The Fantasy Football Impact of Antonio Gibson to the New England Patriots

Mar 25, 2024
The Fantasy Impact of Antonio Gibson to the Patriots

With Antonio Gibson’s rookie contract wrapping up at the end of the 2023 season, the Commanders let the former college wide receiver hit free agency. The New England Patriots decided to take the plunge, signing the running back to a three-year, $11.25 million contract that is worth up to $17.25 million. Gibson is one of a handful of offensive pieces the team brought on board through the latest free agency period as they continue to try to make sense of a group desperately grasping for playmakers.

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Antonio Gibson Running Back Profile

Antonio Gibson came out of college as a bet on raw talent, as he only saw one full season of real work in an absolutely loaded Memphis depth chart. With Darrell Henderson, Kenneth Gainwell, Patrick Taylor, and Tony Pollard on the team, Gibson didn’t get many snaps out of the backfield but would end up running 330 routes in his senior year of 2019. A vast majority of those (87.1%) came out of the slot, and he was a tackle-breaking machine, forcing 17 missed tackles on his 38 receptions.

He was just as elusive as a ball carrier, breaking 16 tackles over his economical 33 attempts en route to an astounding 369 yards (11.2 YPA). We can only imagine what these numbers would have leveled out to had he been given a full workload, but that efficiency, coupled with a 97th-percentile 40-yard-dash at 228 pounds, makes it clear why the Washington Commanders took a shot on him in the third round of the NFL Draft (66th overall).

The team didn’t hold back out of the gates, though, allowing the “hybrid” player to account for 107 opportunities before their Week 8 bye, as he would end up notching what is still a career-high 11 touchdowns on the year.

Antonio Gibson Career Stats
Year G Starts Att. Rush Yards Targets Rec. Rec Yards Scores Half-PPR FP/G FP/G Rank
2020 14 10 170 795 44 36 247 11 13.2 RB17
2021 16 14 258 1037 52 42 294 10 13.0 RB20
2022 15 6 149 546 58 46 353 5 9.5 RB35
2023 16 2 65 265 59 48 389 3 6.5 RB48

The relatively heavy usage in the passing game continued to trend upwards through Gibson’s four seasons in Washington, but after logging a fully-formed, three-down workload in 2021, his backfield snaps began to decrease. This culminated with a complete cratering under one-year Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy in 2023. Gibson averaged just over four rushing attempts per game while hitting double-digits on only one occasion.

Was this simply a reflection of the team wanting Brian Robinson and Chris Rodriguez to handle most of the early-down work? Or does the NFL simply want to turn Gibson into more of a receiving threat? We’ll find out in his new home of Foxboro.

How Antonio Gibson Fits in New England

What is a little frustrating for Gibson’s ceiling in ‘23 is that although he set new career highs in basically every receiving metric (routes, receptions, yards, etc.), he wasn’t utilized to any extra extent out of the slot. Curtis Samuel locked up that role, which Jahan Dotson and tight end Logan Thomas further blocked out.

When we look at the Patriots’ pass-catcher group, we can imagine a much easier route (pun intended) for Gibson to find himself out there more than 2.7% of his snaps. While running backs lining up out of the slot can be overblown for fantasy purposes, 16 players took 30+ routes from the slot last year, and, of course, the elite (Christian McCaffrey, Bijan Robinson, Dolphins running backs) who take a huge amount of work out there.

Gibson is not that level of running back, but he could be an upgrade over who the Patriots have had on their roster. Last season, 92 qualifying slot pass-catchers met the thresholds for yards per route run metrics. The Patriots had three of them and brought another onboard via free agency. Demario Douglas (1.67, 38th) is the only one who ranked in the top 50, while Hunter Henry (1.11, 69th), Mike Gesicki (0.79, 82nd), and K.J. Osborn (0.58, 91st) all ranked in the bottom quartile.

It would be a minimal boost, but a boost nonetheless, as Gibson may have an uphill battle dislodging a huge workload from incumbent Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson has already mentioned his desire to be the featured back after an ankle injury ended his season prematurely last season.

Prior to the Week 12 injury, Stevenson lost work to Ezekiel Elliott but maintained a great role in the receiving game, catching at least three balls in seven of his eleven full games. Behind the two of them, no single running back had more than 20 rushing attempts or five targets.

A secure two-headed backfield could be the norm heading into 2024, and it should be considered a positive that the team went out and got Gibson just one month after hiring new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

Fantasy Outlook for the Patriots Backfield

As it currently stands, the backfield behind the main pairing consists of Kevin Harris, JaMycal Hasty, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Each of these players has had multiple calendar years to prove they should be an integral part of an NFL offense but have yet to be successful.

This leaves Antonio Gibson as the clear-cut backup, but a backup all the same. His signing may help Rhamondre Stevenson take an even larger percentage of short-yardage work, while it does put a cap on the incumbent’s receiving usage. A boost in usage around the goal line would be a sigh of relief for Stevenson managers, who watched the running back find the end zone only four times last season.

Gibson’s work in the passing game could still be substantial, as he has proven to be one of the best receiving backs in the game.

Bottom Line

  • Antonio Gibson was basically phased out of the running game with the Commanders last season, but his pass-catching continued to make him a valuable piece of the offense.
  • He finds himself in a worse (the worst?) offensive environment ahead of 2024, but with a general lack of playmakers on the field, it could equate to more touches heading Gibson’s way.
  • Rhamondre Stevenson is the best all-around back on the Patriots and will easily continue to be the leading touch leader.
  • According to current Underdog ADP, Stevenson is coming off of draft boards as the RB20 in the early seventh round. His upside is a bit capped by a questionable offense and his new teammate, but that’s not a terrible spot to take a stab. Gibson is going very deep in drafts, as the RB51 at the beginning of the 15th round. His worst fantasy season (‘23, RB48) is better than that slot, and he makes for a great dart throw on a Patriots team that needs pass-catching talent all over their formation.
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