Did the Detroit Lions get disrespected in Pro Football Focus backfield ranking?

SideLion Report

Pro Football Football Focus has ranked NFL running back units, but did the Detroit Lions’ top pair get disrespected?

Last season, the Detroit Lions literally had their most productive rushing offense in nearly two decades. D’Andre Swift (617) and Jamaal Williams (601) each topped 600 yards on the ground, a mark a single rusher for the Lions has occasionally had a hard time reaching in a season over the years.

With a nod toward backfield workload splits across the league, Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus has ranked the NFL’s running back units 1-32 to get a better picture of how effective each team’s backfield truly is. Last year only one running back, Najee Harris, played more than 70 percent of his team’s offensive snaps.

Was the Detroit Lions’ running back pair disrespected by PFF?

So where did the Lions running back unit come in? In Tier 3, labeled “Gets The Job Done (Good Starter or Good Depth).

Here’s the ranking place for the Lions, with what Linsey had to say.


D’Andre Swift is someone viewed better by the fantasy community than his PFF grades would suggest. Swift ranks just 61st out of 73 qualifying running backs in overall grade over the last two seasons. He’s more talented than that ranking, though. Swift should be able to capitalize on one of the better offensive lines in the league as a runner and can provide value in the passing game in 2022. Behind him, Jamaal Williams has also proven to be a valuable No. 2 option across his time in Detroit and Green Bay.

If Swift makes a leap to his full potential in 2022, the door is open for the Lions “running back unit” to signficantly climb a ranking such as this one in 2023. Williams may be gone a year from now, as he enters the second year of his two-year deal now. But how the Detroit backfield is seen now and during the 2022 season, as well as probably next year, is rooted in what Swift has done and going forward how he performs.

So PFF, as is the case for everyone, wants to see more from Swift. A ranking in the bottom half of NFL running back units for the Lions isn’t disrespectful then. It’s a brightly-lighted sign that says “prove you deserve better.”

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