Challenges D'Andre Swift Faces in Second NFL Season

Read more on the challenges Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift faces headed into his second NFL season
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Expectations are high for Detroit Lions second-year running back D'Andre Swift, as he prepares for the 2021 NFL season. 

The Georgia product will enter the campaign as the Lions' clear-cut No. 1 back, after sharing carries with Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson a year ago. 

Former Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams was added via free agency this offseason, and Johnson is still in the fold. But, due to Johnson's durability concerns, there's little-to-no doubt that Swift will be Detroit's lead back in 2021. 

The 2020 second-round pick (No. 35 overall) finished his rookie campaign with 114 carries for 521 yards and eight touchdowns, to go along with 46 receptions for 357 yards and two scores. 

His solid display as a first-year pro -- in just 13 games (four starts) -- allowed him to finish 18th in fantasy points among all running backs. 

Additionally, in five games where Swift garnered at least 15 touches in the Lions' backfield, he averaged north of 20 fantasy points a game (20.8), according to Sports Illustrated's Michael Fabiano

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While it's fair to say that Swift is a breakout candidate, there's also concern that he succumbs to mediocrity, just like the 18 other backs that the franchise has drafted in the 22 years since legendary Detroit runner Barry Sanders hung up the cleats. 

While fellow Lions draft picks Kevin Jones (first-round pick in 2004), Kevin Smith (third round in 2008) and Jahvid Best (first round in 2010) produced solid rookie campaigns, they, for the most part, failed to be as consistently productive as their careers progressed. 

Jones was the best of the three aforementioned backs, as he produced the 21st-most fantasy points among running backs as a rookie and then accounted for the 15th-most points at the position in 2006.  

Jones only suited up for two more NFL seasons after that, however. 

So, history tells us that it's far from a guarantee that Swift will build on his impressive rookie season and have a big sophomore campaign. 

From Fabiano's perspective, there's also the concern that Williams will steal some carries from Swift. 

As Fabiano writes,

"Last season, Williams saw an 18.4 percent touch share and averaged about 11 touches per game in Green Bay. That's right around the same number of touches Peterson (10.5) had in 2020. Williams was also targeted 35 times as a pass-catcher. That's almost double the number of targets Peterson recorded and nine more than Johnson." 

It also doesn't help that Detroit, as a rebuilding franchise, will be playing from behind in many of its games this upcoming season, and subsequently will be forced to throw a lot in the second halves of games. 

For that reason and the other ones noted above, Fabiano believes that fantasy owners should temper their expectations regarding Swift.  

As Fabiano writes, 

"If you do draft Swift, I’d be expecting no more than a mid-tier RB2 finish in fantasy points." 

I still expect Swift to be productive as a second-year pro. 

But, I do agree with Fabiano, and believe that it'd be wise to back away from definitively declaring that Swift is going to be a breakout player, both for the Lions and his fantasy owners, in 2021.

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