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Fantasy Football: Is D'Andre Swift a trap or a potential league-winner?

Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

There wasn’t much to like about the 2020 Detroit Lions. Their 5-11 record was more disappointing than usual, considering they got 16 games out of Matthew Stafford, although it’s tough to place too much blame on anyone in the offense after the defense allowed a league-high 32.4 points per game. Throw in No. 1 wide receiver Kenny Golladay playing just 4.5 games, and you largely had a trainwreck of a football team.

However, there was one glaring exception: rookie running back D’Andre Swift. Things certainly didn’t start out great for the Georgia product, as he dropped a last-second, game-winning score in Week 1 against the Bears. That was only one play, though; even the league’s very best receivers experience mishaps from time to time. The second-round pick was otherwise excellent for much of the season, displaying dynamic ability as both a rusher and receiver when the Lions weren’t running Adrian Peterson into eight-man boxes.

Plenty has changed ahead of 2021, including a new coach, new quarterback and new backfield mate, but Swift still looks a lot like the most explosive player in this offense. What follows is a breakdown of what makes the rising second-year talent such a problem for defenses to deal with as well as an analysis of his fantasy football ceiling entering 2021. Also, check out the 5/21 edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for an interview with Swift himself.

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Swift is the perfect modern-day RB

PFF’s post-draft takeaway from the Lions’ 2020 second-round pick was the following: “Swift is a complete running back, but if you’re valuing him highly, you better have a plan to take advantage of his receiving ability.”

This is what makes Swift so dangerous: He’s already capable of causing issues for defenders of all shapes and sizes in the passing game. The leaderboard for yards per route run among running backs with at least 25 targets was as follows in 2020:

  1. Alvin Kamara (2.19)
  2. James White (2.04)
  3. Myles Gaskin (1.87)
  4. Nyheim Hines (1.83)
  5. Austin Ekeler (1.71)
  6. Swift (1.58)

This number also stacks up favorably among rookie running backs in recent years, as only Kamara, Ekeler, Joe Mixon, Tarik Cohen and Miles Sanders topped Swift’s gaudy per-route efficiency among first-year backs with at least 25 targets over the past five seasons.

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