It seems as of right now, the general consensus is Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn had himself a successful draft last week. With a Winnebago in his driveway and a custom Marucci bat on his desk, Quinn seemed to nail every pick and made trades that helped the team have more opportunities to make good picks.
There’s one pick that stands out above the rest. No, it’s not first-round pick Jeff Okudah— although I will say that pick was a no brainer. The Lions more than likely netted a young corner that could wind up being elite sooner rather than later when you consider the skill he already possesses and his work ethic.
The bigger pick here, in my opinion, is Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. This was a massive decision that could have massive implications. Here’s a few reasons why.
Swift might be the best player Quinn took
I already mentioned Okudah. I absolutely believe he’s going to be a stud and probably right away. But Swift is something special and he comes to Detroit to fill a void that’s been a void so long, if it were a person it’d be graduating from college this year.
The Lions running game has been dismal since Barry Sanders retired, and they’ve been trying to make up for that with players that have never truly worked out. All the way up to their latest attempt in Kerryon Johnson, who has had a pretty rough go of it since his rookie year. He just can’t seem to stay healthy, but like many before him, he has shown a ton of promise.
With Swift, the Lions get the running back many believe was the best in country last year. He’s getting rave reviews from just about everyone. The Ringer says he has all the makings of a modern day running back. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller compares him Alvin Kamara, Vegas already has him in their top five bets to win offensive rookie of the year and many draft analysts had him going in the first round as their highest-rated running back. The Lions got a steal... on paper.
There are two things that really put Swift above all the other running backs in the draft, along with his new teammates in the Lions backfield. The first is his ability in the pass game. Swift recorded 666 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns in his three years at Georgia. He gets open and his speed and acceleration allows him to blow past defenders at the second level. Just watch what he can do.
Also working to Detroit’s benefit is Swift has been barely used. He comes to Detroit after having just 440 attempts in college and just 196 last year. For comparison sake, Kerryon Johnson came to Detroit after 519 attempts and even more staggering, 285 of those were in his final year at Auburn.
In terms of other running backs drafted around Swift, Jonathan Taylor had 926 rushing attempts at Wisconsin and J.K. Dobbins had 725 at Ohio State. Swift’s usage at Georgia is quite a plus for the Lions.
Pairing him with Kerryon Johnson and possibly Bo Scarbrough will only help Swift stay upright. The Lions can have Swift be their number one back while having Johnson and Scarbrough pick up the scraps. They’re made for each other.
While I think that Swift could be the answer to the Lions’ prayers and will be very successful, the Lions have a long history of being wrong about this position. There’s some serious implications at play for Bob Quinn here.
Quinn took a running back in the second round of the draft just two years ago. While Johnson’s career is far from over, and he may winding up straightening out, it’s not looking good at this very moment. In fact, none of the Quinn’s second round picks have worked out. Teez Tabor busted out and A’Shawn Robinson was a mild disappointment. Maybe Quinn is just cursed in the second round.
The difference here is that Quinn is on his last leg. He needed to absolutely nail this draft and nail this offseason after team owner Martha Ford gave Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia a do-or-die year to make things work before they are forced to make some decisions about the group’s future.
Swift was a great pick, but the fact of the matter is there were other positions in the draft that the Lions needed to fill more than running back. This is a team that was in desperate need of a pass rusher and completely ignored that in free agency and for much of the draft. To be fair, landing Julian Okwara when the Lions did was a great pickup of a player that would have been gone in the first round had he not been injured.
But if things go sideways, the court of public opinion will be the first to rule that drafting a running back in the second round when the Lions didn’t really need one there was a bad decision and was part and parcel of Bob Quinn losing his job.
That’s why Quinn needs Swift to not just work out, but he needs Swift to be one of the best rookies in this year’s class. The Lions need to make the playoffs in 2020, and Quinn needs his picks to work out. If they don’t, it’ll be just another reason Quinn failed—maybe even the biggest reason. If you can’t pick and properly develop talent in this league, this isn’t the job for you.
With all that being said, there’s a lot riding on this pick for the Lions. He could either be a success and make the group look like the smartest guys in the room, or he be another failure that makes Lions fans remember all the guys the team passed up in order to take him. Only time will tell.