* - How well does his skill set carry over
to the fantasy game? For running backs, a player needs to be a
three-down option as well as a realistic threat for 1,000 rushing
yards and 500 receiving yards to be a candidate for a perfect
grade. Positional scarcity at the pro level is also a part of
Gibbs is at a different level than most backs in terms of his
burst, explosiveness, quickness, elusiveness, patience and speed.
The Georgia Tech transfer usually only needs one step before he
is seemingly at full speed and off to the races. His ability to
make full-speed cuts (or near-full speed) often leaves defenders
grabbing air in the open field. Gibbs has also been coached well
to set up his blocks behind the line of scrimmage, which only makes
him harder to corral when he steps on the gas. His timed speed at
the NFL combine (4.36) shows up repeatedly on his film, almost to
the point is hard to believe he only had 15 carries of 15-plus yards
in 2022 (still a solid number for a back who finished with 151 carries).
Perhaps his best feature is what he can add as a receiver. Pro Football
Focus credited him with only two drops on 103 catchable targets
over his college career, but that only tells part of the story.
Because he is so sudden and good in open space, he profiles as a
potential game-breaker in the screen game and anytime the scheme
or play call can isolate him on a linebacker. (Per PFF, his 25 receptions
of 15-plus yards and 39 forced missed tackles on catches led all
running backs over the last three seasons.)
Any running back prospect entering the league weighing in the
200-pound range has the odds stacked again him when it comes to
running with power. The same can especially be said about their
durability. As shifty and elusive as Gibbs is in the open field,
he is almost as average as it gets running inside or running with
power. If the run play calls for him to run between the tackles
and he has to win the physical battle with the defender in the hole,
he will usually lose that battle. Considering how much of his game
is based on his quickness and speed, it is unlikely he will be able
to add enough mass to his frame in the coming years to change that
part of his game. (To his credit, he shows a willingness to lower
his shoulder on inside runs.) If that ends up being the case, then
there is little chance he will be used much in short-yardage or
goal-line situations. Gibbs found himself in a limited number of
contact balance situations, but the results were not usually favorable
when he did. Alabama did not ask him to block very often (which
stands to reason since he is slightly undersized and the Crimson
Tide did not have their usual talent at receiver in 2022), but Gibbs
did not show a great deal of willingness, ability to anchor or correctly
identify who to pick up.
There should be little doubt Gibbs will be a difference-maker
in the passing game in the NFL. The question is how much he adds
to an offense on top of that. He is a better prospect than James
Cook was last season and should not struggle to be his team's
primary back on passing downs right away, especially for a team/offensive
coordinator that cares more about creating matchups and less about
keeping his back in to block in those situations. His inability
to get much done in between the tackles and lack of contact balance
is what makes the commonly used Alvin Kamara comps hard to understand
- he is more explosive but far less physical than (and lacks the
incredible contact balance of) the Saints' stud running back.
While size is far from the end-all and be-all when it comes to
evaluating running backs and their potential at the next level,
there are relatively few that can handle the punishment of being
a lead back - much less a featured one - at his size. Even if
is able to add about 10 pounds of muscle without losing any of
his quickness or speed (which seems unlikely), it could be a tall
order. So, how much do teams value a back who may not exceed 10
carries very often but is a threat to take it to the house every
time he touches the ball?
Is a matchup nightmare with little shot of handling more than
150 carries in a season anytime soon worth a second-round pick?
The Bills thought so last year, and it seems likely another team
would have grabbed Cook shortly thereafter if Buffalo didn't.
The same could be said for D'Andre Swift and Detroit in 2020.
The difference right now is that Gibbs is probably more Cook than
Swift - the latter of which has struggled to stay healthy as a
pro despite being more powerful and carrying 13 more pounds than
Gibbs. Cook is unlikely to be a lead back in Buffalo with Damien
Harris now in the fold, and it should come as no surprise if Gibbs
ends up in a similar situation. Georgia Tech and Alabama were
wise never to let him handle more than 151 carries in a season.
It is likely NFL teams will think likewise. As such, Gibbs should
be considered a back who will likely exceed 50 catches multiple
times in his career but is unlikely to push much past 200 total
touches very often.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured
in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He
is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst
on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM’s
“Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.