If there has been a defining theme through the first 35 picks of the NFL Draft, it's been one of less-than-ideal fits for Fantasy. Pick No. 35 highlighted that when the Detroit Lions took Georgia running back D'Andre Swift to pair with Kerryon Johnson in the backfield, creating yet another time share.
At least for now. If Johnson is healthy heading into the 2020 season, he and Swift figure to split time, which figures to limit the Fantasy upside of both. In Johnson's case, that likely pushes him to the second half of Fantasy drafts, especially after he didn't exactly impress even before his injury in 2019. Johnson won't even be 23 until the end of June, but it already feels like the Lions are getting ready to turn the page on him.
However, that doesn't mean Swift will be a Fantasy difference maker in 2020 — at least not right away. This feels a bit like the situation in Philadelphia last year, where Jordan Howard started the season as the go-to option, with Miles Sanders serving as the change-of-pace back with receiving chops to complement Howard. That analogy doesn't quite work in this scenario, because Johnson is actually a fine pass catcher in his own right, but it works in that Swift is likely facing an uphill climb to Fantasy viability at the start of the season.
However, Swift could very well emerge as a difference-maker before long. He's stoutly built and quick, ranking in the 83rd percentile among running backs in 40-yard time and speed score, which takes into account weight to put 40 times into context, and he showed the ability to make plays in the passing game as well as on ground in college.
As is pretty typical for backs in Georgia's stacked RB room, Swift didn't dominate touches in college, but he was extremely effective in his role, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and 9.1 yards per reception. He was the best of the Bulldogs backs in 2019, so that production wasn't just the product of a system — he has skills and could emerge as a must-start Fantasy back by the second half of 2020 and beyond.
However, there are red flags, even beyond the questionable Fantasy role to start his career. Swift dealt with nagging foot and ankle injuries in 2018, and he had groin surgery last spring and dealt with a shoulder injury in December. He's a smaller back, but he doesn't shy away from contact, and that aggressive style could continue to lead to availability issues.
That aggressive style also didn't really lead to the kind of results you might hope for; According to Pro Football Focus, Swift's 700 yards after contact ranked 37th and his 40 missed tackles was tied for 56th-best among FBS runners with at least 100 carries. You might prefer to see a little more lightning and a little less thunder in his game to get the most out of him.
Ultimately, for 2020 at least, Swift figures to enter the season well behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire among the top rookie backs for Fantasy, and he lands in a similar spot to Jonathan Taylor in Indianapolis. The offensive fit isn't bad, as the Lions want to run the ball and have often used multiple backs in both the running game and passing game. He could be in line for 10 touches per game to start the season, potentially putting him in the flex conversation.
But Swift will really have to impress to push Johnson into a reserve role. Johnson's injury history means it isn't impossible, but you probably need to draft Swift understanding you'll need to be patient. If you do, Sanders provides the blueprint, as he emerged as a legitimate must-start player as the season went on.
We could see something similar from Swift, who should be worth drafting once those must-start running backs go off the board. There's significant potential here, and that upside makes him worth targeting once the first five rounds are done on Draft Day — likely even before Johnson is off the board. And in rookie-only drafts, a first-round pick might be in order — though probably after Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor are off the board, at least.