The Redskins 66th Overall 2020 Draft Selection
The 2020 NFL Draft was viewed by many fans as a big success. Redskins’ fans were ecstatic when the drafts best defensive prospect, Chase Young, was selected by Washington, finally putting the debate for the #2 overall to rest. In a new segment “Hail Rookie” The Burgundy and Gold Report will go in-depth with each draft pick, including their undrafted rookies. Most fans know Washington’s 1st rounder inside and out, so in this feature the focus will be on a lesser known rookie with the 66th overall selection, Antonio Gibson.
The Redskins surprised many by selecting the 6’0” 228 lbs RB/WR hybrid from Memphis University with, arguably, higher rated prospects still on the board in the 3rd round. Gibson opened some eyes at the NFL Combine, running a 4.39 sec forty-yard dash time and posting a 35” vertical. In order to get a better understanding of why Washington selected Gibson, it’s important to understand what he does well and what his potential role will be in Washington’s new offense.
Production & Versatility
Prior to enrolling at Memphis for the 2018 season, Antonio Gibson was enrolled at East Central Community College for two years, registering 50 receptions for 871 receiving yards with 13 touchdowns, 27 kick returns, 554 kick-return yards and 249 rushing yards. Gibson was recruited by Memphis in 2018 with little fanfare, only playing in 5 games. In 2019, however, Gibson had his coming out party displaying the ability to be a homerun hitter. Although his numbers during his final season at Memphis could be viewed as pedestrian by some (38 rec for 735 8 TD’s and 33 rushes for 369 yards 4 TD’s), he was among the best in the nation with a 19.3 average per reception and 11.2 yards per rush. Gibson also displayed his ability to be a threat as a kick returner averaging 28.0 yards per return (23 ret 645 yards 1 TD). Additionally, Gibson scored nearly 1 in every 9 touches. Gibson finished his career at Memphis with a 27.0 per kick return average.
Gibson’s explosiveness is evident, even as a small sample size during his final year at Memphis. Although recruited as a wide receiver, during a two-year span Gibson morphed into much more. Between 2018-2019 the Memphis coaching staff asked him to play a variety of positions including; RB, WR, TE, H-Back and kick returner.
Gibson’s game versus SMU on November 2, 2019 polarized the type of playmaker he could be on the next level (scored as a runner, receiver and KR).
Some evaluators dropped Gibson down their boards calling him a prospect without a true position. The Burgundy and Gold Report viewed his versatility a huge plus during the pre-draft evaluation phase. Gibson’s elusiveness makes him difficult to bring down in the open field. However, one aspect he’ll need to refine on the next level will be his route running, as he often rounds his routes off, rather than taking sharp angles. Lowering his center of gravity will also be key since he runs a bit upright at times. As a pass catcher, his ability to run wheel routes, screens and choice routes will be a great way to utilize his skill set when lining up in the backfield. Regardless of where Gibson lines up, his shiftiness and ability to break tackles should lead to early success as a returner, runner and pass catcher.
Fit in Washington
Redskins HC Ron Rivera mentioned during his post-draft zoom meeting with reporters that he views Antonio Gibson as a running back, who also has impressive receiving ability, but also stated that OC Scott Tuner really liked him during the evaluation process and has plans to use him in a myriad of ways.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein reported during the NFL Draft;
“Only one team viewed the versatile Gibson as a wideout. It was apparently the Redskins. Gibson was underutilized at Memphis but was arguably the most efficient player in the entire country.”
The Redskins backfield is loaded with Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Josh Ferguson and now Antonio Gibson. It remains to be seen how many backs Rivera will keep on the roster, but AP, Guice, Love and Gibson seem to be locks. Considering how the new Redskins OC likes to use his running backs in the passing game, McKissic seems likely to make the roster as well, based on his skill set as a pass catcher. Keeping 5 backs seems unlikely, but Guice’s health will be something to monitor as will Love, who has yet to take an NFL snap, since his 2018 ACL tear at Stanford. Gibson abilities could at depth at multiple positions though.
During a discussion on the Kevin Sheehan Show, former Redskins tight end, Chris Cooley, viewed Gibson in a particular role.
“He’s your tight end, he’s your H-Back…. He’s not a running back and he’s not a wide receiver, he’s an H-Back….”I love him, I love Antonio Gibson, amazing pick!”
Although Cooley’s comments regarding Gibson being a tight end/H-Back might come as a surprise to many who’ve evaluated his film, he might be onto something. The fact that Washington passed on selecting a tight end in the draft might give some legs to the aforementioned comment. Rivera often used a fullback in his time in Carolina and although Gibson isn’t viewed as a serviceable blocker, he could be used in a hybrid role.
Redskins fans who grew up during the glory days of the Redskins’ Super Bowl runs are well aware of how impactful an H-Back can be. Although the Redskins signed Thaddeus Moss as an undrafted free agent, it’s believed that having multiple running backs in the game simultaneously, rather than multiple tight end sets, will be a staple of their new offense.
There has been some misunderstanding among fans about exactly what an H-Back is. The H-back lines up similarly to a tight end, but is set back from the line of scrimmage, and is thus counted as one of the four backs in the offensive formation. The H-back, while similar in name, should not be confused with halfback or running back, which are used to denote a separate, primary ball-carrying backfield position. The position was made notable in the NFL by the Washington Redskins under head coach Joe Gibbs, who ran a two tight end system. The position was named F-back when used later in Norv Turner’s offensive system.
Gibson’s role will be up for discussion among fans. Regardless of whether he’s used at RB, WR or H-Back, his ability as a big play threat will help the Redskins offense. Redskins’ quarterback Dwayne Haskins received some help in the draft, but Gibson might have the biggest impact early on. The Memphis Swiss Army knife seems to be their primary option at KR and could very well be thrust into action early on. The Burgundy Gold Report envisions Gibson getting significant snaps and contributing in a variety of roles as the offense defines their identity. But one thing seems certain, Gibson should give opposing teams headaches with his elusiveness and breakaway speed.
Stay tuned for another installment of “Hail Rookie” as The Burgundy and Gold Report continues to spotlight all the new additions in Washington.
By Adam Aniba
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