Detroit traded down to take Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs No. 12 overall on Thursday night, giving up its first pick and a third-rounder to Arizona for a first-round selection and the 34th spot overall.
“I was shocked,” Gibbs acknowledged, adding he expected to be drafted in the 20s.
He joins a crowded backfield with D’Andre Swift and David Montgomery that may be in flux.
When general manager Brad Holmes was asked about Swift, he said the dynamic running back was still on the roster.
“It’s early,” Holmes said.
The Lions added much-needed help on defense later in the first round, drafting Iowa’s Jack Campbell at No. 18 overall. The 6-foot-4, 249-pound Campbell, who is from Cedar Falls, Iowa, became the first player in school history to win the Butkus Award as college football’s best linebacker.
“He is a Dan Campbell guy,” Lions linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said. “He is a culture fit, immediately.”
The Lions won eight of their last 10 games in Campbell’s second year as coach and finished with a winning record last season for the first time since 2017.
Holmes attempted to bolster one of the league’s worst defenses by signing some veterans defensive backs, including Cameron Sutton. Holmes also added Montgomery and receiver Marvin Jones in free agency to replace Jamaal Williams and DJ Chark.
Detroit’s feel-good offseason did hit a snag last week when the NFL suspended five players, including second-year receiver Jameson Williams, for violating the league’s gambling policy.
Even though it looked as if the Lions needed more talent on defense than offense, they chose to give Jared Goff one more playmaker in the first round.
The 5-foot-9, 199-pound Gibbs, a third-team All-America all-purpose player, is regarded as an explosive and shifty runner with excellent hands.
“He’s bringing a value in the passing game also,” Detroit running backs coach Scottie Montgomery said. “He’s the best space player in this draft.”
Gibbs, who is from Dalton, Georgia, started his college career at Georgia Tech and transferred to play for the Crimson Tide last year, running for 2,132 yards and 15 touchdowns in his college career. He had 103 career catches for 1,212 yards and eight scores over three seasons.
Detroit passed on a chance to fill its biggest void at defensive tackle with Georgia’s Jalen Carter, who was projected as a potential No. 1 pick before he had off-the-field issues and lasted until Philadelphia selected him ninth overall.
The Lions may not have wanted to take chances on a player’s character after four of their players were disciplined recently.
Quintez Cephus and C.J. Moore were suspended indefinitely by the league for betting on NFL games and released by the Lions. Cephus had a chance to be the team’s No. 4 receiver and Moore was a key player on special teams.
Williams and receiver Stanley Berryhill, who played in four games in Detroit last season as a rookie, each received a six-game suspension for betting on non-league games at an NFL facility.
The depleted depth chart at receiver might lead to the Lions looking to add depth at the position behind starters Amon-Ra St. Brown and Marvin Jones.
“It’s not overlooked,” Holmes said.
Detroit started the week with nine selections, including two in each of the first two rounds and a pair of slots in the fifth and sixth rounds, and acquired another second-round pick from the Cardinals.
By Larry Lage.