Georgia RB D’Andre Swift hopes NFL teams see his potential
The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.
He is the latest in a line of star-studded Georgia backs bound for the NFL, following in the formidable footsteps of Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but ask D’Andre Swift to compare his destined path to another back, and he’ll veer outside of Athens.
“I’d say Christian McCaffrey,” Swift said in a video tweeted by the NFL.
At a position steadily declining in value, it’s a potentially valuable comparison ahead of the draft. Fresh off a season in which he became just the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving, McCaffrey signed the largest contract for a running back in league history last week.
After the announcement, new Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule was asked how the team could possibly spend $16 million per year on a running back.
“To label him a running back, that’s not respectful to him,” Rhule told reporters. “He can do it all.”
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Swift is hoping NFL teams will see that same potential in him ahead of the draft, when he’s likely to be the first running back selected. Whether that happens in the first or second round likely depends on just how versatile they believe Swift can be.
He did plenty to prove himself in that regard at Georgia. As a freshman, in a backfield dominated by Chubb and Michel, Swift ran for 681 yards (at a clip of 7.63 yards per carry) and caught 17 passes, good for fourth-most on the team. Over the next two seasons, as Georgia’s lead back, Swift tallied nearly 2,300 yards on the ground and caught 56 passes. In his final 20 games, he didn’t drop a pass.
“There’s a lot of great backs in this class,” Swift said. “I think I’m the most versatile back in this class. I think I’m just a three-down back. I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do.”
Swift might not have the statistics to match other top backs in this class. His 2,885 rushing yards at Georgia are less than half of what Jonathan Taylor racked up over three seasons at Wisconsin.
For some teams, though, that might actually put Swift a step ahead of his fellow running backs. The 5-foot-9, 220-pound back’s skillset is just as dynamic as Taylor or J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State, with far less wear on the tires.
Swift played sparingly in the final two games of last season at Georgia, as he dealt with a shoulder injury. Before sitting out, he fumbled three times total in two of the previous three games, losing two of them, prompting questions about his ball security.
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But there aren’t many questions beyond that for the best back in this year’s draft. Swift is surprisingly powerful between the tackles despite and devastatingly quick outside of them.
“He has the best feet in this draft, just effortless the way he runs,” Chargers Hall of Fame running back Ladainian Tomlinson said on NFL Network recently. “He’s smooth throughout the play. … Everything this guy does is smooth but the feet are what stand out. That’s what’s going to separate him at the next level.”
How much he’s separated from the rest of this running back class depends on whom you ask. But even McCaffrey, selected eighth overall, wasn’t the first back off the board in 2017. As Swift can surely attest, McCaffrey’s turned out just fine.
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