Prior to last month’s NFL Combine, the vast majority of NFL scouts and dynasty players alike viewed Georgia’s D’Andre Swift as the top running back in the 2020 class. Then, Jonathan Taylor stole the show, creating a ton of buzz around the NFL Draft community and getting fantasy football players all hot and bothered by the former Wisconsin Badger. Is Jonathan Taylor the clear cut RB1 in this class, or are we forgetting how good D’Andre Swift was as a college running back?
On the most recent episode of the Fantasy Footballers Podcast, Mike and Jason discussed their top rookie running backs right now before the NFL Draft. As we know, landing spots can change a lot when evaluating how a prospect projects to the NFL for fantasy football purposes, but let’s dive into Swift’s college production, NFL Combine tests, and discuss how he projects as a running back in our fantasy football lineups.
Editor’s Note: For more on the 2020 rookie class, check out all of our 2020 NFL Draft content and stay tuned to the Fantasy Footballers podcast for April’s Rookie Preview show where the Ballers breakdown each position heading into the draft.
College Production Profile
D’Andre Swift burst onto the scene as freshman compiling over 750 yards from scrimmage while playing behind future NFL stars in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, the first two running backs on the Georgia depth chart during Swift’s freshman season. In doing so, he earned All-SEC Freshman honors. Over his final two seasons, Swift grew as a prospect, compiling well over 1,000 rushing yards each year and nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage during his 2019 campaign while playing against top tier SEC defenses. Swift earned first-team All-SEC honors during his final year in Athens.
Swift certainly didn’t re-write the record books at Georgia, but that’s a difficult feat when the record books include the names of Hershel Walker, Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley, and Knowshon Moreno. Swift is the next top tier RB prospect to join an impressive group of former Bulldogs headed to the NFL.
In his final season at Georgia, Swift ranked 5th in the SEC in rushing and 6th in yards per carry. However, the one statistical category that really lacked for the former Bulldog was the TD category, compiling just 8 total TD in 2019. This is probably more of a product of a subpar Georgia offense in 2019, who ranked 50th in the FBS in scoring. On film, Swift shows good decision-making skills close to the goal line and is able to hit paydirt when given the opportunity.
NFL Scouting Combine Measurements
40 Yard Dash
5'8", 212 lbs.
4.48 sec (6th)
35.5 inches (T-14th)
121.0 inches (T-16th)
Swift didn’t blow anyone away at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but his athletic testing profile checks out just fine. Most notably, his 4.48 40-yard dash, which was 6th fastest among running backs at the Combine, shows the speed that Swift has which makes him a dangerous playmaker when the ball is in his hands in the open field. He ran a faster 40 than that of his aforementioned UGA teammates, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
One of Swift’s greatest abilities on tape is his ability to stick his foot in the ground and change direction. With that being said, it would have been nice to see how his 3-cone time compared to other prospects, as this is a drill he likely would have crushed.
During the RB drills, Swift showed quickness and burst and a good ability to change direction with ease. Additionally, he looked like a natural pass-catcher out of the backfield during the RB pass-catching drills.
What’s On Tape
When I evaluate a running back prospect on film, I do my best to try to evaluate the player independently of the guys around him. For example, it doesn’t help us if a player plays behind an elite offensive line and doesn’t get touched for six yards. For a running back, it’s important to evaluate footwork, vision, pass protection, pass-catching ability, agility, and quickness, among other attributes.
Games viewed: Notre Dame (2019), Florida (2019), Tennessee (2019), Auburn (2019), South Carolina (2019)
1. Swift is dangerous in the open field
When D’Andre Swift has the ball in space, he’s one of the more electrifying players in college football. He isn’t necessarily a “home run hitter” as he’s more quick than fast. More specifically, when Swift finds himself one on one with a linebacker or a safety, it’s almost not even fair. More times than not, it takes more than one defender to bring him down.
Swift’s ability to set up his defender with his body angle then stick his foot in the ground and change direction is absolutely ridiculous. I would argue he’s the most agile running back in this class.
2. He is an underrated pass-catching running back.
Swift’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is natural. He catches the ball with his hands and looks comfortable catching the football when given the opportunity. His receiving stats don’t jump off the page but don’t let that fool you. Swift has the receiving chops to be an every-down back at the next level. Given his agility in the open field, the NFL team who drafts him will want to get him involved in the passing game – we love that in PPR formats!
3. Swift attacks the line of scrimmage with ease and gets to the second level quickly.
You know how Le’Veon Bell is patient at the line of scrimmage and waits for the perfect block to be set up in front of him? (Side note – that’s not always a good thing). Swift attacks the line of scrimmage with a decisive nature and knows exactly where to explode through the hole. His vision allows him to see the hole and explode through with quickness. He’s got this sneaky attribute where he looks like he’s about to run outside then plants his foot in the ground and attacks the cutback lane, a skill that will make him very successful in the NFL in an inside zone scheme.
What’s Not On Tape
Now that we’ve identified the strongest parts of Swift’s game, what isn’t in his game film? It’s easy to fall in love with a prospect when you watch them excel in certain areas, but if we fail to identify a prospect’s weaknesses, we’re only telling half the story.
Here are a couple of takeaways of what didn’t show up:
1. Ball security will need to improve at the NFL level.
One of my biggest pet peeves in fantasy football for running backs is when an NFL coach punishes an RB for fumbling, but it happens. D’Andre Swift put the ball on the ground seven times in 43 career games. While this isn’t an eye-opening number, it still happened often enough for me to notice. It won’t make me drop Swift in my dynasty rankings, but it’s worth mentioning for the reason I described above. If he lands with an “old school” coach who punishes ball carriers for fumbling, Swift may get pulled from the game every now and then.
2. His pass protection could use some work.
Let me be clear – Swift isn’t bad in pass protection, but he’s not great at it either. He’s very willing to pick up the blitzing safety or linebacker, which is important to discuss, as there are some backs who look afraid in blitz pick up or don’t put in full effort. That’s not Swift. When he finds himself on an NFL roster, Swift will need to learn how to use his hands more effectively during pass protection. If he truly wants to be a three-down back in the NFL, this is an area for improvement.
2020 Fantasy Outlook
D’Andre Swift is easily one of the most talented and complete running backs in the 2020 class. He’s got the vision, footwork, agility, and pass-catching skills to make him an elite fantasy football option for the next five years, especially if he can go to an offensive zone running scheme, which would allow Swift to showcase his elite vision and change of direction skills at the line of scrimmage.
Swift projects to be drafted to an NFL roster where he will have an opportunity to be the starting running back immediately out of the gates, making him a player we need to know for both dynasty and redraft leagues. Josh Jacobs’ rookie season is well within range for a player like Swift, as he is expected to be drafted early in the NFL Draft and earn a big-time role in an NFL offense right away.
Swift isn’t the “generational talent” type of prospect that a Saquon Barkley or a Christian McCaffrey was, so it’s very unlikely that he gets drafted in the top 10 picks of April’s NFL Draft. However, Swift has a chance to go late in Round 1 or early in Round 2, giving him the draft capital it takes to succeed for fantasy football. In dynasty rookie drafts, Swift deserves consideration at the 1.01.