Vision: Ran almost exclusively one concept (power) at the college level and almost invariably from a split back shotgun alignment. Ability to run with pace to set up pullers is evident on film, but can be too urgent pushing into gaps and trying to get into space, which leads to collisions. Projects positively to zone flow from a physical perspective but vision and processing speed thereof are yet untested. Tremendous open-field athlete with elite returner vision who anticipates and discovers cuts with natural flow.
Burst: Has the gas. Ability to get to top speed in a few steps is evident on all of his explosive plays. Regularly breaks angles from closing defenders and cannot be tackled in pursuit by even the fastest opponents. Can carry burst through open field redirects and angles from the backfield and quickly attacks vertical space as a runner to force defenders to settle their feet. Tremendous lower-half build.
Change of Direction: A slasher-type runner who prefers to make subtle cuts/redirections while operating at velocity instead of jitterbugging his way through the trash; a slalom skier. Dips hips and head fakes into euro-step/rocker step moves to elude defenders and force bad tackle attempts. A bit upright and doesn't love to run with knee bend or true hip sink. Top of routes are often rounded off and he requires multiple steps to gear down if he's got to take a tough angle.
Power: Can turn velocity into power and often carries tacklers with him through the second level. Has great mass for the position with good thickness in the lower half to generate explosive power through contact. With that said, doesn't run with good leverage and isn't a candidate for short-yardage roles given his questionable vision and decision-making at this stage.
Second-Level Speed: House call waiting to happen. Carries velocity extremely well on a straight line and wins on constraint plays/as a returner in large part due to his top speed breaking pursuit angles. Flexibility through the hips allows him to make soft redirects while still maintaining top speed, which helps on returns.
Contact Balance: Wide base and strong lower half help him bounce through and carry contact with ease. Regularly shucks smaller defensive backs who try to come high on his frame and can win through arm tackles in the first level and keep his legs churning. Will lower shoulders when he feels contact coming but has an upright running style which could lead to less success her at the next level. Keeps the off hand active and has some power.
Decision-Making: Generally unknown. Follows pullers religiously and benefitted from a ton of space in the Memphis offense, so following the pullers was generally a winning formula. Shows no interest in manipulating defenders behind blockers, but didn't really need to. Open-field vision and instincts are high quality and offer a positive projection for decision-making behind the line.
Pass Catching: Well, I mean, he was basically a wide receiver in college, so he's pretty good here for a running back! Proved to be an explosive threat from the slot and won on downfield routes against off coverage. Doesn't have sharp breaks as a downfield route runner and will round off routes which allows coverage to get back into his frame. From the backfield, has the entire route tree at his disposal and wins in one-on-one situations in the open field. Quality candidate for BUS routes, wheel routes, option routes, and swings.
Pass Protection: He was never asked to do this at the college level -- not at all. Has a frame that would lend itself to success here, but that's all we know.
Round Grade: Incomplete
Best Trait: Pass Catching
Worst Trait: Pass Protecting
Pro Comparison: Kalen Ballage (but not bad)
Summary: Antonio Gibson is a fascinating NFL Draft projection with a wide range of outcomes in the NFL. A RB/WR hybrid player in a crowded Memphis backfield, Gibson took the majority of his snaps at WR across his two seasons at Memphis after rising up through the JUCO ranks. Gibson projects to RB at the NFL level given his smooth change of direction, quality contact balance, and explosive cuts in the open field, but his narrow frame of reference for blocking schemes at this stage make that position a multi-year projection. Gibson will first contribute as a returner and third-down back, and his WR background will benefit teams willing to feature him a pass-catching back on routes split out wide and from the backfield. A walking explosive play, Gibson has homerun hitting ability and an extremely high ceiling if his promising vision and feel continue to grow, and should be viewed as a potential starter by Year 3. He deserves back-end of Day 2 consideration.