There weren’t many who thought two running backs would go in the top 12 of the NFL Draft Thursday.
The Atlanta Falcons made a surprise pick at No. 8, drafting running back Bijan Robinson out of Texas to become the first team to select a running back in the top 20 since the New York Giants drafted Saquon Barkley in 2018.
And then the Detroit Lions selected Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 out of Alabama, shocking even Gibbs with the pick.
“I feel great,” Gibbs said, according to ESPN. “I didn’t know I would get picked as high as I did because running backs don’t get picked as high in this new age and new era of the NFL draft. But it was pretty shocking to me.
“But I’m grateful for the city of Detroit.”
The selection of Gibbs at No. 12 makes him the highest-drafted running back taken by the Lions since Barry Sanders in 1989, and he’s the second consecutive Alabama player selected by Detroit with the 12th pick of the draft.
“I really didn’t put the two 12’s together, but obviously that’s one of the most respected programs in college football,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said. “I’ve got a ton of respect for coach [Nick] Saban and what he does down there, and you kind of know what kind of product and what kind of football player he’s putting out. So, it just happened to be that [Gibbs] was one of our top players that we really, really liked and just glad that we were in the position to get him.”
In the previous four drafts, four running backs were selected in the first round, but all were outside the top 20.
“Yeah, I thought like in the 20s because that’s where it is usually for running backs,” Gibbs said.
In his three college seasons — two at Georgia Tech and one at Alabama — Gibbs rushed for 2,132 yards and 15 touchdowns.
As a senior with the Crimson Tide, Gibbs ran for 926 yards and seven touchdowns, adding 444 yards and three touchdowns through the air.