It seems outlandish to point towards the backfield when trying to identify the weakness on the offensive side of the football regarding the Detroit Lions heading into the 2022 season, but it's a position in question.
If you've followed my work, you will recall how enthusiastic I was when the Detroit Lions used the no. 35 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on D'Andre Swift. I prematurely labeled the product of Georgia the best running back the organization had seen since Barry Sanders. This before he earned a single carry.
I had Swift marked as the top all-around running back in the class ahead of the NFL Draft, and if you recall, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire to close out the first round making him the first running back chosen. Looking back, Jonathan Taylor appeared to be the bargain and was selected by the Colts six selections following Swift. I had Taylor projected as the second-best back in the class. Oops.
The Detroit Lions, who selected Jeff Okudah no. 3 overall, elected to use a premium pick on Swift, not wasting any time on day two, hoping to solidify the running back position with an elite-level athlete for at least four seasons.
D'Andre Swift is entering a make-or-break season with the Detroit Lions.
The problem? In his first two years as a professional, Swift hasn't been able to remain healthy for an entire season.
Swift has appeared in 26 games totaling 1,138 rushing yards and tallying 13 rushing touchdowns. In addition to that production in the run game, Swift has maintained an incredible 80% catch rate in his career. The dual-threat running back also chipped in with 108 receptions over that span, amassing 809 receiving yards and adding four more scores.
Perhaps I got my hopes up with Swift as I often compared him to 49ers legend Frank Gore. Gore and Swift share a similar build at 5-foot-9, and both weighed a stout 215 or so pounds. As a rookie, Swift earned an overall grade of 69.4 courtesy of Pro Football Focus (PFF) and followed it up last season in year two with a 57.8 mark.
Gore entered the league with injury concerns but proved to be remarkably durable as his career grew old. Like Swift, Gore was as dangerous as a pass-catcher and as explosive as a runner. Although he's often overlooked, Gore finished his career with 16,000 rushing yards and 3,985 yards receiving over a 16-year career.
D'Andre Swift is set up for success.
Detroit is deep at the running back position with Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, and Godwin Igwebuike behind Swift but lacks an elite-level option. Pro Football Network recently ranked Swift as the league's no. 32 best running back. Yikes, that is not very promising. Is Swift the latest member of the ‘overvalued because he's on our favorite team' player? Let's hope he can right the ship in 2022 and match the overall hype formed by this fanbase.
General manager Brad Holmes made a conscious effort to upgrade the team's receiving corps to insulate Amon-Ra St. Brown by adding free agent DJ Chark along with trading up in the draft to secure the services of Jameson Williams. The trio of receivers combined with tight end T.J. Hockenson will keep defenses honest and limit the eight-men in the box looks Swift will see.
We know the quarterback position will be in question all season long. Still, if you fail to recognize or refuse to comprehend that Jared Goff is simply a placeholder until he proves he can elevate the players around him, I can't help you. Unless there is a miracle, Goff will be looking for real estate elsewhere next season, and the Detroit Lions will have a highly touted rookie signal-caller under center.
For the Lions to succeed in 2022, Goff needs to be the perfect blend of the player we saw to close out 2021 and the game-manager he proved he could be during his final years with Sean McVay calling the shots in Los Angeles. Also, I can't begin to express how disappointed I am in the fact that the Detroit Lions refused to upgrade their quarterback room by adding a better backup. There is no reason why Holmes elected to bring back David Blough or Tim Boyle this offseason.
The Detroit Lions have what should be a top-five offensive line in place, so the Detroit backfield already has a leg up on most franchises.