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How Early Is Too Early for Jahmyr Gibbs?

We already knew Bijan Robinson was going to go early, not just in the NFL Draft but also in fantasy drafts. However, Jahmyr Gibbs was the RB that sent shockwaves through the NFL community, going 12th overall to Detroit and coincidingly triggering the trade of elite receiving back D'Andre Swift to Philadelphia.

With that draft capital invested in him comes anticipation. And with anticipation comes expectation.

That expectation comes in the form of a fantasy draft price of a late-3rd/early-4th round price tag (3.12) as the RB14 off the board, per ADP, and valued a mid-4th rounder as the RB16, per consensus. That price tag sees him going around the likes of Najee Harris, Joe Mixon, and Aaron Jones at the RB position; the first two being established top-12 fantasy RBs with likely workhorse roles and the latter of which has finished as a top-12 RB in four consecutive seasons.

There are two ways to look at Jahmyr Gibbs this season:

The Optimistic Perspective:

History has heavily favored high-capital rookie RBs. Over the last decade, 78% of RBs drafted inside the top 25 picks of the NFL Draft have finished inside the top 10 in PPR scoring and finished as the RB3 or better a third of the time. Those are fantastic odds when looking at the correlation between draft capital and utilization for rookie RBs.

That doesn't even account for Gibbs himself or the situation he is in. Gibbs' closest comparable is Alvin Kamara, who played within a Dan Campbell offense (Assistant Head Coach & TE Coach in New Orleans) and finished as the RB3 as a rookie despite just 120 carries on the season and limited involvement early on in the season. Throw in the fact that he joins a Dan Campbell run-heavy offense that saw a complete overhaul at RB, seeing both lead backs (Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift) replaced, amid the Lions' RB room finishing the season as the highest-scoring group in fantasy with over 500 PPR points in 2022.

The talent is there. The opportunity could very easily be there. The offensive line is there. The offense is there.

Everything is aligning for the potential for Gibbs to emerge as a top-5 fantasy RB as a rookie, even without a pure workhorse role. The only thing that needs to happen is for Gibbs to be even somewhat involved in the running game to provide the workload necessary to sustain RB1-level production in PPR scoring.

The Pessimistic Perspective:

The entire argument against Gibbs revolves around uncertainty - both the uncertainty of an unproven rookie RB and the uncertainty of what role he is guaranteed as a rookie.

We have seen rookie RBs go nuclear (i.e. Saquon Barkley finished as the top RB as a rookie in 2018) but we have also seen rookie RBs fail entirely (i.e. Rashaad Penny, former 1st round pick, finished as the RB67 as a rookie in 2018). Everything in the NFL is earned, not given, even when a player is drafted as highly as Jahmyr Gibbs was. That's nothing against Gibbs: that's simply the nature of the game, especially when playing for a coach like Dan Campbell, who allowed a hyper-talented RB in D'Andre Swift to have limited involvement and actually see work behind Justin Jackson in the back half of 2022.

The opportunity is fantastic for Gibbs, but he has yet to establish it, especially after the Lions brought in an established workhorse RB in David Montgomery in free agency. It's anticipated that Gibbs takes advantage of the situation, at the very least in the receiving game, but that can't be guaranteed.

When investing the draft price of a 3rd (or very early 4th) rounder, you want something that is guaranteed. The uncertainty is worth a second guess, especially when Gibbs is likely being taken either as a very-low RB1 option or as your RB2 while you opt to pass a highly-touted WR2 or an elite TE/QB. Whether you view that trade-off as a worthwhile one is up to you and how highly you value his upside, but his lack of established security is certainly something to consider.

Where do I stand on Gibbs? I view him as a very worthwhile investment - at the right price.

I love him as an RB2 option given his upside, the situation, the history of rookie RBs, and D'Andre Swift's previous production in Detroit (outside of injuries), but find it difficult to trust him as an RB1 with the presence of David Montgomery.

At his current price around the 3/4 turn, I am all game, and I'd even be willing to draft him as highly as in the mid-to-early 3rd round, but my concern is the potential for his ADP to skyrocket throughout camp and the preseason. We've seen it happen numerous times in the past several years with highly-touted rookie RBs and if his draft price were to creep into RB1 territory, that is where I would draw the line.

My personal prediction for Gibbs in 2023:

  • 147 Carries, 646 Rushing Yards, 7 Rushing TDs, 1 Fumble Lost

  • 76 Recs (97 targets), 598 Rec Yards, 4 Rec TDs

  • 264.4 PPR fantasy points (would have finished as the RB7 in 2022)


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