RB Jahmyr Gibbs
TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – NOVEMBER 26: Jahmyr Gibbs #1 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes against Caleb Wooden #21 of the Auburn Tigers during the second half at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Do the Patriots need another running back, after taking two in the draft last year? Not really. Might they be tempted to take Gibbs anyway? It’s possible.
Alabama’s offense was, in some ways, similar to the 2022 Patriots offense. Because of the young, inexperienced players at the top of the depth chart at skill positions, Alabama’s offense adapted by relying even more heavily on the running back position that it had in the past. But even at that position, the players on the depth chart didn’t have a ton of in-game experience besides Gibbs, who had transferred from Georgia Tech in the spring.
With that, much of the workload fell on Gibbs’ shoulders. Not only was he the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 151 times in 12 games for 926 yards (6.1 per carry) and seven touchdowns, he also was Alabama’s leading receiver with 44 catches for 444 yards and three touchdowns. He was one of only three running backs in college football this year to finish the season with PFF rushing and receiving grades over 80, joining Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh and Oklahoma’s Eric Gray.
If that sounds familiar, it should. Rhamondre Stevenson ended up in a similar role in New England this season, with one of the most expansive workloads for a running back in the Bill Belichick era.
Gibbs even carries the ball in a similar style to Stevenson. He’s a bit smaller at 6-foot, 200 pounds but isn’t afraid to initiate contact as a ball carrier. His standout trait though is his explosiveness in and out of cuts. When he puts his foot into the ground to change direction, he explodes out and regularly leaves defenders grasping at air.
Would O’Brien be interested in pairing Gibbs with Stevenson in the Patriots’ backfield, in order to cut into that significant workload? It’s becoming a popular trend in the NFL for teams to pair to similar running backs together in the backfield. With that, teams are covered in terms of depth, can keep both players relatively fresh, and prevents the offense from becoming too predictable based on which running back is on the field (something that’s been an issue for the Patriots in the past). Teams like the Bengals, Chiefs, Jaguars, Dolphins, and Browns, have all found success with this format.
The problem? Gibbs is currently projected to go late in the first or early in the second round. That’s way too high for a running back. But running back’s values – especially those high in the draft – tend to fall as the pre-draft process goes on. If he’s on the board late in the second round, it could become a discussion.