The Detroit Lions quietly have one of the most interesting fantasy football tandems in D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. Last year at this time, a good portion of the fantasy community was preparing for a Kerryon Johnson breakout. However, injuries and inefficiency got in the way, and Johnson widely disappointed his owners.
The Lions addressed the running back position by selecting Swift early in the second round of the NFL Draft. Several draft analysts had Swift as the best running back in the class, but this shortened offseason will make it hard for any rookie to usurp a proven veteran. What should fantasy football owners expect from the duo, and could either guy end up being a value in redraft leagues?
Certainly Las Vegas has set some interesting lines week and and week out for Detroit. As the pecking order in the backfield is taking shape, check the latest from bet365 Canada.
Fantasy Football Player Profiles
Fantasy Football: D’Andre Swift, Kerryon Johnson Preview
Detroit Lions Coaching and Situational Opportunity
Before we get into each player, let’s start by breaking down Detroit’s situation. Situation tends to matter more than individual talent in fantasy football, especially for running backs. Winning your league is all about capturing upside, so let’s look at just how good this offense could be for fantasy.
The ideal fantasy football running back plays in a high-powered offense operated by a run-first coach, and that situation appears to be present for the Lions. Ever since he arrived in Detroit, head coach Matt Patricia has talked about trying to build the offense around the running game. This is more than just talk, as the Lions have used high draft picks on running backs and offensive linemen ever since he arrived.
The Lions want to run the ball, but that’s only half the battle. The best fantasy backs are on high-scoring offenses, and it’s hard to have a top offense without a strong passing attack. Fortunately, the Lions are covered there as well. Matthew Stafford is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell actively encourages him to stretch the field. Throw in the fantastic receiver duo of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones and this offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league.
The defense will probably still be a mess, as you don’t get better by trading away Darius Slay. This will limit some garbage-time carries, which does put a ceiling on the running backs. That said, the coaching philosophy and offensive pieces could create a valuable fantasy environment if one of the young running backs can definitively win the starting job.
The Timeshare Problem
D’Andre Swift is the hottest name and currently has the higher ADP. According to FantasyPros Average Draft Position, Swift is currently the RB24 while Kerryon Johnson is all the way down at RB36. The fantasy community clearly expects Swift to win the job, but is that belief justified?
At their best, both players are very talented runners with the ability to make plays in the passing game. Swift and Johnson were both selected in the early second round by the same administration, so it’s clear that Detroit’s current coaching staff believes in the talent of both players. Additionally, Lions beat writer Tim Twentyman reported that Johnson and Swift are “expected” to split carries in a committee approach.
This doesn’t mean that neither player will have fantasy value, but it does put a clear cap on how good either one can be. However, just because the Lions want to evenly split carries doesn’t mean that they actually will. A further dive into the situation shows that Swift should win this job sooner rather than later.
Why D’Andre Swift Can Overtake Kerryon Johnson
Ever since entering the league, Kerryon Johnson has struggled to stay healthy. Throughout the course of his career, Johnson has played in just 18 of a possible 32 games while battling a variety of ailments and knee issues.
The injury-prone label can be overused, as injuries tend to be more about luck than an actual inability to stay on the field. However, some injuries sap a players’ ability, and that appears to have happened with Johnson. The running back publicly said that Swift is capable of doing things that he just can’t do, which should be a glaring red flag for fantasy owners. The coaching staff will eventually see that Swift is the superior option and make him the featured back.
Even when this backfield is a timeshare, Swift should see more carries than Johnson. The Lions have always made a clear effort to limit Johnson’s workload, and his injury history will only increase said efforts. Throughout the course of his career, Johnson has only recorded 15 or more carries in six of his 18 career games. By comparison, Bo Scarbrough hit that mark in three of his five starts last year, and saw 14 carries in another game.
D’Andre Swift, Kerryon Johnson Average Draft Position
D’Andre Swift is definitely the running back to own in Detroit’s backfield. Chances are, he’ll start out splitting work in a high-powered offense before increasing his work as the season progresses. His higher ADP is definitely justified, as he’s currently going off the board in the same general range as Devin Singletary, David Montgomery, and Cam Akers.
Personally, I’d take Swift over Singletary in a heartbeat. The other two are a little more interesting. Montgomery has full control of his backfield, but Chicago’s underwhelming option puts a massive cap on his ceiling. Picking between these two is a personal preference – if you like upside, go for Swift here. Cam Akers’ fantasy stock is entirely dependent on what happens with Darrell Henderson. The second-year back earned first-team work at the start of camp but suffered an injury. If it’s serious, I’d take Akers over Swift. If not, I’d roll with Swift.
Johnson, meanwhile, is the RB36 and going off the board in the same range as Phillip Lindsay, Matt Breida, Marlon Mack, and Sony Michel. I’d personally draft another position at this point in the draft, but if you’re forced to pick a running back here, I’d go with Breida. He’s the only one in this tier with complete control of the receiving work, and Miami’s depleted receiving corps should lead to a decent amount of targets.
Fantasy Football Player Profiles
Embed from Getty Images