The Detroit Lions surprised NFL Draft experts last week by selecting Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, a running back, with the No. 12 overall pick. While the pick was a surprise, betting markets and Lions General Manager Brad Holmes anticipate the speedster making an impact for the NFC North favorites in 2023.
“He’s right now, he’s Day 1 … we expect him to make an immediate impact,” Holmes told the media.
FanDuel Sportsbook, one of the mobile sportsbooks available in Michigan, lists Gibbs at +900 to win the Associated Press’ Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Gibbs has the fifth-shortest odds of any player to win the award at FanDuel, and he’s tied with Seattle wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba for the second-shortest odds among non-quarterbacks.
Running back Bijan Robinson is the betting favorite at +300, with quarterbacks Bryce Young (+400), CJ Stroud (+700), and Anthony Richardson (+700) close behind.
The case for Gibbs
Detroit’s offensive line is expected to be among the best in the NFL, and the Lions saw a need at running back. While they added David Montgomery in the offseason, they also recently traded D’Andre Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles. Swift, despite impressive athletic traits, never quite fit into Detroit’s offense in recent years in part due to frequent injuries.
With Swift out of the picture, Montgomery and Gibbs are likely to receive the bulk of carries this season. Gibbs is also expected to contribute as a receiver, as he’s received comparisons to Saints running back Alvin Kamara and caught 44 passes for Alabama a season ago.
Brad Holmes shared his belief in his first round picks:
On Jahmyr Gibbs: "We didn't acquire a running back in the first round. We acquired an elite weapon to keep our offense explosive."
On Jack Campbell: "We acquired a legit anchor to elevate our defense." pic.twitter.com/mOV4WpvTMA
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) April 30, 2023
“Throughout high school I played receiver and running back, so it’s pretty natural for me,” Gibbs said.
It’s worth noting that Holmes told the media he took notice of Gibbs in Alabama’s narrow win over Texas. In the game, Gibbs only tallied 22 rushing yards on nine carries, but he caught nine passes for 74 yards. Given his likely contributions in the passing game — which could be expanded in the early season with Jameson Williams suspended — Gibbs will likely garner significant attention during PPR fantasy league drafts.
As for Gibbs’ Rookie of the Year case, it likely depends in part on Detroit’s on-field success. If the Lions win the NFC North (+150 at BetRivers) and Gibbs is a key piece offensively, it’s easy to see how AP voters could fall in love with his candidacy for Rookie of the Year.
Other Lions with ROY potential
Detroit’s draft haul provided the team with several players likely to compete immediately for starting jobs. Sam LaPorta, a tight end from Iowa, should have a chance to earn a starting job from Day 1. FanDuel gives LaPorta +6000 odds to win Rookie of the Year.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker has +5000 odds to win the award, but he’s a much riskier bet. Jared Goff played well at the end of last season, and he’s the projected starting quarterback for Detroit. While Hooker could eventually earn the starting job, he’s in the process of recovering from an ACL tear and it’s unlikely the Lions even have a competition for the starting job this fall.
“He’s got to get healthy,” Holmes told the media. “He’s got to develop. … I think he’s in a good situation where he can learn, he can develop, he can get healthy.”
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Jack Campbell (+1800) and safety Brian Branch (+2300) are possible Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates. Campbell has a path to immediate playing time, as linebacker is a position of relative weakness for Detroit. Campbell is a tackling machine with impressive athletic traits, and it’s likely he’ll at least be a rotational piece for the Lions in Week 1.
Jack Campbell was drafted with pick 18 of round 1 in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.98 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 6 out of 2652 LB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/sWzO6iHaPc pic.twitter.com/TJbkuiqoP7
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 28, 2023
“He is a Detroit guy,” Kelvin Sheppard, the Lions’ linebackers coach, told the media last week. “He is a Dan Campbell guy. He’s a culture fit immediately.”
As for Branch, his versatility is one of his best assets. While he may not start immediately, he can play corner and safety, which means he figures to see at least some playing time in 2023. If he gets thrust into a large role, he could be in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Houston’s Will Anderson, a defensive end, is the betting favorite (+340) on FanDuel to win the award.
Photo: Ken Murray/Getty Images