The term "league winner" is thrown around too liberally at times in fantasy football circles. But we can say Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown fit the label with his run late in his 2021 rookie season.
Before this season, as part of a general prediction about drafting running backs early paying off, Joel Ybarra of Player Profiler put Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs in a "potential league-winner" category with a couple notable backs.
"This year, it will turn out to be a winning strategy to follow the pattern of teams who have invested significant draft capital and draft McCaffrey and Bijan (yes, a rookie RB in the first round). Gibbs can be had two rounds later – near pick 30. All three have league-winning potential."
Patience was a definite virtue for those who drafted Gibbs in fantasy. Even if it was a small, and seemingly ever-dwindling, subset who had said patience.
In two games David Montgomery missed (Week 7 and Week 8), Gibbs had 20 and 31 touches respectively and finished as the RB3 and RB1 in full-point PPR. With Montgomery back in Week 10 and Week 11, Gibbs still finished as the RB2 and RB3 in full-point PPR while still playing between 55 and 60 percent of the snaps. Over the Week 7-Week 11 stretch, Gibbs was the RB1 in full PPR and if not for Gus Edwards' recent touchdown outburst he would've been the RB1 in standard and 0.5-point PPR too over that span.
Fantasy Football: Preseason prediction that Jahmyr Gibbs would be a league-winner might just come to fruition
Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers was a down day for the Lions, and Gibbs finished with 11.3 fantasy points (full PPR, 54 rushing yards and four catches for 19 yards). Based on Week 11's results, he may still finish Week 12 as a top 20-25 running back for the week.
Using Yahoo! 0.5-point PPR scoring, here's how the Lions' remaining opponents entered Week 12 in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs (1-32, from most generous to least generous).
Week 13, New Orleans Saints: 29th
Week 14, Chicago Bears: 9th
Week 15, vs. Denver Broncos: 1st
Week 16, at Minnesota Vikings: 25th
Week 17, at Dallas Cowboys: 27th
Week 18, vs. Minnesota Vikings: 25th
The Bears have been generous to opposing running backs in the passing game, allowing the second-most receptions, the most receiving yards and tied for the most receiving touchdowns to the position. The Broncos are bottom-10 (most generous) in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns allowed to running backs. The Vikings are bottom-10 in receptions allowed to the position. All three teams have their Week 12 game to play as of this writing.
Montgomery's presence naturally takes away a chunk of Gibbs' fantasy upside. But he has remained heavily involved, and has gotten a portion of the red zone/goal line work with both backs healthy.
Gibbs probably won't finish as the fantasy RB1 for a week from here on out this season. But the weekly floor is RB2 range, with better impact in PPR formats. And that, with a decent-looking playoff schedule (Week 15-17), on the assumption the Cowboys' game is high-scoring, might just actually make Gibbs a league-winning player.