The Detroit Lions made Jahmyr Gibbs the second running back selected in the top 12 of Thursday's 2023 NFL Draft, making he and Bijan Robinson the first running backs taken with a top-12 pick since the Giants picked Saquon Barkley second overall in 2018. Yes, the same Lions who already have D'Andre Swift and David Montgomery on their roster used a top-12 selection to address the RB position.

What in the world does this mean? Well, for Jahmyr Gibbs, it likely means a big role in 2023.

To find a top-12 RB selection who was not fed a massive workload as a rookie, you'd have to search back to 2010 when the Bills only gave a rookie C.J. Spiller 98 touches in 14 games. Like Gibbs, Spiller was a smaller back who was drafted by a team with an established veteran RB already on the roster. It wasn't until Spiller's third season that he received a sizable workload (250 touches), and he totaled 1,703 scrimmage yards that season.

Could we see similar explosiveness from Gibbs at the NFL level? His collegiate data doesn't suggest so. Gibbs rushed for 10 or more yards on 15% of his career attempts, which ranked 10th among the 15 running backs that I evaluated for the 2023 rookie class. His career-high single-season explosive rush rate was a pedestrian 16.6%. The average among the rookie RB class was 16.1%.

The strength of Gibbs's profile is his ability to contribute as a pass-catcher, though. And the data backs up his explosiveness in that regard. Among RBs with 60-plus career receptions over the past five college seasons, only Travis Etienne and Bijan Robinson had a higher explosive reception rate (the percentage of catches that resulted in 15+ yards) than Jahmyr Gibbs. No RB averaged more yards per route run.

Displayed below is how Gibbs stacks up relative to other highly-lauded receiving RB prospects on a career per-route basis.

Career target per route run rate
(minimum 300 routes)

25.1% -- Jahmyr Gibbs
21.7% -- Tony Pollard
20.8% -- D'Andre Swift
20.2% -- Saquon Barkley
20.2% -- James Cook
17.7% -- Travis Etienne

Career yard per route run rate
(minimum 300 routes)

2.48 -- Gibbs
1.99 -- Cook
1.97 -- Barkley
1.82 -- Pollard
1.68 -- Etienne
1.54 -- Swift

On paper, Gibbs looks totally unique from anything that we've seen recently. Is it possible that he could be an outlier in the same way that Christian McCaffrey was?

He may have to be as part of a crowded Lions backfield.

You likely noticed that Gibbs ran laps around D'Andre Swift as a receiver at the collegiate level. You should notice it; that is noteworthy. Christian McCaffrey did not draw targets at the highest per-route rate (26.7%) at the RB position in 2022. No, it wasn't Austin Ekeler (29.3%), either. D'Andre Swift led all RBs with a 29.7% target per route run rate in 2022. His career rate (26.5%) is the third-highest at the position since he entered the league in 2020.

The Lions have fed D'Andre Swift targets. With Swift now an imminent trade candidate, the path appears paved for Gibbs to immediately step into a huge receiving role.

In the scenario in which Swift is traded and the Lions enter 2023 with Gibbs and David Montgomery as their primary options at RB, here is how I would project the volume to be split between the two:

PlayerRush Att.Targets

David Montgomery



Jahmyr Gibbs



With this volume projection, Gibbs and Montgomery both bring the potential to finish as top-24 Fantasy RB in 2023 as long as they find the end zone at a reasonable rate. Detroit's RB group combined for a massive 27 touchdowns in 2022, the first season with Ben Johnson at offensive coordinator.

From a Dynasty perspective, the only running backs that I would unquestionably choose over Gibbs are Breece Hall, Jonathan Taylor, Bijan Robinson, and Christian McCaffrey. A top-12 draft capital and historic collegiate receiving production offer Gibbs access to unique upside. He's going to need to be an outlier to be highly productive at his weight, and the Detroit Lions clearly believe in his outlier ability.