The first round of the Detroit Lions’ 2023 NFL Draft was a whirlwind. The team was widely panned for breaking one of the analytics crowd’s cardinal rules: drafting a running back in the first round. Not only did they do that, but they were the second team to do that—acquiring Jahmyr Gibbs—who many believed to not even be the best back in the class.
While there is plenty of data to support why the Lions’ pick of Gibbs is—at the very least—risky, we chatted with Georgia Tech writer Kelly Quinlan of JacketsOnline.com this week to discuss Gibbs and why the Lions were not crazy to invest such high draft capital in the player. His argument can basically be split into three points. The first: sometimes it’s better to just get the player you believe in rather than focusing on maximizing the value of your pick.
“(My friend and I) had this long discussion about it, and I was like, ‘If you think he’s as special as we all did watching him, I think I understand why they did it,’” Quinlan said. “Given the way the draft was unfolding and who was on the board at that point, if you didn’t feel you could trade back (again), it made sense. It got really weird the way the draft unfolded at that point, so you don’t know.
“I think there’s too much of premium placed on, ‘Do I draft this guy eighth or 12th? Am I going to get what I want out of that.’ And people are wondering what you’re up to, but it’s better sometimes to just go for it and get the guy you want.”
Quinlan also argues that a player like Gibbs is not your traditional running back. His receiving skills make him a better fit in today’s NFL. In fact, he thinks there may be a resurgence of running back value for players like Gibbs.
“It’s clear that there’s a value placed on these guys that can do a little bit of everything,” Quinlan said. “If you’re just a pure running back—a guy that’s going to catch just like 20 balls and run for 1,500 yards—that’s the third or fourth round pick. I think these guys that can return kicks, they can play as a slot receiver in some way and are very versatile in how they can line up, I think those are the guys who have that first-round value.”
Finally, there were rumors that the Lions actually preferred Gibbs to Bijan Robinson and were prepared to take him sixth overall. Robinson was almost the unanimously better back according to most draft experts, but Quinlan—who knows Texas ball since his family graduated from UT—actually prefers Gibbs’ game, as well.
“I was always more impressed with Gibbs watching the two of them, all things being equal and (considering) who they’re playing against regularly,” Quinlan said.
You can catch our entire conversation in the podcast embedded below, as we break down everything about Gibbs’ game, his commitment to Georgia Tech over other big schools, his best game performance, and why he ultimately decided to transfer to Alabama.