Fantasy Soccer Debate: D’Andre Swift vs. JK Dobbins
D’Andre Swift and JK Dobbins are drafted as RB16 and RB17 for Underdog Fantasy. In this debate, Jack Caporuscio explains why he prefers Swift, while Frank Ammirante advocates Dobbins as his preferred rusher.
Other fantasy football debates: Kyler Murray versus Lamar Jackson | Allen Robinson versus Terry McLaurin | DJ Chark versus Laviska Shenault | Keenan Allen versus Michael Thomas
The case for D’Andre Swift
Jack: D’Andre Swift, the 35th overall draft pick in the Detroit Lions’ 2020 NFL Draft, is one of the most dynamic offensive players of the sophomore year. In his rookie season, Swift accumulated 521 rushing yards from 114 carries (4.6 yards per carry), eight rushing TDs, 357 receiving yards from 46 receives (7.7 yards per receive), and two receiving TDs. Those stats led Swift to a fantasy finish on the RB-18 in half-PPR formats, while only having an average Snap percentage of 34.6% (Pro FootballOutsiders.com) in his first six games. Swift ended the season with an overall Snap percentage of 37.9%, which means his potential fantasy value is far from exhausted. Swift is currently drafted as the RB16 in half-PPR formats, according to Underdog Fantasy ADP, which is a prime example of a player drafting on their floor rather than their ceiling.
D’Andre Swift’s case for support is a list that grows quickly as the off-season progresses. Will the Detroit Lions win many games in 2021? Survey says: probably not. You don’t have to be a good soccer team for Swift to be a fantasy RB1, however. The Lions’ defense is going bad. Not as bad as the 32nd unit last season, but still bad enough to force the Lions into negative game scripts more often. That negative game script combined with the fact that the best pass catcher on offense is arguably a close end, and Swift can serve as the check-down machine for a newly appointed franchise quarterback, Jared Goff. For those who don’t believe Goff is throwing for the running back position, Goff registered a target percentage of 17.5% for the running back position in the 2017-2018 season and gave Todd Gurley the fourth highest target percentage for the running back in 2017-2018 pro football focus).
The Detroit Lions invested in the o-line this off-season to design the Oregon Offensive Tackle Penei Sewell seventh overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. With Sewell in Motor City, Interior-O-Lineman Frank Ragnow taking All-Pro Awards in 2021, and Taylor Decker attacking as one of the league’s better O-Linemen, it’s easy to see that the Lions o-Line is set to be better than popular belief this season. This strong upfront presence will be critical to opening up Swift careers from the backcourt.
Combining the upfront investment with new Offensive Coordinator Anthony Lynn will prove to be a huge boon to Swift’s fantasy value this season. Lynn has garnered media and fantasy analyst attention this off-season for his comments that Swift was a “b-back” in this offensive scheme. Do you know who else was a B on the Anthony Lynn Offensive? Austin Ekeler, who ended up as the RB6 in semi-PPR formats in 2019, who served with him as Melvin Gordon’s backup. The B-back role is the more valuable role for fantasy football purposes in this offensive and backup Jamaal Williams is certainly not a Melvin Gordon. Swift’s skills mirror those of the pass-catching dynamos Austin Ekeler and Alvin Kamara, both of whom have been extremely valuable to fantasy managers and are usually at the forefront of drafts.
Swift is who you want in his ADP
With semi-PPR formats, it is important that your running backs actually catch passes. In the 2020 season, JK Dobbins only had 18 catches for 120 yards (6.6 yards per carry). So not only did Dobbins have fewer catches for fewer yards than D’Andre Swift in 2020, but he was also less efficient with the passes he caught. The Baltimore Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL and the heaviest offensive in recent times. A positive play script and a quarterback in Lamar Jackson who has no affinity for throwing in the running back position will push Dobbins’ ceiling. These factors will make it extremely difficult for Dobbins to pay off on his current ADP of RB17. With the two players at their respective ADPs, it’s easy to see why Swift is not only the safer choice, but also the better choice. He’s the player who can help you win your fantasy league as the Fantasy RB1 drafted at an RB2 price.
The case for JK Dobbins
Frank: JK Dobbins has had an impressive rookie season, storming 805 yards, nine touchdowns with 134 carries and catching 18 of 24 targets for 120 yards. He is starting his sophomore year as a professional starring in a Ravens offensive that is considered one of the most prolific in the NFL. Dobbins is currently drafted as RB17 (34.9 ADP) in underdog fantasy leagues and is undervalued due to volume concerns, especially in the passing game. While he won’t catch as many passes as D’Andre Swift, Dobbins is a special runner who deserves to be ahead of his counterpart in Detroit.
Dobbins was extremely efficient in his rookie season, averaging an absurd 6.0 yards per carry. According to Stathead, there have been six running backs since 1995 who averaged 6.0+ yards per carry with at least 100 carries: Barry Sanders, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, CJ Spiller, Jamaal Charles, and JK Dobbins. This is an extremely impressive group of runners that shows how impressive Dobbins was in his rookie year. This was even off to a slow start to his rookie season, as Dobbins averaged just six touches per game in his first six games. Imagine what his first year would have been like if he had starred from the start of the season.
Dobbins began taking over the Ravens’ backfield in week 11. From that point on, he scored 495 rushing yards and seven touchdowns at 77 carries (6.43 YPC) along with three catches for 32 received yards. During this stretch, Dobbins ranked as RB9 in half PPR points per game. Mark Ingram was rendered in hindsight, while Dobbins defeated Gus Edwards 103-77 in their last eight games together. We can expect more of this in the 2021 season, although there are some concerns about the use of passing games. Let’s address these concerns.
Receiving volume problems
Fantasy players believe that Dobbins’ advantage is limited by his limited stake in the passing game. After all, as a rookie, he only had 18 receptions and 24 goals. But let’s look at Ingram’s 2019 season for some optimism. That year, Ingram caught 26 of 29 goals for 247 yards and five touchdowns. This tells us that over 30 destinations are easily accessible for Dobbins. This will not be a complete zero in the passing game. There are also more reasons to be optimistic about the development of this Ravens Offensive.
According to RotoViz, the Ravens had a pass rate of 43% (32nd) and a rushrate of 57% (1st) in neutral game scripts (tied or within a touchdown) last season. After the second consecutive loss in the AFC Divisional Round, it is clear that the Ravens want to change that approach. They added three wide receivers this off-season: Sammy Watkins (free agency), Rashod Bateman (first round pick) and Tylan Wallace (fourth round pick). The Ravens plan to move to a more balanced approach, with Lamar taking more snaps below the center and more shots in the field. This increase in passport volume will open up more opportunities for Dobbins.
Head coach John Harbaugh stated that a “focus” is on getting their running backs more involved in the passing game and that Dobbins will be a “focus” in that regard. This means that more than 40 destinations are easily accessible for Dobbins. Given his ability to miss defenders and make explosive plays, this is a huge boon to his imagination. Fantasy players shouldn’t consider Dobbins a zero in passing like they would with Damien Harris of the Patriots.
Outlook for 2021
Ingram is in Houston now, so Dobbins will only have to fight Edwards for touch for the coming season. We saw how lucrative the start running back can be in a Lamar Jackson offensive due to its explosiveness as a runner – Ingram finished 2019 as an RB8 in Half-PPR PPG with similarly high efficiency (5.0 YPC, 15 TD). Add in Dobbins’ elevated role in the passing game and you have a high-upside fantasy that runs back.
While D’Andre Swift should be able to scoop up receptions in Detroit on an offensive led by Jared Goff, that team will struggle to scoop up points. Dobbins, on the flip side, will be in one of the best offensives in football, with the ability to score over 15 touchdowns. The high efficiency and the set-up advantage for Dobbins should outweigh the higher reception volume for Swift. Both running backs are good bets as Upside RB2s, but I’d prefer to go with Dobbins.