Washington Commanders running back Antonio Gibson was a popular breakout candidate entering the 2021 season. However, while Gibson did become the clear lead back, his fantasy football production did not improve. What is Gibson’s outlook for the 2022 season, and should fantasy managers target him at his current ADP in fantasy football drafts?
Editor’s Update (8/28): Per several medial outlets, Commanders’ RB Brian Robinson is in stable condition after being shot as the victim of an attempted robbery, sources say. We will have more updates as information becomes available.
Antonio Gibson’s fantasy outlook for 2022
I was all-in on Gibson entering the 2021 season. If I picked on the back-end in fantasy drafts, Gibson was the guy I wanted. After averaging 14.4 PPR fantasy points per game as a rookie, I fully expected him to propel himself past the threshold of 16 ppg, which usually indicates an RB1 performance. Instead, Gibson stagnated.
So, how did it happen? First, we had the increase in volume lead to a decrease in efficiency. Gibson’s yards per carry dropped from 4.7 as a rookie to 4.0 as a sophomore. Second, his passing-game usage did not progress. Despite being a converted wide receiver, the Commanders seem content to use Gibson as a two-down runner, electing to go with J.D. McKissic on passing downs.
Gibson never hit 20 routes run in a single game last season. He averaged just 3.25 targets per game. For context, McKissic had three games where he ran 23, 25, and 30 routes. He averaged 4.8 targets per game despite a mere 45% snap share, well behind Gibson’s 56%.
The Commanders certainly didn’t have what anyone would describe as a good offense last season. Nevertheless, Gibson was able to score 10 total touchdowns, just one fewer than the 11 he scored as a rookie. Based on Gibson’s performance, there’s really not much we can project to improve. If he ever wants to ascend to RB1 levels, he will either need to post an outlier-efficient season or see an increase in receiving work.
How the Commanders’ depth chart impacts Antonio Gibson’s fantasy projection for the season
There are some positives to discuss. The Commanders traded for Carson Wentz. While Wentz is by no means a great quarterback, he’s at least an upgrade on the medley of misfits the former Football Team deployed over the past couple of seasons. Wentz gives the position a stabilizing force.
Additionally, it should be noted that last season the Colts targeted their running backs 22.9% of the time, the seventh-highest rate in the league. With this in mind, Wentz’s presence should lead to more targets for the running backs, especially given the Commanders’ wide receiver situation.
Terry McLaurin had a very inconsistent 2021 season, and Logan Thomas is coming off a torn ACL. Meanwhile, Curtis Samuel has yet to prove he can stay on the field, and Jahan Dotson is a rookie. This is an offense that projects to need its running backs to produce in the passing game. That’s all great news for fantasy. Yet, the risk is that it will be great news for McKissic.
Gibson has a three-down skill set
We know Gibson can be a three-down back. We also know he can be an effective receiver. When Gibson is featured that way, he’s been an RB1. In his five games played without McKissic, Gibson has averaged 4.6 targets per game and 16.9 ppg. In his 25 games with McKissic, he’s averaged just 3.1 targets per game and 14.4 ppg.
The hope in drafting Gibson is the Commanders either marginalize McKissic, electing to use Gibson more, or McKissic is forced to miss time. Absent one of these two things, Gibson’s best-case scenario is likely the same as it was in 2020 and 2021.
There’s one other wrinkle we need to discuss: Brian Robinson Jr. The Commanders drafted Robinson in the third round. While I’m not particularly fond of Robinson as a talent, we can’t deny what we’ve seen.
Initially, I viewed Robinson as more of an upgrade on Jaret Patterson than a threat to Gibson. But new information has changed that. More recently, it seems as if Robinson could not only eat into Gibson’s workload but potentially take his job. It may have already happened with Robinson starting the second preseason game and getting pulled before Gibson.
Day 3 draft capital matters. However, we’ve seen a lot of third-round running backs just not be used by their teams over the past few years. Here are some recent third-round picks at running back: Trey Sermon (2021), Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Darrynton Evans (2020), Damien Harris and Alexander Mattison (2019), and Royce Freeman (2018). Yes, there were other third-round picks that were productive, but the point is that drafting a running back in the third round doesn’t automatically mean he will matter as a rookie.
At the same time, Gibson himself was a third-round pick, so it’s not as if he has some sort of status advantage over Robinson. It’s possible training camp noise is just that, and Robinson is not a threat to Gibson. However, it’s difficult not to grow concerned about Gibson heading into 2022 fantasy drafts.
Gibson’s ADP for 2022
Gibson’s ADP is a bit tricky to describe. For most of the summer, he was going inside the top 24 running backs. Since there were so many drafts with him around that ADP, Gibson’s recent tumble is unlikely to be accurately reflected in total ADP data.
More recently, with talks about Robinson taking goal-line and short-yardage work, Gibson’s ADP has dropped considerably. I would expect him to fall outside the top 60 overall.
There is a point where I will draft (almost) every player. Gibson is no different. With Gibson, though, I’m not quite sure where that is.
At one point, Gibson was firmly inside my top 24 running backs. In my most recent rankings update, I moved him outside the top 36.
There’s certainly a world where Gibson smashes that ADP. He is still a very talented player. He just seems to have fallen out of favor with his coaching staff. It can be hard to recover from that, especially if Robinson continues to look good. As a result, I’m passing on Gibson unless I get an extreme discount or he’s only a couple of bucks in an auction.