Fantasy Football 2023: Why Jahmyr Gibbs won’t be waiting in the wings for too long

2RTJX55 Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs (26) runs against the Kansas City Chiefs during an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

• Cause for concern? Fantasy managers, particularly those who roster Jahmyr Gibbs, were left reeling when the Lions' first-round pick was given only nine touches against the Chiefs in Week 1.

• Impressive on a limited workload: Gibbs was on the field for just 27% of the Lions' offensive snaps in Week 1, playing just 19 snaps in total. He touched the ball nine times in those 19 snaps and made every moment count, carrying the ball seven times for 42 yards and adding two catches for another 18 yards.

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes


The Detroit Lions pulled off a shock in the 2023 season opener, defeating the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs 21-20 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The game itself wasn’t a classic, and both offenses left a lot of meat on the bone — understandable early in the season as teams try to find their groove — but we left the first game of the year deep in the discourse.

Fantasy managers, particularly those who roster Jahmyr Gibbs, were left reeling when the Lions' first-round pick was given only nine touches against the Chiefs. He carried the ball seven times for 42 yards and added two catches for 18 yards.

Rushing
Detroit Lions — Week 1
Player Fantasy Car Yds YPC TD Long Fum Lost
Jared Goff 14.0 5 -1 -0.2 0 2 0
David Montgomery 13.4 21 74 3.5 1 8 0
Jahmyr Gibbs 8.0 7 42 6.0 0 18 0
Jalen Reeves-Maybin 0.3 1 3 3.0 0 3 0
Receiving
Detroit Lions — Week 1
Player Fantasy Tgt Rec Yds YPT YPR TD
Amon-Ra St. Brown 19.1 9 6 71 7.9 11.8 1
Josh Reynolds 12.0 7 4 80 11.4 20.0 0
Sam LaPorta 8.9 5 5 39 7.8 7.8 0
Jahmyr Gibbs 8.0 2 2 18 9.0 9.0 0
Brock Wright 3.7 2 2 17 8.5 8.5 0
Kalif Raymond 3.0 1 1 20 20.0 20.0 0
Marvin Jones Jr. 1.8 6 2 8 1.3 4.0 0

Gibbs flashed his ability, but David Montgomery served as the Lions’ bell cow in Week 1, carrying the ball 21 times for a relatively inefficient yet effective 3.5 yards per carry.

The performance sparked fears that the Lions drafted Gibbs so highly with no intention of utilizing him in such a capacity, likely a reactionary feeling after what happened with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams in 2022.

Swift waltzed into the 2022 season as one of the top backs off the board in fantasy drafts and was a top-five running back in dynasty. However, his performances didn’t match or warrant the prestige. He was a big play threat with the ball in his hands, but a lack of great vision and injuries held him to just 99 carries, with the bulk of the workload going to Williams.

Despite the concerns, there should still be a ton of confidence in Gibbs and the role he’ll grow into as the season moves forward, even if the early returns are leaving managers with a little caution.

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Gibbs was on the field for just 27% of the Lions' offensive snaps in Week 1, playing just 19 snaps in total. He touched the ball nine times in those 19 snaps and made every moment count, carrying the ball seven times for 42 yards and adding two catches for another 18 yards. That’s 6.7 yards per touch — nice and efficient. He did well to make the most of his opportunities and earned a 78.8 overall grade, eighth among all running backs in Week 1.

Look beyond the raw numbers, though, and you’ll be just as impressed. Gibbs averaged 0.87 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt — that number led all running backs in Week 1 — as he forced six missed tackles on nine touches. His 4.86 yards after contact per attempt and two rushes of 10 yards or more were among the best marks of the week.

He was touted as an explosive runner who could make players miss in a phone booth, and that showed up as advertised in Week 1. But he ran a route on just nine of Jared Goff‘s 37 dropbacks, which should increase as the season progresses.

The obvious concern is eating into the Montgomery carries. The Lions see a clear role for Montgomery as the lead back right now, and sometimes following the money is the best way to find out what a team is telling you. Giving Montgomery a three-year $18 million contract with $11 million guaranteed is an indication that he’ll have a big part to play with the team, at least this season.

Jahmyr Gibbs: Percentile ranks at the RB position's most stable and predictive metrics. Data from Gibbs' entire college career.

The flip side, though, is that teams don’t — or at least shouldn’t — spend a top-12 pick on a running back unless they have serious plans for him. Gibbs is fresher and more explosive than Montgomery. There’s less wear on the tires, and explosiveness out of a run game is conducive to an efficient offense.

Extrapolating one game across an entire season isn’t smart. There’s just a lack of variables to account for. Over a full season, Gibbs likely won’t average 6.0 yards per carry, and Montgomery likely won't average 3.5 yards per carry. But as their roles adjust, the need for volume or efficiency will change. Gibbs won’t have to generate his points purely through explosive plays — as the season goes on, his volume will increase.

That’s something you can bank on, too. Dan Campbell made a point of saying that Gibbs will get more touches moving forward. He just wanted him to get a feel of the NFL out of the gate rather than throwing him in the deep end.

That’s probably what matters the most, too. The numbers and data are great; they tell the story of a special running back who can run and catch out of the backfield while having an array of moves, but getting that sort of distinction for the head coach matters, too.

Campbell and the Lions know what they have in Gibbs. It might have been a frustrating Week 1 for fantasy managers, but the early weeks don’t matter nearly as much as the back half of the season in fantasy football — much like its real-life counterpart. There’s room for Montgomery and Gibbs in the Lions backfield, but as the weeks go on, we’ll watch Gibbs grow more into this offense.

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