Detroit Lions running backs disrespected in Pro Football Focus ranking


The Detroit Lions absolutely upgraded their running back group this offseason, but they've been blatantly disrespected in Pro Football Focus' positional ranking.

Even the staunchest Jamaal Williams or D'Andre Swift truthers have to acknowledge one thing. The Detroit Lions upgraded their running back group this offseason by signing David Montgomery and drafting Jahmyr Gibbs.

Gibbs obviously hasn't played a game yet, but let's not act like Swift is a massive loss. Montgomery is an unquestioned talent upgrade over Williams, and he's likely a parallel "culture" fit for those who things like that matter to.

The upgrade in backfield skill is an enticing prospect for a Lions' offense that was pretty good last year. Montgomery and Gibbs could be on the field at the same time frequently, in a way it just never fully came to fruition with Williams and Swift.

Detroit Lions running backs disrespected in Pro Football Focus ranking

Because it's that time of year for those who cover the NFL, Pro Football Focus has been rolling out their rankings of position groups in the league. Writer Gordon McGuinness handled the ranking of the running back units recently.

1-5 is the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Tennesee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. 6-10 is the Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys. 11-15 is the Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, New York Jets and New Orleans Saints.

Finally, the Lions come in at No. 16.

"Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery replace D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams atop the Lions' depth chart at the position. The team made Gibbs the 12th overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, with the speedster producing 81.0 or better PFF rushing grades in all three college seasons at both Alabama and Georgia Tech. He forced 19 missed tackles on 44 receptions in his final season at Alabama, too, so he figures to be a factor both as a runner and receiver right away. Montgomery has just one season with a PFF rushing grade above 80.0 to his name in the NFL but has never seen that grade drop below 65.0 in his four seasons in the league so is fine in a complementary role."

Lack of proven depth behind a star or lead back was used as a demerit in some cases (the Browns), or not even mentioned in others (the Cowboys).

Montgomery may not be a star by the definition we favor, but playing for the Bears will do that to you. He has had 200-plus carries in all four seasons of his career, and he was an under-utilized passing game weapon in Chicago. Gibbs did what he did, by PFF rushing grade and passing game production, playing in the SEC last year.

A strong case can be made for the Lions (Montgomery and Gibbs) to be higher than the No. 13 Texans (Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary). The No. 11 Ravens (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards) also look a little overranked. Montgomery/Gibbs should at least be higher than the No. 15 Saints (Alvin Kamara, Williams, rookie Kendre Miller), right?

It's unknown how much, if at all, players pay attention to rankings like this. But Montgomery and Gibbs have been ranked lower than they should be among NFL running back units by PFF, and the chance to prove it where it matters (on the field) is in front of them.