After poking and adjusting the numbers, I decided to make Jahmyr Gibbs the No. 4 running back on my board (for PPR scoring, anyway). I think he’s the safest choice. And I think he’s looking a little safer today after comments made by the team’s GM, Brad Holmes.

Holmes, on the Rich Eisen podcast, indicates the Lions will continue to use a committee backfield, but that Gibbs’ role should expand.

“I definitely would expect him to see more of a load, but David Montgomery will still be here too,” Holmes said. “Dan (Campbell) and I love that 1-2 punch of him and David. But just speaking on, specifically, him being a rookie last year, even when he had some pops in that K.C. game in that opener, I was watching, I was like, ‘He’s still trying to get the feel of the game.’ He was playing very fast, and he actually kind of needed to slow down a little bit … But once he got that sweet spot, you kind of saw it in the Ravens game, which unfortunately we didn’t show up very well for that game, but that’s when you started seeing some glimpses of, ‘I think it’s coming, I think it’s coming,’ Then, obviously, that Raiders game where I believe everyone saw the breakout. … I think he has much more to offer in the passing game, so most likely you’ll see an increase in that as well.”

Once the Lions settled down last year, Gibbs and Montgomery operated as a tandem. In their final 12 games together (when both were healthy) Gibbs averaged 11 carries for 58 yards and 2.9 catches for 20 yards, with 12 TDs. Montgomery in those 12 games averaged 14 carries for 68 yards, 1.2 catches for 8 yards, with 9 TDs. (This is including the three playoff games.)

I see the receiving production (mentioned briefly by Holmes) as the key area. Gibbs was an excellent receiver at Georgia Tech and Alabama, but they weren’t really able to get that going last year. He averaged only 6.1 yards per catch. He caught 41 passes in his first nine games, but with those not amounting to much, they moved away from those plays (he caught only 22 passes in his final nine).

Now that they’ve had an offseason to polish things up, I expect they’ll be making another stab at Gibbs being a big part of their passing offense. That pass-catching production, I think, makes him a much safer selection in PPR formats than guys like Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry.

Below see the receiving numbers for the 31 running backs last year who saw at least 40 targets. Gibbs averaged only 4.5 yards per pass play, coming in ahead of only five others. I expect dramatic improvement in this area, with Gibbs turning at least a couple of catches into long gainers.

RUNNING BACKS / YARDS PER PASS PLAY
PlayerTgtRecYdsAvgTDYd/Tgt
Brian Robinson, Was.433636810.248.6
James Cook, Buff.544444510.148.2
Samaje Perine, Den.56504559.108.1
Rachaad White, T.B.70645498.637.8
Christian McCaffrey, S.F.83675648.476.8
Antonio Gibson, Was.59483898.126.6
Travis Etienne, Jac.73584768.216.5
Breece Hall, NYJ95765917.846.2
Austin Ekeler, LAC74514368.615.9
Joe Mixon, Cin.64523767.235.9
Bijan Robinson, Atl.86584878.445.7
Tyjae Spears, Ten.70523857.415.5
Josh Jacobs, L.V.54372968.005.5
Alvin Kamara, N.O.86754666.215.4
Aaron Jones, G.B.43302337.815.4
Chuba Hubbard, Car.44392336.005.3
Roschon Johnson, Chi.40342096.205.2
Zach Charbonnet, Sea.40332096.305.2
Jerome Ford, Cle.63443197.355.1
Jaylen Warren, Pitt.74613706.105.0
Isiah Pacheco, K.C.49442445.625.0
Ezekiel Elliott, N.E.65513136.124.8
Rhamondre Stevenson, N.E.51382386.304.7
Saquon Barkley, NYG60412806.844.7
Tony Pollard, Dall.67553115.704.6
Jahmyr Gibbs, Det.71523166.114.5
D'Andre Swift, Phil.49392145.514.4
Alexander Mattison, Min.44301926.434.4
Kyren Williams, LAR48322066.434.3
Javonte Williams, Den.58472284.923.9
Miles Sanders, Car.41271545.703.8

—Ian Allan