2023 NFL draft film review: Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs fits Detroit
I’ve been saying for months that Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift is on the outskirts of the roster. After running backs coach Deuce Staley left for Carolina, moving on from Swift was inevitable. The reason being — it felt like Staley was the one pushing for Swift to be in Detroit and for him to be the best version of himself.
Unfortunately, Swift has struggled to stay healthy with the Lions. From a banged-up shoulder to ankle injuries, it felt like there was frustration building. Then, it would continue on the field. There were times on tape when Swift would have an opening and rather than make the correct cut upfield, he would bounce to the sidelines.
It’s clear after the first round 2023 NFL Draft that the Lions are trying to fix that problem. Despite signing running back David Montgomery to a three-year contract worth $18 million dollars, the Lions have potentially found the perfect compliment to Montgomery.
By selecting Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, the Lions have a new vision for their backfield. One that has been completely designed by Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell. It’ll be interesting to see what the Lions get for Swift as it feels like he’s damaged goods. It won’t be the same return as they got for Hockenson, but they should get some draft capital for next year.
One can hope.
With that, we can only hope that the Lions didn’t reach for Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick. Sure, the Lions have 3 picks in the second round tonight for the 2023 NFL draft, but they’ll need Gibbs to stay healthy and most importantly, produce on a consistent basis. Let’s jump into the tape to see how Jahmyr Gibbs fits the Detroit Lions after the first-round 2023 NFL Draft!
Twitch and burst
One of the strongest parts of Jahmyr Gibbs’ game is the twitch and burst to his game. He shakes defenders in space but has the desired burst to hit an opening and take it the distance. It shows consistently on tape. At the Scouting Combine, Gibbs checked in at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds while running the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds.
Watching the play above, you’ll see Alabama run a split-zone variation against Mississippi State. Once the ball is given to Gibbs, you’ll see a slight hesitation as his blocks develop but once the blocks are sustained, watch the burst through the hole and acceleration in the open field.
This burst and acceleration forces defenders to redirect their angles and pursuit to the football. Which, at times, doesn’t always work for them. Throughout his career (Georgia Tech and Alabama), Gibbs had 225 carries out of a zone-blocking scheme (per PFF).
Vision and Cutting Ability
Like I mentioned with Swift, there was always some hesitation when the ball was in his hands. When he would trust his vision and speed, it was a thing of beauty, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t consistent enough. For Gibbs, it looks to be more consistent on tape.
On the play above, it’s another zone run from Alabama and Gibbs has the option to bounce the run outside or cut back inside. He sees the opening, hits it and quickly gets to the open field to sprint down the field. Last season, Gibbs had 23 carries of 10+ yards or more. For the sake of Lions fans out there, we can only hope that these types of runs continue in the NFL.
Cutting with contact balance
It’s not every day that we come across a running back that can make an impressive cut and still shake off a tackle from the opposition. Oftentimes, we’ll see the cut, and then the running back will get tripped up or lose his footing. With Gibbs, that doesn’t look to be the case.
Watching the play above against Tennessee, you’ll watch Gibbs read a defensive back attack downhill. In the process, he cuts towards the sideline and shakes off the attempted tackle from the defender. With a great block on the perimeter, Gibbs has free reign to jog his way to the end zone. For 2022, Gibbs averaged 3.32 yards after contact. During his three-year college career, he averaged 3.51 yards after contact.
Overall fit and projection
As I mentioned, it was inevitable that D’Andre Swift was on the outside looking in with the Lions. He wasn’t drafted by the current regime, and he never became the player that Detroit needed him to be. If the Lions are going to trade him, two teams worth monitoring is the Philadelphia Eagles. I think he’d be a perfect fit with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. Also, with Staley in Carolina, I could see that also being a fit.
So as we move onto the reaction of the pick, it’s certainly a reach with how high the Detroit Lions selected Jahmyr Gibbs in the 2023 NFL Draft. Especially since they could have selected Bijan Robinson with the 6th overall pick. This reminds me of when they took Swift in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft rather than Jonathan Taylor. But as we know, certain teams stay true to their board and Detroit is clearly one of those teams.
Selecting Gibbs with the 12th overall pick puts an immense amount of pressure on him before he even steps onto an NFL field. In addition to that pressure, he’s got to find a way to fill the shoes of “what could have been” of D’Andre Swift. He’ll get labeled as the “next Swift” or just be compared to him and to be honest; it’s not really fair.
We have to let Gibbs be Gibbs.
After watching the tape of Jahmyr Gibbs, it’s evident that there’s first-round talent in how he runs and catches the football. During the 2022 season, he caught 44 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, he’ll provide alignment versatility with how he can move all around the field.
Per PFF, Gibbs took 352 snaps out of the backfield while aligning in the slot 39 times and out wide 43 times. It’s also worth noting that he provides special teams ability with 49 snaps on punt and kick returns (13 kick returns for 258 yards in 2022).
I can’t get over the reaction from Brad Holmes after drafting Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs.
We’ll see what happens. Seems evident they have a plan with Gibbs and he should compliment Montgomery well in the offense. #OnePride pic.twitter.com/IQ712S8VPm
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) April 28, 2023
On my board for the 2023 NFL Draft, Gibbs was ranked 26th and earned a second-round grade. On Twitter, Dane Brugler mentioned that the New York Jets were being linked to taking the Alabama running back with the 15th overall pick. Maybe that’s why Brad Holmes intended to select him so early. Regardless, the pick is in, and we all have to live with it.
Gibbs will provide versatility out of the backfield and should be a weapon as a pass-catcher. Add in his speed, which is faster than D’Andre Swift and it becomes very interesting. Overall, I like the fit here in Detroit regardless of where he was selected. Pairing him up with the Amon Ra-St. Brown, Jameson Williams and David Montgomery should make for interesting formations and personnel from offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.
While the Lions run game is diverse between gap and zone runs, there’s reason to believe that Gibbs can provide a much-needed difference in the Lions’ backfield.