Daniel Mayes: Ahead of the playoffs, a look back at Jahmyr Gibbs' rookie regular season (and at a video game simulation)

Jan. 12—Turns out Electronic Arts Sports, the developers of the annual Madden NFL video game, may have underestimated Dalton native and Detroit Lion rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs just a little bit.

Prior to the start of the 2023-24 NFL regular season, to celebrate the occasion of the local legend and Dalton High School graduate starting his NFL career, I took to the Madden NFL 24 video game to run a simulation on how Gibbs' rookie regular season might play out. I began the 2023-24 season in the game's franchise mode, hit "skip to playoffs" and sat back to wait for what the game would spit out for its best approximation of what would happen. I documented those results in a column that ran back in August.

It's not the first time Jahmyr Gibbs has exceeded the expectation of others on a football field.

Like Gibbs juking a defender out of his shoes on Harmon Field during his high school days, the now NFL running back made the Madden simulation look a little silly.

In that exercise, virtual Gibbs rushed 229 times for 772 yards and six touchdowns, playing in all 17 games of the season. That simulation also saw Gibbs catch 40 passes for 284 yards, and, comically, in a prediction I laughed at even at the time, asserted that the explosive Gibbs would have a season-long rush of just eight yards.

Yeah, no.

The real rookie Gibbs played 15 games in the regular season but still far surpassed what his virtual counterpart did — and did it more efficiently.

182 carries. 945 yards. 10 rushing touchdowns. 52 catches. 316 yards. Another touchdown. A 5.2 yards per carry average, where virtual Gibbs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.

As for the longest rushing attempt of the season? Gibbs beat that eight yard prediction on his second ever NFL carry, ripping off a 16-yard gash. His season-long ended up being 36 yards.

In fact, Gibbs was second in the league with 10 runs on the season that went at least 20 yards.

Take that, game. Give Gibbs a higher rating next year.

By all estimations, Gibbs, the first player drafted from Whitfield County in 40 years, had a stellar rookie season.

After a bit of a slow start with Detroit figuring out how to balance Gibbs' carries with 1,000-yard rusher David Montgomery and Gibbs missing a couple of games due to injury early on, he hit his stride and showed how worth it he was for Detroit to pick him with the 12th overall selection in last year's NFL draft.

Gibbs scored his first rushing touchdown in his fifth game, then scored nine in the final 10 games of the regular season. He had a coming-out party on a national stage, ripping the Raiders for 152 rushing yards and two touchdowns on Monday Night Football in late October. That was a season-high for Gibbs and one of two 100-yard games on the year (the simulation predicted a season high single-game rushing total of 80).

Gibbs was 17th in the NFL in rushing yards. 10th in rushing touchdowns. He was sixth in yards per rush (fourth among running backs).

The Dalton native wrapped up his rookie regular season in position to become one of the best running backs in the league over the next few seasons.

Only, he's not done with his rookie season yet.

Among the biggest errors made in the preseason simulation? Virtual Detroit finished 3-14 and missed the playoffs.

In real life, Gibbs helped the Lions finish 12-5 and secure their first playoff appearance since 2016. Detroit hosts the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday with a chance at their first playoff win since 1991.

Gibbs isn't done in 2023-24 quite yet. Let's see if he continues defying the odds.

Daniel Mayes is the sports editor at the Dalton Daily Citizen. Write to him at