Detroit Lions: D’Andre Swift has a chance to join an exclusive club

(Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

If the Detroit Lions use D’Andre Swift as a feature back from day one, he will have a chance to earn himself the offensive rookie of the year award in 2020.

It’s an award that is often awarded to a rookie quarterback, but if the Detroit Lions utilize D’Andre Swift’s talents right from the get-go in 2020, he will have an opportunity to be the leagues’ offensive rookie of the year.

Over the past ten years, five quarterbacks have won the award that was initially awarded to Detroit Lions running back Mel Farr back in 1967.  It’s a bit unique to sift through the NFL’s past winners to see a pair of Detroit Lions earn the award in consecutive years once it had been created.  In 1968 Lions receiver Earl McCullouch won it following Farr.

Only two other Detroit Lions had ever won the award, Billy Sims in 1980 and the greatest running back to ever step onto a football field, Barry Sanders in 1989.  When you consider three of the four Detroit Lions winners have been running backs, I can’t help but wonder, will Swift be able to follow in these footsteps?

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The Detroit Lions unquestionably hope so.

When the Detroit Lions used the 35th overall pick on the Georgia product, it came as a shock to many fans; the team made a selection that has the potential to be an impactful player from day one with their second-round draft pick.

Taking a running back with the 35th overall pick is exciting, and I didn’t think general manager (GM) Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia had it in them.  The year prior, Detroit went way off the grid and chose linebacker Jahlani Tavai.  Not that Tavai isn’t a reliable player, many of us hadn’t been aware of his abilities as he flew under the radar.  Swift is just the opposite.

The Lions have a clear need at the running back position and decided to spend a premium pick to address the void.  Now the backfield has the potential to be a strength of the offense, something we haven’t seen since Matthew Stafford arrived.

I mentioned this on draft night after the pick had been made and oddly enough for once it’s something I stand by; Swift will be the best back the franchise has seen since Barry Sanders.  Usually, the initial draft day excitement is an overreaction; this time, I believe it stands.

Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell recently mentioned he feels Swift will be ready for whatever he throws his way, as shown in an article published by the Detroit News.

"“We’re super excited to have him,” Bevell said. “We feel like he’s a really talented, well-rounded running back. A guy you feel like could handle the run, but he has ability in the pass game where you could do some things with him there. So, really, just a complete guy.“I think you’re be able to do a lot of things with him. He can handle as much as you want to give him.”"

Swift was buried at the University of Georgia behind Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, respectively, biding his time before finally solidifying himself as the Bulldogs lead back.

During his final year with Georgia, Swift amassed 1218 rushing yards on 196 carries scoring seven touchdowns.  He also chipped in with 216 receiving yards and a touchdown on 24 grabs.

Detroit’s top back over the past two years had been Kerryon Johnson, but the former Auburn Tiger has struggled to remain healthy.  He’s missed half of each of his first two NFL seasons due to injuries.  Johnson is still a dynamic playmaker that will excel, playing as a change of pace back rather than a feature back.

Adding a player like Swift only elevates Johnson’s abilities yet limits his touches, hopefully preserving his health.  If the Lions decide to use Swift as a feature back, rewarding him with 225 carries, he has the talent to exceed 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie.

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If you were to group that productivity with an additional 25 receptions and a total of eight touchdowns, Swift will firmly be in the offensive rookie of the year conversation.  If he were able to win the award, it would be an extraordinary feat, and hopefully someday cement his legacy alongside the Sims, Sanders, and Farr’s of the past.