D’Andre Swift was most sportsbooks’ favorite to be the first running back selected in this year’s draft. That didn’t happen, as the Chiefs took Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the last pick in the first round, but Swift didn’t wait long to hear his name called as Detroit selected the former Georgia back with the 35th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Since quarterback Matthew Stafford was drafted in 2009, the Lions haven’t had a single season in which they ranked inside the top half of the league in rush attempts per game. Could that change this year with Swift on the roster? Should we expect him to be a bell-cow back, or will Kerryon Johnson still be the starter?
— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) November 20, 2019
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It’s obviously not an exact science translating collegiate stats to the NFL, but Swift put up numbers in 2019 that would have made him the RB16 in PPR leagues had he been playing on an NFL roster. It’s unlikely he sees over 200 touches next year in a crowded backfield, but with 6.2 YPC and 9.0 YPR averages, his efficiency should translate into a high level of production in 2020. Swift has been an important part of a Georgia team that finished with double-digit wins each of the past three years.
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D’Andre Swift is going to earn a considerable role in the offense right away. The Lions would not have selected him in the second round with other top defensive talents like A.J. Epenesa and Yetur Gross-Matos still available unless they had big plans for him. I’m still projecting Kerryon Johnson to lead the team in carries at the moment. Still, Swift never averaged fewer than 6.2 YPC while at Georgia, so he should be very productive even on limited carries (I currently have him down for 136 to Johnson’s 158). Where I do see Swift being heavily involved is in the passing game, where I see him surpassing 56 targets as the lead pass-catcher out of the backfield.
ADP: 135.6, RB44
Auction Value: $11
Swift’s ADP hasn’t hit its offseason spike, which will likely come as more reports come out about how he fits in with the team during camp. Swift is currently being drafted after backups like Jamaal Williams, Tony Pollard, and Latavius Murray, which I don’t expect to be the case in a couple of months. Still, with Swift’s efficiency and pass-catching upside, I would be thrilled to land him anywhere after the 8th round or so.
It’s hard to say what Swift’s floor is in the NFL since we haven’t seen him play against pro-level defenses, but in the SEC over the past couple of seasons, he has faced plenty of elite defensive talent. Per Football Outsiders, 16/28 of Georgia’s opponents over the past two years (57%) ranked inside the top 40 defenses in the country in terms of DFEI – this is defined as the “per possession scoring advantage a team’s defense would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average offense.” While Swift doesn’t have any kind of NFL resume, we can’t write off his insane collegiate efficiency since he faced some elite defensive play over the years. The Lions will ask Swift to fill the pass-catching role out of the backfield that Theo Riddick handled for several years. In 2019, Detroit was a bottom-half team in pass-attempts to running backs after ranking inside the top four in 2018. Forty targets seem like the absolute baseline for Swift in the passing game, with the upside for much more.
It’s unlikely the Lions make Swift a workhorse back right away with the other talent on the roster, and over a 16-game schedule, I have Kerryon Johnson receiving more carries than him. However, Johnson has only played in 18 of a possible 32 games over his two professional seasons. If the Lions were confident in his ability to stay healthy, they likely wouldn’t have spent such an early pick on Swift. Over four years with the Lions, Theo Riddick’s 16-game average was 89 targets despite never being the actual starting running back. It isn’t entirely out of the question that Swift sees that type of pass-catching work as Kerryon Johnson hasn’t proven himself in that regard, only catching 42 passes in his career. Ty Johnson saw 31 targets last season despite only playing on 28% of the team’s snaps, but Swift will likely take over that role. None of the other backs on the roster – Bo Scarborough and Wes Hills – is a threat in the passing game. If Swift asserts himself in the passing game, he could be a low-end RB2 even with Kerryon Johnson on the field, but if Johnson were to miss any time, Swift’s upside would be through the roof.
Predicting how the Detroit Lions will use D’Andre Swift in 2020 https://t.co/l9Hjd88XJh
— SideLion Report (@SideLionReport) May 25, 2020
Detroit Lions’ Offense
The Lions were not an efficient offense in 2019 under first-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, ranking just 18th in the league in points per game. That has a lot to do with the fact that Matthew Stafford, Kerryon Johnson, and T.J. Hockenson – the team’s top QB, RB, and TE – all missed significant amounts of time. With Stafford now fully healthy, he will look to build on the impressive pace he set last year – had he played all 16 games, he would have finished with just under 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns. Between Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, and Hockenson, Detroit has a versatile group of pass-catchers on the roster. The team’s offensive production should increase significantly in 2020, especially with the addition of D’Andre Swift to the backfield.
Strength of Schedule
The NFC North has previously been a division full of elite run defenses, but that wasn’t quite the case in 2019 – the Packers (25th), Bears (16th), and Vikings (12th) weren’t too imposing in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. In addition to those divisional foes who they will take on two times each, the Lions will take on four of the five worst defenses in terms of RB defense from 2019 in the Texans, Redskins, Jaguars, and Panthers. The Cardinals (21st) and Titans (20th) were also in the bottom half of the league in points allowed to running backs. The rest of the Lions’ opponents in 2020 were top-12 run defenses in regards to fantasy scoring last year in the Saints (6th), Falcons (11th), Colts (9th), and Buccaneers (2nd). Still, overall this seems to be a pretty natural slate for D’Andre Swift to be able to produce fantasy points.
There’s a good chance Swift’s ADP stays low due to RBBC concerns, but the Georgia product will have the most valuable role in the Lions’ offense as the likely lead pass-catcher at running back. Given Kerryon Johnson’s inability to stay healthy for a full 16-game slate, Swift has massive upside as well as a decently safe floor. My rankings have Swift finishing as the RB28 in PPR leagues, but that’s with a full 16 games from Johnson, which is relatively unlikely. With his ADP currently in the double-digit rounds, Swift is going to be one of my favorite targets in fantasy drafts this year.
Detroit Lions RB D’Andre Swift tabbed as instant impact rookie by USA TODAY https://t.co/uwQBtSuePD
— UGA Football Live (@UGAfootballLive) May 25, 2020
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