery on early downs.

We can immediately project Gibbs to have a large pass-catching role and plenty of carries, as well. Williams, Swift, and Justin Jackson combined for 72 receptions on 105 targets last season, a massive workload for the running back position. Montgomery is a respectable pass-catcher as well but it’s fair to assume most of the designed looks will go to Gibbs.

Jahmyr Gibbs Fantasy Football Value

Gibbs joins a strong group of running backs who were also selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

First-Round Running Backs
Player Pick FPPG (1/2 PPR) Fantasy Points rank
Najee Harris 24 15.5 4th
Travis Etienne 25 N/A N/A
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 32 12.2 22nd
Josh Jacobs 24 14 19th
Saquon Barkley 2 21.3 2nd
Rashaad Penny 27 4.7 66th
Sony Michel 31 10.4 29th
Leonard Fournette 4 16.4 7th
Christian McCaffrey 8 11.8 11th
Ezekiel Elliott 4 20.6 2nd
Todd Gurley 10 15.2 7th
Melvin Gordon 15 6.6 51st

Not only does high draft capital secure a generally high floor, but also unlocks a ceiling that isn’t always factored into their ADP. Since 2015, 8 of the 10 running backs drafted in the first round averaged at least 10 fantasy points per game as rookies and 7-of-10 finished as an RB2-or-better (RB24 or higher). 5-of-10 finished inside the top-7 in total fantasy points among running backs. There are some obvious rookie busts on this list including Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny but the overall outlook is strong.

On top of high draft capital, Gibbs’ fantasy value is enhanced by the Lions' ability to score along with their offensive line. They finished fifth in points per game at 26.6 last season and have only gotten better. While he probably won’t be their goal line back, having an efficient offense can create more opportunities closer to scoring position. Their offensive line ranked seventh in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards and is still anchored by Penei Sewell, Taylor Decker, and Frank Ragnow.

Gibbs' ADP was 60th overall and RB16 at the position pre-NFL Draft, and has risen to 46th overall as RB15. Given the historical comparisons and strong surrounding situation, an RB2 floor with top-5 upside is how I’m approaching Gibbs. If he is able to carve out any of the goal line work his upside is immense.

The Bottom Line

  • The Detroit Lions over-drafted Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft but this exponentially increases the security of his role.
  • With D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams being replaced by David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, we can expect another timeshare of sorts, heavily skewed toward Gibbs.
  • At current pick No. 46, Gibbs could be a value in fantasy football drafts if he is able to secure a large portion of the workload in Detroit but has a reliable floor given the amount of expected pass-catching work.
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