With the Antonio Gibson hype culminating in a supposedly “CMC-like” role for Gibson his ADP of RB12 may be too low. With Rivera as head coach in 2019 (for most of the year at least), CMC had 403 touches for 2,392 total yards. The first 1,000 rushing yard and 1,000 receiving yard season since Marshall Faulk in 1999.
While Gibson will obviously not be that effective in 2021, but Ron Rivera mentioned envisioning a role like that for Gibson this year. That would give Antonio Gibson his league winning potential as mentioned in the title of this article.
The most important question is: Can Antonio Gibson handle a role like CMC had in 2019? Let’s dive into it.
Gibson is an athletic freak. He’s 6’0 228 pounds with 4.39 speed (98th percentile for running backs). His speed score, which takes into account size, is 99th percentile. Everyone loves JT’s size and speed and Gibson is right there with him. His size and speed combo was a huge reason why he converted to a running back in the NFL.
Size and speed like that are incredibly rare and Gibson check’s every single box in terms of athletic makeup. His vision in 2021 was surprisingly good given his only 33 career carries as a running back in college.
Gibson surely was not perfect but he was very productive given his lack of reps in college.
What’s his floor though in 2021? He was RB13 last year and is being drafted just one spot higher despite an expanded role seemingly on the way. His touchdown rate is due for regression with 11 on just 170 rush attempts but the offense overall improved A TON at QB which should allow for more touchdown potential if Gibson is allowed to have a bigger role.
For instance, Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins ranked 31st and 34th respectively in yards per pass attempt which severely hindered the offense. Meanwhile, Ryan Fitzpatrick ranked 8th in the entire league in the same stat. He gives the offense the ability to push the ball down the field which wasn’t done in 2020.
Fitzy provides a whole new element to the offense which can take pressure off of Gibson. Gibson will most definitely face less stacked boxes as teams were able to assume short pass or run and could play defense more aggressively. Fitzy should fix this situation a lot.
Gibson was 18th in percentage of red zone rush attempts (42%) and the player, Peyton Barber, who took most of those attempts away was downright awful last year and I fully expect to lose that role with his putrid 2.7 yards per carry.
The biggest issue Gibson has is his teammate JD McKissic. McKissic was one of two backs in 2020 with 80+ receptions and he was actually very effective with 7.4 yards per catch. However, as shown by Smith and Haskins’ low Y/A, McKissic was often the only guy they would throw to consistently.
As a former college WR, there is no reason to think Gibson can’t be incredibly effective as a receiver. He had 36 receptions on just 44 targets. In fact, coming out of college The Draft Network described his receiving ability as “from the backfield, [Gibson] has the entire route tree at his disposal and wins in one-on-one situations in the open field. Quality candidate for BUS routes, wheel routes, option routes, and swings.”
Obviously, Gibson can be incredibly productive as a wide receiver in the NFL he just needs to be given the role. I have faith in Rivera trusting his ability as a wide receiver and expanding his role as the season progresses.
But it’s hard to ignore how effective McKissic was. Given that he's being drafted at a good price I think he’s worth the risk. Even in the first two preseason games, McKissic has been the running back in on third downs 9 out of 11 times.
Obviously, preseason is not everything but McKissic is not going to just go away.
If Gibson can take even just half of McKissic’s role from last year expect him to easily be a top ten guy but he does carry some inherent risk. His floor is about RB18 or higher in my opinion which is good value given his price. His ceiling is top five and I stand by that.