I’m going to list three blind resumes of NFL running backs and tell me if you can guess who they are. Obviously given the headline you know one is D’Andre Swift, but which one is he?
- Running Back A: 140 carries, 665 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 4 rushing TDs. 45 targets, 29 receptions, 232 receiving yards, 1 rec. TD. 147.7 PPR points in 10 games played, 14.8ppg average. RB11 on the season.
- Running Back B: 135 carries, 518 yards, 3.7 ypc, 4 rushing TDs. 27 targets, 26 receptions, 227 receiving yards, 0 rec. TDs. 122.5 PPR points in 10 games played, 12.2 ppg average. RB16 on season.
- Running Back C: 70 carries, 331 yards, 4.7 ypc, 4 rushing TDs. 39 targets, 31 receptions, 275 receiving yards, 2 rec. TDs. 127.6 PPR points in 9 games played, 14.2ppg average. RB14 on season.
Running back A is CEH, running back B is Jonathan Taylor, and running back C is D’Andre Swift.
But why does this matter?
Because, according to Fantasy Pros, Swift was coming off the board in PPR league drafts this year as the RB29 with an ADP of 67 overall.
CEH, on the other hand, had an ADP of 18 and was the 13th RB off the board on average. In many leagues he went in the first round as potentially the 7th RB off the board. And I heard of some people taking him as high as the 5th pick, ahead of Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook.
The hype for CEH coming into the season was already crazy, but when Damien Williams opted out for the season due to COVID and CEH was bumped up to the starting running back on the Chiefs, the hype for him went completely out of control. He went from a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick to a first rounder in many leagues. I did tons of mock drafts prior to the season and CEH was consistently coming off the board in the first round after Williams decided to sit out the year.
Jonathan Taylor was hyped big-time, too. Anyone who watched college football knew who he was. He was a beast from Day One at Wisconsin, a school that churns out quality running backs like few others. He wow’d people with his combine performance, and ultimately ended up getting drafted by Indianapolis with the 9th pick in the 2nd round, #41 overall. It was considered a match made in heaven given how good Indy’s offensive line is. People didn’t care that Marlon Mack was already there and locked in as the starter; they assumed Taylor would quickly overtake him.
Fantasy Pros says Taylor had an ADP of 45, and was the 21st RB off the board in drafts. And this was with a fully healthy Marlon Mack on the team.
Mack ended up getting hurt and everyone assumed Taylor was poised to blow up and become a slam-dunk RB1 every week. But it hasn’t really panned out that way. He’s been okay, but people who own him in fantasy have been somewhat underwhelmed.
CEH and Jonathan Taylor were probably the most hyped-up rookie RBs going into 2020 fantasy drafts. Far more hyped than Swift was.
With CEH it was the twin narratives of “he’s the only RB that went in the first round!” and “he’s going to the best offense in the league!” that sent hype for him into the stratosphere. But Swift was drafted only three picks later than CEH, and more than a few NFL draft gurus considered him, not CEH, to be the best RB talent available for 2020.
Once Swift got drafted by Detroit, however, people sort of wrote him off assuming he’d be mired in obscurity in that backfield committee with Kerryon Johnson. And then when the Lions inexplicably signed Adrian Peterson right before the season, it was seen as even more bad news for Swift. Not only was he now one of three running backs fighting for carries, but his team had just brought in the greatest running back of the past decade who still has some gas left in the tank and who is too widely-respected not to get at least some carries.
Plus, with Matt Patricia being a Belichick disciple, people assumed Patricia would be trying to mimic the committee approach Belichick is so notorious for. Patriots RBs have–outside of LeGarrette Blount in 2016–consistently been the most unreliable and unpredictable players in fantasy. It almost seems like Belichick’s primary goal in doling out RB carries and touches is to screw with fantasy football owners. People assumed Patricia would do the same.
But Swift’s talent has shined through. He’s become the top running back in Detroit.
And it’s because talent shines through no matter what. If you’re good at football, you’re going to get opportunities.
Look at Antonio Gibson: people slept on him even after Washington got rid of Adrian Peterson because Washington was expected to be a horrible team and Gibson was going to be sharing the backfield with Peyton Barber and JD McKissic. But Gibson’s talent is undeniable. Good players will produce even if they’re on bad teams, and even if they’re in a committee.
Most NFL coaches are desperate to do whatever it takes to win. If a guy can play, they’ll feed him. They don’t have the luxury of keeping good players on the shelf.
Teams generally only use the “RB by committee” approach when they don’t have any one running back that is clearly superior to the others. But once a team finds The Guy, watch how quickly they stop using the committee approach.
Before McCaffrey, the Panthers used to have a committee backfield. By McCaffrey’s second season, Carolina no longer ran a committee backfield.
If you have a star on your team, you get him the ball as much as possible.
There’s too much at stake in the NFL for coaches to not do everything they can to maximize a guy’s abilities and get as much production as they can out of him.
This is why Swift has defied expectations and become the primary guy in Detroit’s backfield: Because he’s good at football. His talent is undeniable.
CEH began as a bellcow, but then the Chiefs brought in Lev Bell and it hurt CEH’s value.
After Mack went down, Taylor became a bellcow in Indy, but then the team started phasing in guys like Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins as the season progressed.
Swift, on the other hand, began the season in a committee with AP and Kerryon Johnson, but has gradually expanded his role and became the primary running back before getting hurt two weeks ago. Unfortunately he’s missed the past two games with a concussion, but he should be back for week 13.
So CEH and Taylor began the season as workhorses and gradually fell into committee roles, while Swift began in a committee and then about 6-7 weeks into the season, began taking on a bigger and bigger role in the backfield.
People are still sleeping on Swift. Most people don’t even realize how good he’s been this year.
People are going to be sleeping on him going into next year’s draft, too. I guarantee you that while he’s the RB14 this year, he will not be coming off the board that high in next year’s fantasy drafts. People will still be overlooking him.
Despite being trapped in a committee to start the season, he’s produced nearly as much as CEH has, and he’s outproduced Taylor.
Check this out:
- Swift has 101 touches this season and 127.6 PPR points, which equates to 1.26 points per touch.
- CEH has had 169 touches this season and 147.7 PPR points, or 0.87 points per touch.
- Taylor has had 141 touches this year and 122.5 PPR points, which is also 0.87 points per touch.
Swift has been far more efficient than both of them. And you were able to get him way later in the draft this year. I got him in the 8th round in my league, and that was before the AP signing.
Keep D’Andre Swift on your radar. If you can acquire him somehow this season (I know some leagues’ trade deadline is Nov. 30), do it.
If your season is already donezo and you’re looking forward to next year, Swift should be one to target. The dude has been an unsung hero this year, and will probably continue being overlooked.