Jahmyr Gibbs gets quickly placed among the best running backs in NFL

Just one season into his career, NFL executives have already put Jahmyr Gibbs among the best running backs in the NFL.
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Jahmyr Gibbs had an excellent rookie season for the Detroit Lions last year, rushing for 945 yards (5.2 yards per carry) with over 50 receptions and 11 total touchdowns. Topping 900 rushing yards with double-digit scores on the ground whole averaging over 5.0 yards per carry put him in some select company of rookie running backs so far this century, and more could be in store this year.

ESPN started to roll out their positional rankings for this year, as determined by a poll of NFL executives, coaches and scouts. Running backs were first up on Monday. No. 1 is obvious (Christian McCaffrey). Gibbs landed at No. 8, with one evaluator ranking him third and another not ranking him in the top-10 at all. It's worth noting that only McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley (No. 4 in the ranking) were the only two unanimous selections in the top-10.

Regarding Gibbs, an AFC executive was quoted as part of their evaluation.

"Change of pace. Fast. Elusive. Versatile," an AFC executive said. "Dynamic in the pass game. Not a typical North-South runner you love in a run-heavy offense, but he can break explosive plays at the snap of a finger, which is scary in our league."

Gibbs' 5.2 yards per carry average last year (fifth in the league) was backed by top-10 numbers in yards after contact per rush (2.5; second) and broken tackles (21; tied for ninth). ESPN also noted two other areas Gibbs was dominant last year.

"Gibbs averaged 5.4 yards per carry out of shotgun formations, which is the best among running backs. He also led the league when rushing to the right side (6.3)."

Packers running back somehow lands ahead of Jahmyr Gibbs in ESPN RB ranking

It's awesome that Gibbs has already been placed among the best running backs in the NFL by a sampling of evaluators. Draftmate Bijan Robinson, who praised Gibbs very highly early this offseason, came in at No. 6.

But Green Bay Packers running back Josh Jacobs, coming off a down 2023 campaign for the Las Vegas Raiders, comes in at No. 7. The lean there seemed to be toward Jacobs as a more traditional workhorse who can "punish you in the fourth quarter" (that's part of a quote from an offensive coach).

Gibbs is also just one season into his career, while Jacobs has a five-season resume. Jacobs was third in last year's ranking, when he was coming off leading the league in rushing in 2022.

Lions fans will find some fuel for ire with Jacobs being ranked higher than Gibbs here. But that should not distract from Gibbs being voted as one the best running backs in the league after just one season.