Can Jahmyr Gibbs Join List of Most Productive Rookie RBs?

Can Jahmyr Gibbs Join List of Most Productive Rookie RBs?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

There has been a lot of recent chatter in NFL circles regarding running backs, specifically their value overall, and how they should be compensated. And the issue of “value” extends to the NFL Draft: Is it worthwhile to draft a running back in the first round?

In the 2023 NFL Draft, there were just two running backs taken in the first round – Bijan Robinson by Atlanta, with the No. 8 pick overall, and Jahmyr Gibbs by Detroit at No. 12 overall. In 2022, there were no running backs taken in the first round.

To analyze a first-round rookie running back’s immediate help to an offense,, as part of our Michigan sports betting coverage, looked at all running backs taken in the first round over the past decade and their contributions as rookies. There were just 12 running backs taken in the first round over the last 10 drafts. All data and records came from

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First-Round RBs in NFL Since 2015

Year Player, Team, Pick Rushing & Receiving Stats Team Record
2015 Todd Gurley (Rams, 10th) 13 G, 1,106 Yds, 10 TD; 21 Rec, 188 Yds, 0 TD 7-9
2015 Melvin Gordon (Chargers, 15th) 14 G, 641 Yds, 0 TD; 33 Rec, 192 Yds, 0 TD 4-12
2016 Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys, 4th) 15 G, 1,631 Yds, 15 TD; 32 Rec, 363 Yds, 1 TD 13-3
2017 Leonard Fournette (Jaguars, 4th) 13 G, 1,040 Yds, 9 TD; 36 Rec, 302 Yds, 1 TD 10-6
2017 Christian McCaffrey (Panthers, 8th) 117 Att, 435 Yds, 2 TD; 80 Rec, 651 Yds, 5 TD 11-5
2018 Saquon Barkley (Giants, 2nd) 261 Att, 1,307 Yds, 11 TD; 91 Rec, 721 Yds, 4 TD 5-11
2018 Rashaad Penny (Seahawks, 27th) 85 Att, 419 Yds, 2 TD; 9 Rec, 75 Yds, 0 TD 10-6
2018 Sony Michel (Patriots, 31st) 209 Att, 931 Yds, 6 TD; 7 Rec, 50 Yds, 0 TD 11-5
2019 Josh Jacobs (Raiders, 24th) 242 Att, 1,150 Yds, 7 TD; 20 Rec, 166 Yds, 0 TD 7-9
2020 Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs, 32nd) 181 Att, 803 Yds, 4 TD; 36 Rec, 297 Yds, 1 TD 14-2
2021 Najee Harris (Steelers, 24th) 307 Att, 1,200 Yds, 7 TD; 74 Rec, 467 Yds, 3 TD 9-7-1
2021 Travis Etienne (Jaguars, 25th) DNP – Injury 3-14

Can Gibbs Produce Right Away?

The question for Detroit Lions fans, and those who use the best Michigan sportsbook promos to sign up with operators, is about the eventual return in the selection of Gibbs, especially considering the Lions are expected to be a playoff contender this season.

To get to the point, Detroit fans should be encouraged by the decade’s worth of data.

The Lions are the consensus betting favorite among Michigan sportsbook operators to win the NFC North this season. Stick with us at to keep track all season as the Detroit Lions Super Bowl odds evolve.

As far as recent history for first-round running backs, the one drafted highest was Saquon Barkley. The New York Giants selected him No. 2 overall in 2018.

As a rookie, Barkley was spectacular, gaining 1,307 yards on 261 attempts (5.0 yards a carry) for 11 touchdowns and adding 721 yards and four TDs on 91 receptions – all for a terrible team that finished 5-11. Despite suffering injuries over his five-year career, Barkley has had three seasons of 1,000-plus rushing yards and scored 37 TDs.

Will Gibbs start his career on the right foot as, just as Barkley did? If he does, that would be a boost to the Detroit Lions playoff chances, which you can check out all season with us.

Other Examples of First-Round NFL RBs

Ezekiel Elliott was Dallas’s No. 4 pick in 2016 and came storming out of the starting gate with 1,631 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns, plus 32 catches for 363 yards and another TD. The Cowboys finished 13-3 in Elliot’s rookie season but lost their opening playoff game to Green Bay.

Of the 11 first-round running backs that played (Travis Etienne missed his first season with an injury), eight of them had seasons of 800 rushing yards or more. And one who didn’t hit that mark was Carolina’s Christan McCaffrey who still had more than 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and seven TDs as a rookie. Over the course of his six-year career so far, McCaffrey had scored 60 touchdowns running and catching the ball.

Etienne, after missing the 2021 season, gained over 1,000 rushing yards in 2022, helping the Jaguars to a playoff appearance.

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Bill Ordine

Bill Ordine, senior journalist and columnist for, was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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