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D’Andre Swift Start/Sit Week 4: Should fantasy managers be concerned against the Bears?

With a matchup against a divisional rival in Week 4, should fantasy football managers start or sit Detroit Lions RB D'Andre Swift this week?

Between offseason coach-speak and the addition of a highly capable free-agent backfield mate, the Detroit Lions gave fantasy football managers cause for concern about RB D’Andre Swift. Indeed, many managers felt Swift was going from a bona fide RB1 to a player likely to end up embroiled in convoluted start-or-sit discussions. Heading into a Week 4 matchup with the always defensively sound Chicago Bears, should fantasy football managers start or sit Swift?

Update (10/03/21): D’Andre Swift is active for the Lions game against the Bears in Week 4.

D’Andre Swift has excelled in his role so far this season

After watching Swift’s draft capital fall closer and closer to the third round, it was clear managers were buying into the rhetoric from head coach Dan Campbell. Detroit’s new HC said the team would deploy a committee approach at RB, and he would ride the hot hand. Add in a more-than-capable RB2 in Jamaal Williams, and the scales of fantasy truth began to tip — in my opinion, too far. This is a case where you need to put your faith in Swift’s talent shining through.

Through three games, Swift is the RB3 in PPR formats while averaging 19.97 fantasy points per game. He was arguably the best pass-catching back of his class — he’s putting those skills he honed at Georgia to good use. Swift has 33 carries for 123 yards and 1 TD on the year, but he’s also seen 23 targets (19.3% target share), recording 19 receptions for 166 yards and another score.

Not only is he averaging 18.7 opportunities per game (ninth-best among RBs), but Swift’s 7.7 targets per game are second only to Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Najee Harris (9.7). Both of those figures would have been tops in the NFL last season (Alvin Kamara led the league with 7.1 targets per game).

While he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry (41 yards/game), Swift’s 49.67 receiving yards per game is No. 1 among RBs. Swift is having a fantastic season, and he’s doing it while only receiving 54.1% of Detroit’s carries and playing on 63% of the snaps.

Jamaal Williams has been as good as advertised in 2021

It’s not surprising what Williams has accomplished in his first season with the Lions. You can go back into the summer and find numerous articles where I claimed Williams had 200-opportunity upside. That’s rare territory, as only 22 RBs hit that mark in 2020.

But through three games, Williams is on pace to smash those numbers and be one of the best draft-day values at the RB position. Currently sitting as the RB11 in PPR while averaging 15.47 fantasy points per game, Williams has seen consistent usage.

Williams is averaging 14 opportunities per game, which would put him on pace for 238 opportunities over a 17-game season. He has 28 rushes for 121 yards (4.3 per carry) with 2 touchdowns while adding 13 receptions (14 targets) for 93 yards.

While he is the clear RB2 on the team, Williams is more than just a backup — he is a weekly starter. In fact, he is averaging more fantasy points per opportunity than Swift (1.10 to 1.07). If Swift were to go down for any length of time, Williams would be a rock-solid, high-end RB2.

In terms of pure rushing, the duo has turned the Lions into one of the best running teams in the NFL. Detroit’s 0.73 fantasy points per rush are seventh-best in the NFL, which is impressive for a team with just 3 rushing touchdowns.

Should fantasy managers be wary of Swift’s matchup vs. the Bears?

For as bad as the offensive disaster is in Chicago, at least head coach Matt Nagy hasn’t messed up the defense too much. While they are a stout unit boasting the likes of Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn, and Akiem Hicks, the Bears can be vulnerable to RBs.

The Bears currently rank No. 14 in fantasy points allowed to running backs, giving up 22.17 points per game. Additionally, they’ve given up 145 total yards to RBs, which ranks 23rd in the NFL.

The Cleveland Browns’ RB duo just steamrolled Chicago in Week 3 — Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 239 total yards. While we should not expect that kind of performance from the Lions, we could see Detroit try and control the clock with Swift and Williams heavily involved.

Should Swift be a start in your Week 4 fantasy lineup?

Fantasy managers get concerned when they see an injury designation next to a player’s name, but I wouldn’t worry about Swift and his groin issue. He’s been listed as questionable with a groin injury every game, yet he’s still the RB3 overall.

Rain is expected at some point during the game, which tends to favor the rushing game as teams attempt to limit turnovers. Lions QB Jared Goff had a fumble when the rain started to come down in Week 2, and I’m sure ball security has been a coaching point in practice.

If you have Swift in your fantasy team, he is a weekly must-start — and the same goes for Williams in the flex position. Swift comes in as my RB8 in half-PPR rankings (RB6 in PPR), with Williams a higher-end RB3.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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