The Detroit Lions shockingly selected Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the NFL Draft. As it turns out, the New England Patriots played a role in it.
The Detroit Lions were one of four teams that held two first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, No. 6 and 18 overall. With that, the NFL world waited to see how they would use those picks. Well, fans, draft experts, and media alike were stunned how general manager Brad Holmes used them. The No. 6 pick, which turned into the No. 12 pick after a trade with the Arizona Cardinals, was used to select Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell were pumped about the selection, and it could be due to one reason.
Albert Breer of TheMMQB wrote in his winners and takeaways from the NFL Draft column that the Lions feared that the New England Patriots were going to draft Gibbs ahead of them. After trading down to No. 12 and the Patriots picking at No. 14, the Lions picked Gibbs.
“The Cardinals gave Holmes the shot to pick up a high second, slide back six spots and, fingers crossed, still land Gibbs, by staying in front of two teams the Lions heard liked him, in the Patriots (at 14) and the Jets (at 15),” writes Breer. “So instead of Witherspoon and Gibbs, they wound up with Gibbs, and Iowa LB Jack Campbell (at 18) and TE Sam LaPorta (at 34).”
Lions feared Patriots would draft RB Jahmyr Gibbs
Breer mentioned that “the initial idea” for the Lions was to take Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon or Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. with the sixth-overall pick and trade up from No. 18 to select Gibbs. But, the Texans traded up to No. 3 to select Anderson, while Witherspoon was taken one spot ahead of the Lions by the Seattle Seahawks. There was even chatter that the Lions would have taken Gibbs at sixth overall. But then, the Cardinals called to trade up to land Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr.
So, the Lions ended up with one of the top dual-threat running backs in the class in Gibbs. After transferring over from Georgia Tech, Gibbs recorded 926 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 151 carries, in addition to 44 receptions for 444 yards and three touchdowns in his lone season at Alabama.
With Gibbs on board alongside former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery, Detroit traded D’Andre Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles.
As for the Patriots, they did end up with one of the top prospects in Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez. The Patriots had traded down from No. 14 to 17 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who selected Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones. So, Gonzalez fell down to the 17th spot, and the Patriots turned in their draft card and gave him a call.
Whatever the case may be, the Lions are happy with how their draft turned out, despite what the general consensus in the NFL world was to take Gibbs 12th overall. They did have a strong Day 2, highlighted by the selections of Alabama safety Brian Branch and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.