Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew (MJD) recently ranked his top 32 running backs. Well, the 32, he believes, will the top performers in 2021. Jones-Drew wasn’t exactly kind to Detroit Lions second-year runner, D’Andre Swift.
It’s a list headlined by a trio of elite players at the position, Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, and Alvin Kamara.
Jones-Drew knows his way around the backfield and the overall skill-set needed to excel at the position. The 36-year old is a one-time NFL All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler who spent most of his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars before finishing his career in Oakland, where he spent one season.
Jones-Drew totaled 8,167 rushing yards on 1,847 attempts and 68 touchdowns. The dual-threat runner also added 2,944 receiving yards, making 346 receptions adding 11 more touchdowns.
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The fact that Jones-Drew recently made up this list is a bit ironic to me. Last season watching Swift run for the Detroit Lions, he resembled Jones-Drew. Both were selected in the second round of their respected draft classes. Both wear/wore number 32, both are small in stature, Swift 5-foot-8 and MJD at 5-foot-7. Swift plays around 210, similar to MJD. Both are considered dangerous as a rusher or receiver.
MJD exploded onto the scene as a rookie totaling 13 rushing touchdowns and totaled 941 rushing yards on 166 totes. Swift ran for 521 yards on 114 carries totaling eight rushing touchdowns.
Detroit Lions lead back, D’Andre Swift, ranked low among NFL RB1s.
Here’s what MJD has to say,
"Swift’s rookie season was a mixed bag with a few big performances but more subpar outings. The Lions can’t afford for their rushing attack to have a lull that stretches on for a while. Swift, a talented and versatile weapon out of the backfield, must find consistency and make a major Year 2 leap in Anthony Lynn’s offense."
Jones-Drew currently has Swift ranked as the 22nd RB1. It seems a bit low, especially understanding Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn loves to utilize his running backs as rushers and pass-catchers.
Ironically, Lynn’s former bell-cow, Melvin Gordon, ranks two spots lower than Swift on this list. Swift is also just ahead of veteran Mike Davis and the explosive but often injured Raheem Mostert of the San Francisco 49ers.
Leonard Fournette, Antonio Gibson, Chris Carson, and James Robinson all rank just ahead of Swift. I expect Swift to be just as productive as this group and more valuable as a pass-catcher than Carson and even Fournette. Two I feel may be ranked too high are David Montgomery (13th) of the Chicago Bears and Baltimore’s J.K. Dobbins (12th).
Perhaps I’m a bit more optimistic that Swift will take a significant leap forward in year two; I believe he fits in Lynn’s offense perfectly.