Detroit Lions stun by picking Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall in NFL draft 2023

KANSAS CITY — The Detroit Lions made the most stunning pick in the first round of Thursday's 2023 NFL draft, taking Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs after trading down from No. 6 to No. 12.

The Lions made Gibbs the highest-drafted running back since Saquon Barkley went second overall in 2018. They last time they drafted a running back higher was Barry Sanders in 1989.

GIbbs was widely considered the second-best running back in this year's draft, behind Texas' Bijan Robinson, but was projected as a late first- or early second-round pick.

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Just four running backs have gone in the first round of the past four NFL drafts, none higher than the 24th pick. And teams have had success with late-round backs like Isaih Pacheco in the seventh round last year and Elijah Mitchell in the sixth round in 2021.

The Lions saw added value in GIbbs, though, because of his game-breaking dual-threat ability and because of the impact he should have their already-potent offense.

Gibbs had 1,628 all-purpose yards in his first season at Alabama last year after spending his first two years at Georgia Tech. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry, caught 44 passes (the most ever by an Alabama running back) and returned kicks.

The Lions signed David Montgomery to replace leading rusher Jamaal Williams in free agency and return D'Andre Swift, but lack a dependable home run threat in their backfield. Swift has battled injuries his first three NFL seasons and is entering the lsat year of his contract, and Montgomery has had one 100-yard game since early in 2021.

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Gibbs should contribute immediately for a Lions offense that was the fifth-highest scoring in the NFL last season and leans heavily on the play-action pass. The Lions will be without deep-threat receiver Jameson Williams for the first six games of the year, and Gibbs is versatile enough to line up as a receiver while playing alongside Montgomery or Swift.

The Lions passed on players like Robinson, Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter by trading down six spots with the Arizona Cardinals in a wild first round. Arizona moved from three to 12 as the Houston Texans traded up to take Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. (one pick after taking Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud).

The Cardinals traded second- and fifth-round choices to move up six spots, and also received a third-round pick in return.

Gibbs is the first running back the Lions have taken in Round 1 since they traded up to get Jahvid Best with the 30th pick of the 2010 draft. Best played 22 games over two seasons with the Lions before his career ended due to brain injuries.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions pick Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 in NFL draft