With the 2023 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, one of the hot topics that emerged this week is whether Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs would hear his name called as a first-round pick. Considering the way the NFL has devalued the position in recent years, producing only four first-round rushers over the last three years, the odds are against Gibbs joining Bijan Robinson in the top 31 this year.
However, Gibbs has a stronger case to be a first-rounder than most backs. Let’s dive into why he’s favored by sportsbooks to make the cut at -195 odds and where he could land in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Why Jahmyr Gibbs Should Be a First-Round Pick
Even as the NFL has done its best to shy away from investing top draft picks and large second contracts into the RB position, some playmakers are so impactful that their value holds. For as much criticism as the position gets, top backs aren’t simply replaceable. Teams that lock in a back with their five-year rookie deal are in an advantageous position as long as they hit on their selection.
Unlike Robinson, who is a big, bruising back who passes every eye test and physical measurement standard anyone could have, Gibbs is more of a dynamic threat. At only 5’9 1/8″ and 199 pounds, Gibbs has been compared to Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara most often. His ability to withstand hits and stay on his feet despite being a smaller-stature player helps overcome size concerns.
Gibbs’ blazing 4.36 40-yard dash and dominant performances while at Georgia Tech and Alabama throughout his collegiate career further check the boxes teams need to invest in a non-traditional playmaker. He transferred from Georgia Tech after two stellar seasons, where he totaled 1,974 yards and 13 scores in 19 games. His production leaped to 1,370 total yards and 10 scores with the Crimson Tide in 2022.
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A true dual-threat back who has earned buzz about his ability to get “snaps out of the slot” in addition to backfield carries, Gibbs is an offensive weapon. If used in a similar way to Kamara in particular, who also boasts rare contact balance despite having a smaller frame, Gibbs can be a franchise star. At worst, his measurables most closely align with C.J. Spiller, who averaged five yards a carry with Buffalo before injuries brought an end to his career.
There will always be someone pointing to late-round or undrafted rushers as better values, but in retrospect, there’s almost always a running back who was one of the best 32 players in their respective draft class. No team deserves a pat on the back for taking an average offensive tackle over a great running back. If taking Gibbs helps a good team improve, as we expect, then he was a worthwhile first-round pick.
Where Jahmyr Gibbs Could Be Drafted
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said, “We really like our group” of running backs, that feeling hasn’t stopped him from doing due diligence on each of the draft’s top backs.
Tampa Bay has hosted each of the top-three RBs in the draft, including Gibbs. With Leonard Fournette gone and Rachaad White set to be the lead back, it’s not hard to see room for Gibbs to walk onto this roster and be an upgrade.
Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is vying for a new deal, and despite his immense production, the team is probably wise to take his “worst-case scenario” where he plays out his deal and hits free agency next year.
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Trading Ekeler after drafting Gibbs wouldn’t recoup the pick the Chargers would need to use but would help recoup some assets to use this year. Projecting Gibbs into Ekeler’s high-volume receiving role is an easy one, and would ensure Justin Herbert doesn’t have to deal with a significant talent drop-off at the position.
The Bills have continued to pour assets into finding a helpful backfield presence for Josh Allen to rely on. 2022 second-rounder James Cook probably deserves a shot as the lead back this season after Devin Singletary was allowed to depart in free agency.
Gibbs’ presence would certainly infringe on Cook’s impact as a receiver, but there’s also no question that the former is the better player, even if the cost of upgrading is severe.
The Bengals have been negotiating a pay cut with star back Joe Mixon, and he’s likely to be released if the two parties can’t come to an agreement. Considering Mixon’s off-field issues and decrease in explosiveness over the last few years, Cincinnati would be wise to save money sooner than later. Gibbs would be a better fit for their pass-happy attack and give the team a cost-controlled asset at the position for the next five years.
One of the emerging mock draft trends lately has been the Eagles trading up from No. 30 overall to take Gibbs. After letting Myles Sanders walk in free agency, Philadelphia has an unimpressive backfield. They’d be smart to keep the running game humming for star quarterback Jalen Hurts instead of putting too much on their $255 million man’s shoulders.
The Eagles also have the type of roster depth that makes drafting a first-round back more palatable.