It’s been a long time since the Detroit Lions have had a running back to be feared. Drafting D’Andre Swift is the biggest swing to fix that in 21 years.
The Detroit Lions may not have had their fair share of Super Bowl wins … or appearances … or even realistic hopes for that matter. But they have had their fair share of elite players in the past 30 years.
D’Andre Swift was more often than not the consensus No. 1 running back on experts big boards. Including Daniel Jeremiah’s, who had Swift as the 16th overall ranked prospect. A big vote of approval in an era where devaluing running backs is the new thing.
Some, including myself, will call drafting a running back 35th overall a luxury pick. Some, including myself, will also say having a Top-5 running back in the NFL is a major luxury.
So, for me, it’s clearly not a black and white issue. Though with Detroit reportedly under a win-now edict, many needs needing to be filled, and having just traded up to draft a running back in the second round just two years prior. Swift was the last player on my mind while on the clock at (35).
Swift exits Georgia after three seasons with 440 attempts, 1,218 rushing yards and a 6.6 yards per attempt. But wait, there’s more … he also had 73 receptions, 666 receiving yards, and a 9.1 yards per reception.
Between the stats and how highly rated D’Andre was coming out of college, he is the best running back prospect the Lions have spent a resource on since drafting Barry Sanders third overall way back in 1989.
Here’s a list of all 20 running backs taken between Barry in 1989 and Swift in 2020:
- 2019, Ty Johnson, Round 6 (186)
- 2018, Kerryon Johnson, Round 2 (43)
- 2016, Dwayne Washington, Round 7 (236)
- 2015, Ameer Abdullah, Round 2 (54)
- 2013, Theo Riddick, Round 6 (199)
- 2011, Mikel LeShoure, Round 2 (57)
- 2010, Jahvid Best, Round 1 (30)
- 2009, Aaron Brown, Round 6 (192)
- 2008, Kevin Smith, Round 3 (64)
- 2006, Brian Calhoun, Round 3 (74)
- 2004, Kevin Jones, Round 1 (30)
- 2003, Artose Pinner, Round 4 (99)
- 2003, Brandon Drumm, Round 7 (236)
- 2002, Luke Staley, Round 7 (214)
- 2000, Rueben Droughns, Round 3 (81)
- 1999, Sedrick Irvin, Round 4 (103)
- 1997, Terry Battle, Round 7 (206)
- 1993, Ty Hallock, Round 7 (174)
- 1991, Cedric Jackson, Round 8 (205)
- 1990, Reginald Warnsley, Round 11 (285)
As you can see the Lions really didn’t get serious about young running back talent until 2004 drafting Kevin Jones in the first round. Jones was the third RB taken off the board in a weaker RB class and was never considered an elite prospect. He had a 5.6 YPA on 616 attempts at Virginia Tech.
Kicking the can down the road some more the Lions waited until 2010 to go after their next high-level running back prospect. Jahvid Best, like Swift in 2020, was part of a three-headed RB monster class heading into the draft, along with C.J. Spiller and Ryan Matthews. Spiller went ninth, Matthews 12th, and Best 30th as he was the third-best bet for success due to his concussion history. Turns out the scouts were right. Best had a 7.3 YPA on 364 attempts at Cal.
Abdullah in 2015 was an alright prospect but was never considered elite either. He was the fourth RB taken behind Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and T.J. Yeldon. Ameer finished his career at Nebraska with a 5.6 YPA on 813 attempts.
Kerryon Johnson twp years ago was often the 5th, 6th or even 7th ranked running back coming out. Often behind the likes of Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones II, etc. Johnson had a 4.8 YPA on 519 attempts at Auburn.
Swift was considered the top RB throughout this whole 2020 season and the most coveted RB prospect since Saquon Barkley three drafts ago.
Projections don’t always pan out for running backs, but there is no denying the better the prospect the better the chances. The Detroit Lions just took their best swing at an elite playmaker at running back in 21 years.