After the Detroit Lions drafted Jahmyr Gibbs in the top half of the first round, rumors started swirling that D’Andre Swift’s time in Detroit was coming to an end. That came to fruition during Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft with the Philadelphia Eagles trading for the running back. Let’s examine the fantasy football fallout from the Swift trade.
Fantasy Football Impact of D’Andre Swift Trade
Gibbs is essentially a younger, possibly better version of Swift. The Lions had already signed David Montgomery to a sizable contract. It just didn’t make sense that they would enter the season with three running backs in need of playing time.
Immediately after Detroit drafted Gibbs, reports began surfacing that the Lions were receiving calls on Swift. A trade seemed inevitable.
On Saturday, the Lions traded Swift to the Eagles for a fourth-rounder and a swap of seventh-rounders.
It’s a move that makes sense for the Lions. Ever since the end of the 2021 season, it was abundantly clear Detroit was done with Swift. Normally, this would be concerning for fantasy purposes. However, I truly do believe this was just a situation where a team was “over” a player — I do not view it as an indictment on Swift’s talent, as Swift has been efficient his entire career.
D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny Will Work as a Committee
In Philly, Swift is going to play the same role he did in Detroit before the team soured on him. Swift and Rashaad Penny will likely form a relatively even committee.
As a two-down grinder, Penny will be the power back. Expect him out there on early downs and near the goal line — think something like 10-12 carries a game. He’ll be pretty touchdown-dependent, but touchdowns win fantasy matchups. Swift will be drafted much higher than Penny, but the latter will still have fantasy value.
Swift will be…well…Swift. He should play around 50% of the snaps and virtually all the passing downs. Thus, his receiving floor is very high. Last season, Swift’s 15.1% target share was sixth amongst running backs. Despite the Lions clearly losing interest in him — relegating him to a three-back committee with Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds/Justin Jackson — Swift remained efficient.
He ranked third in fantasy points per opportunity, fifth in yards per route run, fifth in rate of carries to go for 15+ yards, and second in both yards per touch and yards created per touch. By all accounts, Swift remains an excellent player. He just can’t be a three-down back. And with the Eagles, he won’t have to be.
It’s been a wild ride for Swift’s fantasy value over the past couple of days. He went from a potential fifth or sixth-round pick to likely going in the double-digit rounds to probably back into the top 36.
The Eagles have an embarrassment of riches on offense, but they also have an elite offense. There’s no reason we can’t see all of Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Penny, and Swift be fantasy relevant.
I’m completely back in on Swift as a high RB2. His floor is around 14 ppg. But what if he sees more goal-line work than we expect? That would raise his ceiling to the ranks of the elite. Swift is once again someone fantasy managers should salivate over drafting.
David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs Become the New Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift
To figure out what the Lions’ backfield will look like this year, you need not look any further than what it looked like last year.
Yes, the Lions’ backfield did devolve into a three-man committee, but previously, it was Willams and Swift. Now, it will be Montgomery and Gibbs.
Given Gibbs’ first half of the first-round draft capital, the Lions clearly think very highly of him. They didn’t draft him that high to not use him. He should immediately see at least a 45% snap share with something like 6-8 carries a game and almost all of the passing-down work.
Gibbs caught 103 passes in his three years at college. In his sophomore season at Georgia Tech, his target share was 13.8%. Similarly, I’m expecting his target share to be around 12-14% as a rookie.
Beyond Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lions don’t really have a clear second option in the passing game. Jameson Williams is a complete unknown and will miss the first six games of the season due to suspension. Expect Gibbs to be heavily involved as a receiver immediately.
At 199 pounds, Gibbs is not a three-down back. But we don’t want him to be. We want him getting the high-leverage touches in the passing game. We know how Detroit will use him because we saw it with Swift. And that role was very fantasy friendly.
Gibbs is someone I’m already extremely bullish on as a rookie. Swift had a fifth-round ADP as a rookie. Gibbs will undoubtedly go higher than that. If he’s there in the fourth round, he already looks like a great pick. But I fear he may jump into the third because the excitement is that high. He may still be worth it.
As for Montgomery, his value in 2023 fantasy football drafts will depend entirely on price. He’s essentially a slightly better version of Williams but one that’s not going to score 17 touchdowns this season.
Williams was the most touchdown-dependent RB in all of fantasy football last season. While he’ll probably have more receiving yards than Williams’ 73, if Montgomery catches fewer than 30 passes and totals around 1,100 yards, he’ll have a hard time matching Williams’ 13.3 ppg from last season without a bunch of touchdowns.
With that said, the Lions project to have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Montgomery should have plenty of weeks where he finds the end zone. He’ll be a worthwhile fantasy pick if the price is right.
Last year, Williams was a 10th-round pick. There’s no shot Montgomery goes anywhere near that late. Consider him a touchdown-dependent low RB2. I’d be fine taking him once he was the top running back on my board, but he won’t be anywhere near the value Williams was last season.
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