By NFL standards, the running back position has been devalued in recent years. However, in the annual draft, there seems to be a guy who could be the rotational big-play guy, or one who screams “generational talent”.
Jahmyr Gibbs is a player in this year’s class that has a lot of teams thinking about their offense. Can he be the missing piece to a Lombardi Trophy?
While small in stature, Gibbs is big in production. The question resides in if that production is translatable from college to pro. When looking at the film though, thoughts of a three-down back are dancing in the minds of NFL GMs.
Age: 21 (March)
40-Yard Dash: 4.36
Jahmyr Gibbs is a RB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 8.06 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 339 out of 1740 RB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/X9fgE2xRbN pic.twitter.com/JKPUk1bOSM— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 18, 2023
Gibbs initially started out at Georgia Tech before bolting over to join Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. While Alabama didn’t vie for the National Championship this year, Gibbs was a big part of their 11-2 season.
While he was the primary back for the Yellow Jackets, he split time with Jace McClellan and even Bryce Young, who used his own athleticism from the quarterback position. Regardless of the college or conference, Gibbs has been electric.
A 5.6 yards per carry collegiate average, 23 total touchdowns in three years (15 rushing, eight receiving), as well as 3,344 yards from scrimmage brings both excitement and hesitation. “Why the latter,” you ask? He has split carries the past three seasons, which brings both hesitation and value to NFL teams.
Explosive. Versatile. Fast.
All of these traits regularly show up on Gibbs’ tape. I’m not one who is big on future professional comparisons, but when you hear his name in the same sentence with Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Charles and/or Chris Johnson, people need to take notice.
He catches the ball fluidly out of the backfield, namely on “angle routes”, turning them into long gains. Gibbs is also a home run hitter as a runner, often showing great vision and breakaway speed.
While he’s not a big guy, he was marginally successful in pass protection—especially given his size. Regardless, his NFL potential as a three-down back is palpable.
His biggest asset is “playing bigger than his size”. Gibbs routinely breaks tackles and rarely goes down on initial contact. That’s an asset every pro team covets.
Really, his slight stature is what affects a lot of aspects in Gibbs’ pro outlook. Can he hold up to NFL contact, blitzers and other larger defenders?
The production on limited collegiate touches is definitely intriguing, but the size and asks on Gibbs are what’s plaguing scouts at the next level. Does his three-down back prowess in the ACC and SEC translate in the pros, or is positive weight gain inevitable?
And, for those clamoring for the Bengals to use an early-round selection to fortify things, Gibbs may be an ancillary weapon in the offense right away. Hell, if the Bengals wanted more from the kick return game early in his career, Gibbs could fill that immediate role in the vein of Reggie Bush.
Still, Gibbs has a bit of refinement to undergo, while also proving that he can hold up on multiple downs on offense. Is he merely “lightning” to another back’s “thunder”, or can he bring both on regular basis as a pro?
Gibbs is one of the most explosive and intriguing players in the draft. And, while just turning 21 years old last month, the sky seems to be the limit.
However, a sub-200-pound running back in the NFL rarely has a long-term, three-down future. And, if you’re going to use a first or early second-round pick on a guy like that, you’d want that outlook—even if for one contract.
Still, for a team like the Bengals, who appear to be perennial AFC Championship Game attendees, this is the kind of swing-for-the-fence that could be afforded. And, despite uncertainty about the future of Joe Mixon, even if they keep No. 28 Gibbs could be eased in as a rotational big-play guy, with his age and potential growing pains.
Regardless, Gibbs will be a great asset to a number of offenses in the pros. If the Bengals spring for him in the first two rounds, it will be extremely telling about what they want to do at the position in the near future.