Lions rookie RB D’Andre Swift could also play factor in pass game

In two days, Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift has found a certain level of comfort on the practice field which isn’t easy for a rookie.

Certainly the second-round draft pick has plenty to work on and improve. 

“Just getting everything down as far as the playbook, different terminology, quarterbacks speak faster, signals come quicker, just taking my studying habits and taking my knowledge of the game to the next level to make sure the coaches trust me,’’ Swift said on Tuesday in a Zoom call.

Coach Matt Patricia doesn’t like to talk starters or where a rookie might fit on a depth chart. It’s too early for that.

Still when Patricia was asked on Tuesday if Swift has a chance to start, he nodded in the affirmative. So far he likes what he sees from the back who played college ball at Georgia, Matthew Stafford’s alma mater.

“For me, for Swift obviously I think he’s got a great skill set of what we saw in college. We’re exploring the different things he can do certainly at our level and to do it consistently is a big thing for us right now,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call late Tuesday afternoon.

To translate: Swift has turned a few heads as a pass catcher early in camp.

“I think some of the different reads in the run game right now we’re trying to get improved for him and his eye control and some of those scenarios,’’ Patricia said. “We do know that he’s a smart guy and he can handle a lot, not only in the run game but the pass protection and being able to get the blitz pickups and some of the technique there. Some of the linebackers at this level are maybe bigger than they were in college and some of those guys going through there, so the technique is really important for us to make sure we have that pocket protected.’’

Patricia said he wants to build on things Swift can do in the passing game.

“Not that it’s small steps, but we try to make sure we build it in the proper manner. So far he’s done an outstanding job of handling all that,” Patricia said. “And then certainly as we get towards more and more live contact in the running back position and being able to have really good contact balance, things like we saw in college, being able to break some of those tackles. The more of those scenarios that we can get into and see and have that confidence in certainly that will help him along the way.’’

Swift said when he played 7-on-7 football as a kid, he discovered his ability to catch the ball. 

The Bulldogs didn’t exploit that part of his game. In three seasons he had just 20 catches, but five of them were for touchdowns.

“It’s something I want to definitely perfect at this level of football just being used in different amounts of ways,’’ Swift said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Detroit Lions draft RB D’Andre Swift out of Georgia in the second round

When running back D’Andre Swift was drafted by the Detroit Lions he thought of Barry Sanders, his favorite back of all time.

Sanders, the Hall of Famer, last played in 1998 and Swift, who grew up in Philadelphia, was born in 1999. Doesn’t matter.

“Everybody would always talk about him. I started watching film, highlights and looking at his stats and they were remarkable and unbelievable,’’ Swift said on a conference call on Friday night. “As I got older I tried to make my game to be like his in any way possible. I just love watching him.’’

No one would dare compare the two, but Swift does know a good running back when he sees one. He was ranked by many draft experts — including ESPN’s Mel Kiper — as the best running back in the draft.

The Lions nabbed the Georgia running back with their first pick in the second round (35th overall) on Friday night.  Swift ran for 1,218 yards on 196 carries last season (his junior year) for the Bulldogs, averaging 6.1 yards per carry with seven rushing touchdowns.

Swift said he had talked to the Lions a bit more than some other teams, but he had no idea if they were going to draft him.

“I didn’t know it was going to be, that’s the most crazy exciting part about it,’’ Swift said.

He said fans should know that he is “somebody who’s versatile, somebody’s who going to compete everyday, somebody who can do whatever the coach asks him to do.’’ He also said he’s first and foremost a leader.

He will join Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) and Bo Scarbrough (Alabama) in the all-SEC Lions’ backfield.

Detroit did not draft a running back in 2019, but selected Johnson in the second round (43rd overall) in 2018.

Johnson was the leading rusher in 2019 despite playing in just eight games with 3.6 yards per attempt, 403 total yards and three rushing touchdowns. Scarbrough was second averaging 4.2 yards per carry, 377 total yards and one rushing touchdown.

The Lions featured the 21st best running game in the NFL last season, averaging 103.1 yards per game. 

Athlon Sports ranked Swift as the top running back prospect calling him the most complete back in the draft class with outstanding vision and patience.

More from Athlon: “He shows good initial burst and runs with excellent balance through contact and enough speed to hit the home run after he slips a tackle. He’ll be an immediate contributor in the passing game as well. Swift has natural hands …”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper had mocked Swift to Green Bay late in the first round.

Swift joins three other Georgia Bulldogs on the Lions’ roster — Matthew Stafford, Isaac Nauta and John Atlkins.

Up next for the Lions on Friday night are two third-round picks — 67th and 85th overall.

Detroit started the draft on Thursday night by choosing cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick. Rounds four through seven will take place Saturday starting at noon.