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Alabama running backs

Gibbs following successful path

The Lions drafted Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall, and it's pretty clear he'll have a major role in their backfield right away. They gave away D'Andre Swift, so it will be Gibbs and free-agent signing David Montgomery as their tandem. It won't be a shock if Gibbs emerges as the superior option, given his pedigree.

Gibbs ran a 4.36 at the combine, and teams are always going to want to get that kind of speed on the field. He's a little undersized (5-9, 199), so it makes sense for Detroit to also use Montgomery. Alabama also paired Gibbs with another back; 5-foot-11, 212-pound Jase McClellan had only slightly fewer carries (151-112) and the same number of rushing touchdowns (7).

But Gibbs is similarly sized to other speedy backs who have been successful as main ballcarriers; C.J. Spiller and Jamaal Charles were a little taller but weighed the same. And you've got to like that Alabama pedigree with running backs these days.

I know: he's a lot smaller than those other, generally successful backs, almost all of whom weigh 220-plus pounds. I'm not suggesting he's similar physically. But something about the college experience is definitely serving these players well when they get away from the elite lines and offenses they're working in at Alabama. If it were just about being big and strong, other schools would have this kind of track record.

Table shows the NFL seasons of Alabama backs selected in the first three rounds since 2010. To make it more manageable and exclude major injuries, I included only seasons where they started at least 10 games. That gave me 27 seasons from those nine running backs. Nearly half (12) of those seasons were top 10 (PPR scoring). Seven more (so 19 of 27) were top 20 campaigns. (Ingram and Drake also had top-20 seasons where they fell below the 10-start threshold I went with.)

2020Derrick Henry20271911417337.13
2022Josh Jacobs16535340012330.33
2021Najee Harris12007446710300.73
2022Derrick Henry15383339813308.84
2019Derrick Henry15401820618300.65
2014Eddie Lacy11394242713276.66
2017Mark Ingram11245841612284.06
2013Eddie Lacy11783525711244.58
2020Josh Jacobs10653323812235.38
2016Mark Ingram10434631910246.28
2012Trent Richardson9505136712254.78
2019Mark Ingram10182624715246.510
2021Josh Jacobs872543489230.012
2015Mark Ingram769504056205.412
2021Damien Harris9291813215214.114
2022Najee Harris10344122910227.514
2020Kenyan Drake9552513710194.215
2018Derrick Henry1059159912203.516
2019Kenyan Drake817503458216.217
2019Josh Jacobs1150201667193.621
2015T.J. Yeldon740362793155.928
2015Eddie Lacy758201885144.632
2013Trent Richardson563353164146.932
2016T.J. Yeldon465503122139.734
2014Trent Richardson519272293119.837
2021Mark Ingram554271622110.649
2020Damien Harris691552291.353

Final note on size. Two of the three biggest backs on the above list (Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson) were the ones who burned out the quickest. (A cautionary note, I suppose for those mulling acquiring Najee Harris in a dynasty league.) Derrick Henry obviously has kept things going for a number of years, but there are negatives with being too big, too.

I don't have a rookie pick anywhere that's going to enable me to select Gibbs in a draft, but I'll be interested in selecting him in redraft leagues. He looks that good to me.

--Andy Richardson

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