As NFL fans nationwide await the start of the 2020 season this fall, fantasy team owners are also looking forward to their own seasons starting. After the NFL Draft back in April, teams across the league have added new, exciting talent to their rosters. Teams will see veterans have their roles changed, new stars will emerge, and breakout players will shock the league. For the Detroit Lions, after some exciting additions through the draft and free agency, they are looking to have big time production from their key players this year.
For prospective fantasy team owners, eyes are likely zeroed in on running backs, and the Lions have a lot to offer in that regard. Let’s break down the Lions’ movers and shakers at the running back position, and how fantasy team owners can expect to make use of what could be the best tandem in the NFC North.
RB 1 – Kerryon Johnson
Going into the early weeks at least, Kerryon Johnson should still remain Detroit’s Running Back 1. With the addition of rookie running back D’Andre Swift, Johnson should see his touches diminish, although OC Darrell Bevell has proven to employ a strong run game in his scheme. Even if Swift does indeed end up winning the starting job, or if the Lions use an equal amount of both at the beginning, Kerryon still has familiarity with the offensive sets, QB Matthew Stafford, and will be fully healed from his injuries. Last year, one of the biggest knocks against Johnson was his lack of availability, given his status on the Injured Reserve list. When healthy though, he has shown flashes and has proven to be a decent fantasy asset.
Kerryon Johnson’s 2019 Fantasy Stats:
For redraft leagues, Kerryon Johnson likely will fall from his Average Draft Position last season. Once projected as a top 50 draft pick in fantasy leagues, the threat to Kerryon’s bell cow role means he might slip further into the middle to later rounds. While Johnson may not provide true RB 1 numbers from a fantasy perspective if his role is indeed heavily impacted, there is still value here for a later round selection. Johnson had a down year last year, but still routinely put up double digit fantasy point production. With a team that has beefed up its offensive line and a fully healed knee, Johnson could surprise people and over perform his 2020 ADP. Johnson’s expected value and production offer sleeper potential, great trade bait for inevitable injuries to other teams’ running backs, and can fill the role of an RB 2 or RB 3 nicely.
At worst, Kerryon Johnson is a known asset that should provide a fantasy team with a solid option at RB. With a lesser workload due to Swift’s arrival in Detroit, this could even prove to be a boon for Johnson, it means he gets less wear and tear throughout the season.
For dynasty leagues, Johnson owners are in an interesting position. D’Andre Swift would be an excellent handcuff to Johnson, but as is the case with dynasty, there is no guarantee Swift will be on the board at the time of selection. Depending on the current roster, Johnson might be a great candidate to trade. The new owner of Swift would love a handcuff like Johnson, and other teams may be looking to shore up their running back position and could offer value in return for a decent back like Johnson. Otherwise, given the emergence of some younger backs last season and a handful of rookie running backs making their debut’s this season, Johnson could end up being a drop candidate from some teams.
Ultimately dynasty leagues differ and Johnson’s particular outlook may change from league to league. But there is definitely value here in moving Johnson, as he very well might see a significant dip in production. On the other hand, Johnson is an excellent buy-low candidate. Feel out your league and see where Johnson stands, but there is not a clear consensus for Johnson in Dynasty leagues.
RB 2 – D’Andre Swift
The newest addition to the Lions RB room is D’Andre Swift, who was chosen in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft by Detroit. Swift offers an immediate presence that shakes up the Lions outlook at running back dramatically. Bringing an exciting blend of dynamic athleticism and pass catching ability, Swift should immediately be able to step in and produce. As such, Swift should be a hot commodity in fantasy, in both redraft and dynasty leagues.
His play in the NFL will ultimately determine Kerryon Johnson’s fantasy status as well, so there is a lot to watch here with Swift. Barring any preseason madness from Swift, he should start the season as Detroit’s RB 2. This should initially mean fewer touches per game than Kerryon, but if the Lions are heading towards a committee at running back, Swift should see those numbers equal out as the season progresses. The Lions made a high value investment in him, and he should be a featured part of their offensive schemes in some form or fashion.
D’Andre Swift 2020 Fantasy Projected Stats:
For redraft leagues, look for D’Andre Swift to be a mid round selection, similar to Kerryon Johnson. There is a lot of excitement around Swift, and young, rookie backs seem to be valued highly in redraft leagues. Looking at examples like Miles Sanders, or Josh Jacobs, getting a young running back seems to be key to success. After the initial few rounds, team owners often look towards these incoming rookies for valuable production. For the Lions, who are looking to transition towards a committee, there is a successful fantasy precedent there as well. The San Francisco 49ers running backs saw fantasy success last year, with players like Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert being valued roster options for teams. Even if he is not the day one starter, it still brings a lot of value. With his pass catching ability, he should provide a lot of scoring opportunities in ways Kerryon couldn’t. As running backs become increasingly integral to passing attacks league-wide, look for the Lions to use Swift in a similar manner.
For dynasty leagues, Swift is a name that should be right at the top of most people’s draft boards. With running backs and wide receivers being the name of the game, expect Swift to have an instant impact for a team looking to win now. Given the injury history with Johnson, Swift has a significant chance to become the primary back for Detroit. As a team, in 2019 the Lions were around the middle of the pack in terms of yards gained via rushing, and that was without Johnson for a great portion of the season. With Swift in the mix, expect this statistic for Detroit to rise, increasing Swift’s value. Widely regarded as the top running back taken this last April, dynasty leagues should see Swift selected very early.
To read about how Lions rookie guard Jonah Jackson can help out the running game, click here.
RB 3 – Bo Scarbrough
At RB 3 for the Lions, Bo Scarbrough stepped in and provided decent fantasy production in six games while Kerryon Johnson missed time. His fantasy output was actually somewhat comparable to Kerryon last season as well, with both offering a low double digit offering range on a game to game basis. With the addition of Swift to the lineup, however, Scarbrough should see almost all of his usage dissipate. As such, Scarbrough will likely be on the waiver wire in both dynasty and redraft leagues. He has proven to be serviceable when he does see the field in a meaningful capacity, but he shouldn’t be worth consideration given other options around the league. Should an injury occur to Swift or Johnson however, he might be worth a look. At this point in the depth chart though, rarely do you find players offering meaningful production.
While Scarbrough is far from a terrible back, there shouldn’t be a reason to roster him in most leagues. His best production came last season while getting nearly 20 carries a game, which is unlikely to happen again. The Lions moving to a committee means he retains some value though, and we have yet to see just how the Lions dole out touches in this manner, so there could be a question mark there. As a result, Scarbrough might be worth stashing in deeper leagues where talent is more scarce. But by and large, Scarbrough shouldn’t have a huge fantasy impact in 2020.
Bo Scarbrough’s 2019 Fantasy Stats: