After an offseason of panic, Week 1 showed that running back D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams can both have fantasy football value in the same offense. Swift and Williams finished as the RB4 and RB2, respectively, in PPR formats, but is such a split sustainable over a large enough sample?
Can D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams Both Thrive in Fantasy Football?
Obviously, nobody expects Williams to finish the season as the RB2, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have fantasy value. Williams narrowly outproduced Swift in terms of actual fantasy points, but Swift actually had more opportunities. Once the dust settled, Swift recorded 11 carries and eight receptions (11 targets), while Williams had nine carries and eight receptions (nine targets).
Both running backs will see plenty of action, but Swift should see a larger share of the workload as the season progresses. The running back battled a groin injury throughout the preseason, so he wasn’t ready for a full workload.
For what it’s worth, Swift is still battling said injury, so we should be looking at another 50/50 split in the short term. However, even when the second-year pro is back to full strength, Williams should see plenty of work. Back in March, head coach Dan Campbell talked about the need to sign a running back that “energizes your offense” while adding that the Lions “have to have another back”.
— Cougs in the Pros 🤙🏼 (@BYUpros) September 12, 2021
Based on this, it’s safe to say that Swift will not receive a Christian McCaffrey type of workload. Williams is still going to be involved, even if it is as a clear backup to Swift. Now that we have the roles established, let’s look at what this can actually turn into from a fantasy perspective.
Projecting D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams
The Detroit Lions are not a good team. While the offensive line is great, everything else about the unit is a hot mess. Jared Goff is average at best, the defense is a nightmare, and T.J. Hockenson is the only pass-catching weapon of note. Typically, you want running backs on winning teams, as they’re more likely to score touchdowns. However, this unique combination of terrible defense and uninspiring pass-catching could create a perfect storm for both running backs.
It’s safe to say that the Lions are going to lose most of their games, which means that they’ll have to throw the ball in order to catch up. Hockenson can’t possibly receive every target, and Swift and Williams are probably the second- and third-best receivers on the team, respectively.
D’ANDRE SWIFT IS A STAR ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/KeKKab1NzP
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 12, 2021
We already saw this play out in Week 1, as Swift and Williams combined to receive 35% of Goff’s targets. Obviously, the Lions won’t be facing a 28-point deficit every game, but the fact remains that both running backs are key parts of the passing game.
This doesn’t even take into account the schematic philosophies of head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Campbell comes from the Sean Payton coaching tree, and Payton is famous for turning any running back he touches into fantasy gold. Ditto for Anthony Lynn, as Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon both enjoyed career seasons under his reign.
Assuming health, Swift should be a low-end RB1, while Williams should be a solid flex play most weeks. Both players will carry plenty of fantasy football value and, considering where they were going in drafts, will probably be the backbone of many a championship team.
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