The running back position in the 2023 NFL Draft is remarkably deep and talented. There are probably fifteen or twenty runners who could land in the top 10 in most drafts.
However, the value of the running back position as a whole has decreased over the last decade or so. That isn’t because runners have gotten less talented, but because the NFL has gotten very good at extracting value from running backs without them necessarily being elite prospects. But when a good — or elite — prospect comes around modern offenses are able to turn them into dangerous playmakers.
Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs is one such prospect, who seems almost custom built for a modern NFL offense. Gibbs is an electric runner in a zone scheme who’s a big play threat any time he touches the ball, and he’s also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield or as a receiver.
The New York Giants feature a highly creative offense that made great use of the two-back “pony” package. Could Gibbs help their offense if the value is right?
Prospect: Jahmyr Gibbs (1)
Games Watched: vs. Texas (2022), vs. Tennessee (2022), vs. LSU (2022), vs. Auburn (2022)
Games Played: 31
Yards (YPC): 2,132 (5.6 per catch)
Yards (YPC): 1,212 (11.8 per catch)
Touchdowns: 23 (15 rushing, 8 receiving)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 926 (6.1 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 444 (10.1 per catch)
Touchdowns: 10 (7 rushing, 3 receiving)
Best: Quickness, agility, speed, cutback ability, receiving, vision
Worst: Size, play strength, pass protection
Projection: A starting or important rotational running back in a West Coast or Spread offense.
Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs is a quick, athletic, and explosive running back prospect.
Gibbs is a very versatile running back who should be a true offensive weapon as both a runner and receiver. Gibbs primarily played out of the shotgun formation, though he also lined up behind the quarterback in the pistol set as well. He runs with good patience and tempo behind the line of scrimmage, giving his blockers time to establish their blocks before pressing the line of scrimmage. Gibbs also has great vision throughout the rep. He uses his path behind the line of scrimmage to help manipulate defenders and create rushing lanes for himself. He does a good job of pressing the line of scrimmage before using a quick cut to access his intended rushing lane and exploding through.
Gibbs has very good vision and is able to track and anticipate defenders at the second and third levels of the defense. His agility and explosiveness allow him to exploit quick-closing holes, while his long speed forces bad angles from defenders.
He is at his best when executing outside zone runs, using his vision and acceleration to pick from a menu of cutback lanes. His ability to quickly change rushing lanes and force bad angles makes him a very frustrating runner to defend.
Gibbs is also an excellent receiver. Not only is he a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, able to hurt teams on angle or wheel routes, flaring out for swing passes, or on screen plays, but he is also capable of motioning out to play a true receiver role. He was frequently split out as a slot or even true wide receiver and was able to exploit match-ups against safeties or linebackers from that alignment. Gibbs is a nuanced route runner from the backfield or as a receiver. He’s precise in his breaks and understands how to press his routes vertically before breaking back toward the ball. He is also a natural “hands” catcher who presents a good target for the quarterback, frames the ball well, and extends to grab the ball away from his frame. Gibbs tucks the ball away quickly and has a great burst to rack up yards after the catch. He’s particularly dangerous when he’s able to catch the ball in-stride and conserve his momentum down the field.
He doesn’t have many weaknesses in his game, but his size and play strength could be concerning to teams. Gibbs is by no means a weak running back, but he does have a noticeable lack of size compared to the defenders against whom he’s often matched. He has a limited catch radius as a receiver and he can be brought down relatively easily if a defender is able to get a clean hit on him. He also lacks the ability to push the pile or be particularly stout in pass protection. Teams could view him as a rotational back or a 3rd down specialist, which might hurt his draft stock overall.
Overall Grade: 8.2
Jahmyr Gibbs projects as an important rotational runner, with the upside to be a starter in the right situation.
Gibbs’ ceiling is the highest in an offense that’s grounded in West Coast or Spread principles and makes frequent use of the running back in the passing game. He is a natural catcher of the ball and has as much upside as a receiver as he does a runner. Gibbs is a very athletic runner with great agility, quickness, acceleration, speed, and vision. Those all translate to his play as a receiver as well, in addition to his route running and natural hands.
He also offers upside as a kick returner, averaging 23.9 yards on 44 returns in 2021 and 2022, and has two touchdowns to his credit as well.
Teams that emphasize power run games will likely look elsewhere for a primary running back and could look at Gibbs as a “third down only” back, and value him accordingly. Likewise, he might not be a good fit for teams that run man-gap blocking schemes, as they don’t allow him to emphasize his cutback ability.
That said, Gibbs has the potential to be a dangerous weapon for the majority of NFL teams, and he could be a Rookie of The Year candidate if a team schemes to his strengths.