The Detroit Lions should have their RB1 for Week 1 of 2021. Running back D’Andre Swift will be ready to play against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Lions coach Dan Campbell revealed on Detroit’s flagship radio station, 97.1 The Ticket, Tuesday morning. Then on Wednesday, he practiced fully. This news is sure to have a positive impact on the Lions’ offense and Swift’s fantasy outlook in 2021.
Update (9/9): D’Andre Swift was a full participant at practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Running backs coach Duce Staley said there will be no workload limit on Swift in Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
D’Andre Swift ready to go for Week 1
Swift missed the entire preseason and much of training camp with a pesky groin injury. He left practice with the issue on Aug. 4, and it’s been somewhat of an issue ever since. But the Lions’ medical staff seems to have timed his rehab perfectly.
While Swift could have played over the past month if the games were real, the Lions took a conservative approach. As a result, he’s not expected to miss any regular-season time. How much he plays early on remains a bit of a mystery, however.
Campbell has suggested that, at least early on, fifth-year running back Jamaal Williams could see a prominent role, as Swift — the 35th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft — works himself back into game shape.
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Jamaal Williams could see more carries early in 2021
Williams joined the Lions on a two-year, $6 million contract during free agency after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Williams rushed for 1,985 yards and 10 touchdowns as Aaron Jones’ backup the past four seasons.
Once Swift gets his game legs back, however, the Lions are expected to use him heavily. Campbell has given new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn strict instructions to run the football, and Swift is expected to be the bell cow.
Assistant coach Duce Staley last month speculated that Swift could have more than two-dozen touches per game as Detroit’s “three-down back.” Swift’s fantasy outlook looks bleak in the short term, but this speaks volumes for his rest-of-season output.
Swift shared work with Adrian Peterson in 2020 but was the far more efficient back. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry and had more touchdowns (8 to Peterson’s 7) despite getting 42 fewer carries. Swift also ranked tied for third on the team with 46 catches.
D’Andre Swift fantasy impact in Week 1
Fantasy analysis provided by PFN’s Senior Fantasy Analyst Eric Moody.
Swift had a splendid rookie campaign, starting in four of 13 games. He had six games with 15 or more opportunities and averaged 19.5 PPR fantasy points in those games. The only other running backs who had higher fantasy points per opportunity last season than Swift (1.11) were Alvin Kamara (1.29), James White (1.2), and Nyheim Hines (1.16).
Many fantasy managers imagined that Swift would be deployed as a workhorse in 2021. That narrative does not seem to be coming to fruition. The Lions signed Jamaal Williams in free agency to form a committee with Swift. Detroit is likely to lean heavily on its improved offensive line and the running game with quarterback Goff under center.
New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn schemed 26% of passes and 41% of touches to running backs during his four years with the Los Angeles Chargers. It is concerning that Swift missed so much time this preseason with a groin injury. His number of touches may be limited in Week 1 against the 49ers. Swift can be viewed as a high-end RB3 against San Francisco’s stout defense.