With the NFL Draft and rookie minicamp in the books, we’ve officially reached the dead zone of the NFL offseason. And with the dead zone comes reckless predictions and player rankings aimed only to generate clicks and fuel debates.
PFF appears to be the first to start publishing the latter, with a series of articles ranking the top 32 players at every position. Unsurprisingly, they’re low on Jared Goff (26th) and the Lions don’t even have a single representative in their top wide receiver rankings. Some may quibble with Goff’s ranking—especially being ranked under rookie Justin Fields—but it’s tough to get too upset given the last two seasons of Goff’s career.
What is potentially more upsetting is PFF’s rankings of the top 32 running backs in the NFL. One may figure after the solid finish to his rookie season, D’Andre Swift could potentially even crack the top half of these rankings. He did not. In fact, Swift didn’t even manage to make PFF’s list at all.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s fine. He’s still very much an unproven commodity.” And that’d be a fair reason to keep him off the list. Swift only had 114 carries last year, which ranked 43rd in the league. He still has a lot to prove in this league before people start giving him credit.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut, PFF’s list also included Steelers rookie Najee Harris (20th) and Jaguars rookie Travis Etienne (23rd). So inexperience can’t be the argument against Swift.
And it also can’t be expectations for 2021. The Lions overhauled Detroit’s entire running back depth chart, setting the stage for Swift to be the primary focus with Adrian Peterson gone to siphon carries from him. They also bolstered their offensive line. As we pointed out last week, several statistical projections have Swift eclipsing 1,300 yards from scrimmage. To put that in context, only nine running backs managed to do that last year. So if those models are even remotely close, Swift will be—at worst—an “average” running back.
Meanwhile, PFF’s list includes several players that figure to have a much smaller role than Swift in 2021. Texans running back Mark Ingram II somehow made this list, despite the fact that he was phased out of any significant role in Baltimore last year, and he’ll be battling both David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay for touches in Houston. Kenyan Drake is also on the list. While Drake had 955 rushing yards last year, he won’t likely reach that total now that he’s behind Josh Jacobs in Oakland. Other curious additions: Cowboys’ Tony Pollard (Swift outgained him in both rushing and receiving last year—and had higher yards per carry and yards per reception numbers) and Cardinals’ Chase Edmonds.
Overall, it’s a puzzling list that Swift should undoubtedly be on. But like many players in Detroit, it often takes an extra year or two for national audiences to take notice.