D’Andre Swift is one of the most valuable dynasty assets entering the 2022 season. After a sophomore campaign that was equal parts exhilarating and frustrating, fantasy managers are hoping Swift is handed the keys to the Lions’ backfield in his third year. How should dynasty fantasy football managers value Swift going forward?
D’Andre Swift’s dynasty profile for 2022
The Lions and fantasy managers alike really ran the gamut of emotions with Swift in 2021. Swift played in 13 games last season and averaged 16.2 PPR fantasy points per game. He was a low-end RB1. The frustrating part was his inconsistent usage.
Beginning in Week 4, Swift took over the Lions’ backfield … sort of. From that point until his Thanksgiving knee injury, Swift never played fewer than 70% of the snaps. However, his usage wasn’t always the same. There were games where Swift saw double-digit targets. There was a game where Swift saw 33 carries.
Fantasy managers wanted a running back that was prolific in the passing game, but he also got some work on the ground. Over his first seven games, Swift averaged 55 receiving yards per game. He never had fewer than 4 receptions or 33 yards in a game over that span.
Beginning in Week 8, for some inexplicable reason, Swift stopped being used in the passing game. His target share dropped — over his final six contests, Swift totaled just 61 receiving yards. It was frustrating and maddening.
After returning from injury for the final two contests of the season, Swift played the majority of the snaps. However, he only saw a total of 11 carries and 8 targets over those two games.
Entering the 2022 season, Swift is healthy and the clear lead back. Still, fantasy managers are left wondering how much Swift will dominate this backfield. How should fantasy managers value Swift for 2022 and beyond?
Fantasy projection for Swift
Swift was appealing heading into the 2021 season for several reasons. He was young, talented, and his receiving prowess gave him both a high floor and high ceiling. The idea was that Swift would be useful almost every week but especially productive when he scored. The reality is Swift was not effective in games where he didn’t score. With that said, a deeper dive into Swift’s performance sheds some light on whether this is a concern.
For the purposes of this analysis, Swift played 12 games. Thanksgiving doesn’t count because he got hurt after playing just 10 snaps. Swift scored at least 14 fantasy points in eight games. He scored a touchdown in seven of them. Swift did not have a single multi-touchdown outing and failed to reach double-digit fantasy points in three of his five full games where he didn’t score a TD.
The good news? Of the games where Swift scored a touchdown and reached 14 fantasy points, he would’ve hit that mark in five of them even without the touchdown. In other words, I’m still confident Swift can be an RB1 in fantasy, even on a bad Lions offense. If this offense can improve, Swift has mid-RB1 upside. Unfortunately, I don’t see top-five upside unless this offense either gets a lot better or they use Swift like Christian McCaffrey-lite.
The Lions’ backfield will likely be Swift, Jamaal Williams, and Craig Reynolds this season. Before Swift got hurt, he was trending toward control of the backfield. His usage after returning from injury was concerning, but it’s probably fair to chalk it up to not wanting to overwork him in two meaningless games at the end of the season. If Swift’s usage returns to where it was over the first half of the season, he’s an RB1.
What is Swift’s future beyond 2022?
Swift is entering his third NFL season at just 23 years old. He has a good half-decade (or more) of production left in him. As we’ve seen with guys like Giovani Bernard and J.D. McKissic, pass-catching backs can remain productive into their late 20s. Swift can be the cornerstone of a dynasty roster that is both rebuilding or trying to win in 2022.
My outlook on Swift is mostly positive, but it’s important to paint a full picture. There are concerns. Swift’s performance last year netted him an overall RB9 finish in ppg (minimum eight games played). Yet, he’s currently valued as a top-five running back in dynasty. I struggle to see how Swift can improve upon his 2022 averages without an uptick in volume or a significant improvement by the Lions on offense.
What can fantasy managers expect from Swift?
Jared Goff is back to start for another season. The team did add DJ Chark in free agency and may draft another wide receiver. They’re improving, but it’s hard to see a Goff-led team ever being more than a below-average offense.
Running backs are not as reliant on the quality of their offense as wide receivers, but the running backs that excel in bad offenses are the ones that dominate touches. Will that be Swift? I’m not so sure.
The good news is Swift is one year away from needing an extension. If the Lions don’t find their quarterback of the future, Swift may be playing on a better team that will use him more effectively as early as 2024. He’s still a highly desirable dynasty asset.
Swift may be a bit overvalued in dynasty circles as he’s priced on projected improvement. However, given his age and talent level, the price may be justified even if Swift mostly teeters on the RB1/2 border for the majority of his career.
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