Why Antonio Gibson’s Upside Is Worth the Investment In Your 2021 Fantasy Football Drafts

Why Antonio Gibson’s Upside Is Worth the Investment In Your 2021 Fantasy Football Drafts article feature image

Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Antonio Gibson

Editor's note: The following analysis was written in June, but when coupled with the latest rankings and projections in our 2021 Fantasy Draft Kit, is still valuable research for your next draft.

Antonio Gibson Fantasy Rankings

These consensus rankings from Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon and are based on half PPR scoring and as of June.

The Washington Football Team had one of the strongest defensive units in football in 2020, but their anemic offense was a pain point all season, headlined by a quarterback clown car that caused drama weekly.

In spite of the team's offensive struggles last season, rookie Antonio Gibson finished among the top fantasy running backs and has the potential to finish even higher in 2021.

Gibson's 2020 Season

  • Games played: 14
  • Rushing: 170 attempts, 795 yards, 11 TDs
  • Receiving: 44 targets, 36 catches, 247 yards, zero touchdowns
  • Fantasy finishes: RB12 in PPR, RB13 in standard, RB13 in half PPR

Gibson attended East Central Community College for two years prior to transferring to the University of Memphis, where he played both wide receiver and running back. He ran a speedy 4.39-second 40-yard-dash at the combine and was selected by Washington in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was the seventh running back off the board at No. 66 overall behind the Chiefs' Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Lions' D'Andre Swift, Colts' Jonathan Taylor, Rams' Cam Akers, Ravens' J.K. Dobbins and Packers' A.J. Dillon.

Washing kicked off the 2020 preseason with Gibson, Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber and Bryce Love on the depth chart. Guice was released by the team in August in light of domestic violence charges and Peterson released nine days before Week 1.

The backfield attrition paved the way for the 22-year-old Gibson to take over as the lead back. His rookie debut against the Eagles was unmemorable with 11 touches for 44 offensive yards, but he went on to score a touchdown in each of the following three weeks.

Gibson's best game of the year came on Thanksgiving against Dallas. He tallied 20 carries for 115 yards and three touchdowns and was targeted for a season-high seven times for five catches and 21 yards. He had already gone off against the Cowboys' weak run defense a month prior and recorded 20 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Washington RB Antonio Gibson

Gibson became the first rookie to score three touchdowns on Thanksgiving since Randy Moss in 1998 and earned the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award.

Gibson suffered turf toe in the following week against the Steelers, forcing him to leave the game and miss the next two games. He returned for the crucial Week 17 matchup agains the Eagles and recorded 20 touches for 81 scrimmage yards.

All in all, Gibson posted a strong rookie campaign, especially in light of Washington's tumultuous quarterback situation — the team ranked 30th in the NFL in offensive yards per game and 25th in the league in points scored per game.

Gibson ended with 170 attempts for 795 yards and 11 touchdowns and 36 catches on 44 targets for 247 yards and zero touchdowns — good enough to finish as RB13 in half PPR scoring.

Among the 2020 rookie running backs, Gibson finished third in fantasy points behind only Robinson and Taylor.

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Gibson's 2021 Fantasy Outlook

Gibson's overall outlook heading into 2021 is strong on the heels of an impressive rookie season in which he had many factors working against him. He enters Year 2 with very little competition for rushing attempts on the team's depth chart and gets an upgrade at quarterback, which should lift the offense as a whole.

One slightly concerning element of Gibson's first season in the league was his usage — or lack thereof — in the passing game. In spite of being touted as a dual-threat on the ground and through the air out of college, he ranked 24th among running backs in targets and 20th among RBs in catches. That pass-catching role was filled by McKissic, who led all running backs with 110 targets. He caught 80 passes (72.7% catch rate) for 589 yards and two touchdowns and was the team's third-best pass-catcher behind wide receiver Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas.

The 27-year-old McKissic is under contract until 2022, meaning that Gibson will continue to have to compete with him for catches this year. But if Gibson's role as a receiver were to increase, he would carry more value in PPR formats.

How to Draft Antonio Gibson

Gibson took full advantage of his situation last season and outperformed expectations. He enters Year 2 with one full season of experience under his belt, little competition on the team's depth chart and an upgraded quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Gibson is currently being drafted on the cusp of the top 12 fantasy running backs, depending on the format. It's exactly where he finished in 2020 when he had significantly more factors working against him. His upside is even higher in 2021 and he's a worthwhile investment at that ADP.

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