Detroit Lions draft RB Jahmyr Gibbs and LB Jack Campbell in 1st round

ALLEN PARK — Running back Jahmyr Gibbs is headed to Detroit after being selected by the Lions with the 12th overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night in Kansas City. With the 18th pick, the Lions bolstered the defense drafting linebacker Jack Campbell.

“We couldn’t be more excited with two impact players on both sides of the ball,” Lions GM Brad Holmes said following the first round. “… We find players that fit us and what we’re about. That talent is one thing, but these players fit us.”

After cornerback Devon Witherspoon was selected in the fifth spot by Seattle, the Lions made a trade with Arizona giving them the sixth and 81st picks in return for the 12th, 34th and 168th picks. Witherspoon was speculated as a possible pick for the Lions with the sixth pick in several mock drafts.

Gibbs, who is 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds, played at Alabama and is expected to be a good fit with veteran running back David Montgomery who was signed as a free agent. Jamaal Williams signed with the Saints.

Gibbs said he didn’t expect to get drafted as high because typically running backs have fallen in recent drafts. He was expecting to drop to the 20s. He’s the highest running back pick for Detroit since Barry Sanders in 1989.

“It was pretty shocking to me, but I’m thankful for the city of Detroit,” Gibbs said in a Zoom interview from Kansas City. “I think it’s a great fit for me.”

Gibbs played with Lions’ wide receiver Jameson Williams at Alabama. “We can both make explosive plays in the pass game and the run game, for sure,” Gibbs said.

Lions running backs coach Scottie Montgomery called Gibbs “a fantastic young man” and repeatedly said he liked his character. He also said Gibbs was the best space player in the draft.

“He not only checks all the boxes, he’s been phenomenal throughout the process,” Montgomery said. He also noted that Gibbs has been coached really well at Alabama.

Gibbs ran a 4.36 in  the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Campbell, who is 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, played at Iowa. He had a formal interview with the Lions at the NFL Combine and was impressed with them especially coach Dan Campbell. The admiration was mutual.

“I’m excited to step foot in there and be the best version of Jack Campbell I can be every single day,” Jack Campbell said in a Zoom interview on Thursday night from his home in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

“I just feel I’m going to bring Jack Campbell. … I’m a humble guy, ready to learn,” Campbell added.”I’m super appreciative for the opportunity.”

“It’s only about football (in Detroit) and football is all that matters,” said Jack Campbell sounding very much like Dan Campbell.

Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard said that Jack Campbell’s passion makes him an obvious fit for the Lions and the culture coach Dan Campbell has created.

“The athlete, I think everybody sees that … it speaks for itself, it’s exceptional what this player can do at his size,” Sheppard said. “But for me it’s really the thing that jumps him above come other guys is his passion for the game. The way it drives him –  he sees it, he speaks it, he lives it. He’s not one of these guys when things are good he’s up, he’s up all of the time because he loves it.”

That passion is a key ingredient for anyone on Dan Campbell’s roster.

“He is a Detroit guy. He is a Dan Campbell guy. He’s a culture fit immediately,” Sheppard said of Jack Campbell who was a captain at Iowa.

Like the other linebackers, Campbell will cross-train at all three positions.

“We were very high on this guy, as a position coach, as well as the total defense,” Sheppard said.

It’s unusual in recent drafts to select a running back — and even a linebacker — so early in the first round. Any criticism rolls off Holmes’ shoulders.

“Frankly, we don’t care. We feel really confident about the work we put in and what those guys are going to do on the field. And I’m not saying in two years, three years. We believe these guys are ready to go right now,” Holmes said.

After the trade of the sixth pick, the Lions have five picks (12th, 18th, 34th, 48th and 55th)  in the top 55.  They have three picks in the second round on Friday and, at this point, have none in the third. Friday’s action starts at 7 p.m.


Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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