Antonio Gibson Is The Next Christian McCaffrey
We hear the term “league winners” thrown around all the time, usually in reference to a late-round handcuff running back that “if running back X goes down, this guy will win people leagues”. But the truth is, true league winners are players who ascend from good options to elite options, early in the first 5 rounds of fantasy drafts. In the following article, I am going to outline why I believe that Antonio Gibson is the next elite fantasy running back on the precipice of his breakout season.
(Photo Credit: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY)
Why Antonio Gibson can be an RB1
A year ago, the Washington Football Team spent the 66th pick on a raw athlete from the University of Memphis who was converted from wide receiver to running back.
Due to his phenomenal athletic measurables, he quickly became the apple of fantasy player's eyes. Gibson boasts a 6’0 228-pound frame capable of running sub 4.4 and that alone was enough to entice dynasty players last spring. Add in the fact that as a former wide receiver, we know that Gibson can contribute on third down as a true weapon out of the backfield.
I was thoroughly impressed by Antonio Gibson’s rookie season. As a raw player learning a new position, Gibson struggling as a rookie would’ve been totally understandable in a limited offseason, but Gibson hit the ground running despite all those factors.
He ranked top 10 in Juke rate (tackles avoided/touches), top 10 in yards per route run among running backs, and averaged over 5 yards per touch.
On top of his efficient rookie season, he was able to achieve a top 12 running back finish for an offense that scored the 25th most points in the NFL led by Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Alex Smith. This is despite being limited against Pittsburgh (left early), missing weeks 14 & 15, and being limited against Carolina (coming off a multi-week injury).
The situation around Gibson has improved dramatically with the addition of Ryan Fitzpatrick who ranked top 10 in both total QBR and yards per attempt last season. He also saw two receivers added in Curtis Samuel and 3rd Round pick Dyami Brown to further upgrade the weapon's core and the Washington Football Team signed LT Charles Leno and drafted RT Samuel Cosmi in Round 2 this past draft.
Those are the surface level factors why Antonio Gibson can take a step forward, but here’s a pattern I’ve seen when you look at projecting Gibson’s ceiling:
Why Antonio Gibson can be THE RB1
The Washington backfield was a very muddy one to begin Gibson’s pro career, but it cleared up quickly last summer with the releases of both Derrius Guice (due to off-field issues) and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson.
In fact, the reason for Adrian Peterson’s release last August was Antonio Gibson.
From the very beginning, Coach Rivera had a contingency plan in place in case Gibson was unable to adapt quickly and he obviously exceeded their expectations which prompted them to cut their veteran. The most interesting thing about these quotes is Adrian Peterson saying, “We’re all working on (adapting to the new system), but they really want one main guy to do it & they drafted Gibson for it”.
The reason I believed Adrian Peterson last offseason when I touted Gibson as a sleeper, is due to who the coaching staff is. Scott Turner (son of Norv Turner) is the offensive coordinator and we saw what Rivera and the Turners were able to do with Christian McCaffrey from 2017-2019. We all know coaching tendencies play a big part in fantasy football and once upon a time in 2018 we saw that play out for Christian McCaffrey in his sophomore year.
Back in 2018, the Carolina Panthers brought in CJ Anderson as a complement to the 205 pound McCaffrey and none of us believed that CMC would receive the bell-cow usage that’s made him the top fantasy asset he’s been the past few years. He wasn’t always the superstar fantasy asset he is now, this coaching staff combined with his own talent, allowed him to achieve that ceiling.
That’s the really intriguing part about Gibson, the same framework CMC had after his rookie season (low-end RB1 finish, in line for more volume as a second-year player) Antonio Gibson has it also. More importantly, Norv Turner/Scott Turner has shown the propensity to not only use a workhorse running back but to transform a guy like McCaffrey into one when many doubted he was capable of this usage in the NFL. Additionally, JD Mckissic may be serving the CJ Anderson role in this scenario. JD McKissic is a solid player but if Gibson is able to take that step and “be the main guy” according to Adrian Peterson, they will cast McKissic aside to be strictly a guy that spells Gibson.
Fast forward to the end of the season, the praise continued.
And now present day, OTA’s and camps are beginning to commence, and we have ESPN’s John Keim (covers the Washington Football Team), writing this excerpt this past week.
I’ve said this before and I will say it again, sometimes “Coach Speak” doesn’t mean anything, of course, coaches are going to speak positively about their players. However, it becomes valuable when you can put your detective hat on and detect patterns from multiple sources. Only then can you reasonably use information as part of analysis. We have information from the front office, head coach, Adrian Peterson, offensive coordinator and now Washington beat reporters.
This is a saga that is over a year in the making, ever since Ron Rivera compared Gibson to Christian McCaffrey for the first time last May.
We can reasonably project an RB1 finish for Antonio Gibson based on the surface factors I outlined in the first section of this article, but THE RB1 CEILING is there when you dig deeper, and that’s why I believe that Antonio Gibson is the next Christian McCaffrey.