With the 35th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected running back D’Andre Swift. The former Georgia Bulldog was one of the top running backs in the class. Depending on who you ask, most say he was the best of the entire crop. Swift is a killer out in space and has the ability to contribute on all three downs. He is coming out of the running back factory that is Georgia, who recently has produced NFL staples Todd Gurley, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb. Swift can come in and lessen the workload on those other guys, decreasing their injury risk. But who will the other guys be and how will Swift fit into the stable?
Starting Backfield Tandem
This isn’t the first time the Lions have taken a running back in the second round under Bob Quinn’s management. Back in 2018, he traded up to secure Kerryon Johnson. Kerryon, however, has yet to play a full season in the NFL.
Staying healthy has been Johnson’s biggest handcuff during his football career, dating back to his time at Auburn. The Lions cut C.J. Anderson last season to open the door for a larger workload for Kerryon. The larger workload ended up backfiring for the young back. He found himself yet again on injured reserve, though he would come back late in the season. Kerryon certainly has the talent to be a starting running back in the league, but he needs to share the work with someone else. Fewer touches for Johnson lowers injury risk, while it still gives him a chance to contribute. Thus, the Lions found themselves looking for a second back in a 1-2 punch with Kerryon. This ultimately led to the Lions selecting Swift in round two.
As a top-40 pick in the draft, Swift is expected to step in and get starter-level carries on offense. He’s likely going to split carries with Johnson. Both offer ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, in pass-protection, and rushing the ball. It is entirely possible the Lions could utilize both backs on the field at the same time, as it helps to disguise their intentions.
Adding Swift allows for some more pre-snap motion and manipulation of the defense. Swift is a bit better in space than Kerryon and flexing him out of the backfield means likely going to be covered by a linebacker. That’s a no-no for the defense, as Swift is presumably going to win that match-up.
Running Back Depth
Right behind both Swift and Johnson on the depth chart is former Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough. Like Kerryon, Bo has battled to stay on the football field with nagging injuries. Unlike Kerryon, however, Bo was picked up mid-season during the Detroit Lions’ 2019 campaign. He came in to be a bigger, more powerful back to aid in short-yardage situations and with running between the tackles. If Bo can stay healthy, this is likely the role he remains in for 2020.
Ty Johnson ended the season for the Lions as the running back who received the most snaps for the year. He ended up with 63 rushes and 273 yards for the year, as well as adding 109 receiving yards on 24 receptions. Ty was not ready for the role he was forced into and his inexperience showed.
The Lions added Jason Huntley in the 5th-round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of New Mexico State. Keep an eye out for how his addition will affect the roster later in this series of articles.
Lastly, Wes Hills remains the final running back on the roster. He rushed 10 times and racked up 2 touchdowns in week 15 against Tamp Bay. That was the only action he saw in 2019, however. Hills was a long-shot to make the roster even before the addition of Swift.