After taking Jahmyr Gibbs No. 12 overall in this year’s draft, the Detroit Lions are lapping much of the field in draft capital spent on running backs in recent years.
Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes said he was not against the idea of drafting a running back in the first round, then he proved it by taking Jahmyr Gibbs No. 12 overall in this year’s draft.
It was obviously the last draft of the previous regime, but the now-departed D’Andre Swift was the 35th overall pick in the 2020 draft by the Lions. In 2018, the Lions used a second-round pick (No. 43). So three times in the last six drafts, the Lions have used a top-45 pick on a running back. So much for the perception of positional value in the NFL, and not using high picks on running backs.
Not that Holmes cares much about things like that since he became the Lions’ general manager.
Detroit Lions lapping the field in draft capital used on running backs
Since 2018, according to the chart below fron Ben Baldwin, the Lions have spent more draft capital on running backs than any other NFL team. Besides Gibbs, Swift and Kerryon Johnson, they have also drafted Ty Johnson (sixth round, No. 186, overall, 2019) and Jermar Jefferson (seventh round, pick No. 257, 2021) over that span.
This chart was done through pick No. 52 of this year’s draft (in the fine print of the chart). The Seattle Seahawks (second on the chart) took UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet there.
The Seahawks are the only other team much over 150 in Baldwin’s metric valuing draft capital spent on running backs since 2018. They have spent a top-52 pick on a running back in back-to-back years now (Kenneth Walker, No. 41 overall in 2022), with a first-round pick on one in 2018 (Rashaad Penny, No. 27 overall). If not for them, the Lions would be lapping the entire field in draft capital spent on the running back position over the last six drafts.
Zigging when others zag is not necessarily a bad thing, if it works. Using early picks on running backs has not worked out too well for the Lions lately, and going back to Barry Sanders really. Maybe Gibbs can shift that narrative.