Was Jahmyr Gibbs the Right Pick for the Lions?

Jahmyr Gibbs went 12th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. Many felt the Detroit Lions should have selected a defensive player. Here's why the pick makes sense.

The Detroit Lions were one of the best feel-good stories of the 2022 NFL season. It was a season where the bluster from Dan Campbell needed to match the win-loss record. We knew, especially from Hard Knocks, that Campbell could get even Ben Stein’s character from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to get fired up. But when would it translate into wins?

In 2022, they finally had a winning season and came within a whisper of the playoffs. Jared Goff put up one of the best seasons of his career. But how do they keep that momentum going forward? The NFL Draft always provides an opportunity for roster improvement. The Lions had a top-15 pick. Did they use it wisely?

Lions Beef Up Running Back Room With Jahmyr Gibbs

Many expected that both of the Lions’ two top-20 first-round picks would be used on defense. That unit finished near the bottom of the league for a second consecutive season. It would make sense to bolster it with reinforcements, especially with the strong finish they managed to have to the season.

MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Lions GM Brad Holmes had other plans. With their first pick in the first round (No. 12 overall), the Lions selected Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs. This was a surprise to many who were expecting the other side of the ball to be a priority. But not only that, Bijan Robinson had widely been discussed as the only running back worthy of first-round consideration in this new era of devaluing the position.

Holmes defended the selection, saying,” If you believe that they can have an impact for you on the field, then you just go ahead and take them.”

Immediate questions emerged. Is Gibbs going to start? What about D’Andre Swift? How about David Montgomery, whom they just signed? Well, one of those questions got a near-immediate answer when Swift was subsequently traded. It now appears that Gibbs will be the presumed starter for the Lions, who add a complete running back to an already explosive offense.

Was Gibbs the Right Selection?

New Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs taking a carry in a game vs. Arkansas.
Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions’ offense was the best in the league in terms of scoring behavior for any team that had one quarterback for the entire season in 2022. They averaged 1.017 points per minute of possession time.

The issue, though, was possession time. They simply didn’t have the ball as much as other top teams. There are typically two reasons for that: They don’t control the clock enough, and their defense doesn’t get the ball back to them fast enough. Seventeen teams had more possession time in 2022 than the Lions.

MORE: Detroit Lions 2023 Schedule

One way to ensure clock control on offense is to have a running game that keeps drives moving at key moments. Detroit ranked 24th in the entire NFL in getting first downs by rushing the ball. Failing to be effective in short-yardage situations, or at least having confidence that you can be, can really limit your effectiveness.

Gibbs gives the Lions a complete back they simply did not have on the roster. Scouts all agreed that Gibbs was effective in the power game but could also be an asset in the passing attack. In Gibbs’ scouting report, PFN’s Ian Cummings stated, “At his maximum, Gibbs can be an offensive weapon similar in caliber and style to Jamaal Charles. He has the same speed, burst, play pace, and two-phase ability.”

Adding Gibbs to the roster brought a new and consistent element to the Lions’ offense that will help them continue to be explosive.

Additionally, the way the Lions finished the season on defense probably gave the team encouragement to go best player available in that spot. Prior to their bye week, Detroit was yielding 1.1 points per minute of opponent possession time, giving them the worst score-prevention behavior in football.

But after the bye week, the improvement was obvious. That number decreased by 55% in the succeeding 10 games to close the season. More than that, though, was the trend. Week over week, they were giving up 33% fewer points per minute than the previous week. They likely had more confidence in their defense for 2023 than the public, and the offense was the beneficiary.

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