The Dynasty Duel series focuses on a head-to-head battle between two players similar in dynasty value: to establish the winner and the most favorable asset to own in dynasty fantasy football.
To guide and support my decision on the winner of the duel, I’ll be using my self-created STORM analysis, focusing on five key components impacting player value in dynasty: Situation, Talent, Opportunity, Risk, and Market.
Last time I focused on quarterback, with the battle between Kenny Pickett and Russell Wilson. In this article, I’ll be analyzing running back – the position in dynasty which has a major impact on your success. Over recent years the consensus has been to fade RB and reduce risk to your dynasty portfolios – however, there is still an opportunity to roster lower-priced assets who have an excellent ceiling in their range of outcomes and push you towards your dynasty titles.
I want to discuss two players who haven’t shown their true potential thus far, two players with great pedigree who are attainable for a reasonable cost in your dynasty leagues. The Dynasty Duel I’m bringing you is D’Andre Swift v JK Dobbins.
STORM analysis – the key tool used in my overall dynasty evaluation (Credit: istockphoto).
Swift’s situation in Detroit has been up and down. The positives of an ascending offense, plus a solid pass game usage are negated by the lack of overall volume to drive him into the elite tier of dynasty running backs. Three seasons with at least 45 receptions (on a maximum of 14 games per year) is a great floor for PPR leagues. More excitement should be there for a Lions team that recently moved on from solid tight end in TJ Hockenson, plus a healthy Jameson Williams will open up more room for Swift to dominate.
The major downside is volume, where the Lions coaching staff have limited Swift’s touches, especially in the red zone – although it is hard to blame them with former teammate Jamaal Williams hitting 17 rushing touchdowns in 2022. Swift’s touches per game have gone from 12.3 to 16.4 and most recently 10.5 last year. He is always going to be a split backfield RB, however it’s hard to see him reaching his potential on barely double-figure touches per game.
Ravens RB Dobbins has question marks over his situation, in the form of superstar QB Lamar Jackson, who requested a trade away from Baltimore in early March. Jackson’s presence has been mega for run game output, with Dobbins registering a career average of 5.86 yards per carry. The flip side has been the receiving game, where he has mustered up a lowly 25 receptions in 23 career games – as a result of Jackson’s dual-threat ability and preference to scramble as opposed to checking down to the RB.
When Dobbins hits the field, he’s been used as the primary back, with solid volume and excellent TD efficiency (12 in 23 games). Coming back to Jackson, yes he has requested a trade, however I still have it 50/50 he remains the franchise QB. My prediction would be on the back of re-signing, there will be a downtick in designed QB runs as Baltimore protects its prized asset, with potentially more opportunity for Dobbins to increase volume or pass game work. Alternatively the arrival of a pocket passer would result in a higher target share for Dobbins instead of QB rushing.
Both situations for Swift and Dobbins could change as they are impending 2024 free agents – it is hard to decide a winner of this particular battle.
Swift was a high second-round pick in 2020, selected as the 35th overall player and ahead of dynasty juggernaut RB Jonathan Taylor. The college pedigree is there- he shared a backfield at Georgia with talented players in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel – both of whom were taken as top 35 picks in 2018.
While Swift has yet to reach his true potential, his fantasy output has been encouraging: RB17, RB10 and recently RB16 in fantasy points per game, with limited touches overall. He has been excellent in two metrics that display an underlying indicator of talent: target share and yards created per touch. Target share has ranked Swift as RB10, RB2 and RB6 in his three seasons in the NFL – showing an ability to demand the ball when on the field. Yards created per touch has him ranked RB6, RB1 and RB2, highlighting an explosive nature, making the maximum usage of his touches.
Dobbins, like Swift, was taken in round two of the 2020 NFL Draft – on the back of a glittering career at Ohio State. His talent coming out was considered in the same tier and range as Swift in rookie drafts – highlighting a similar level of talent. While Dobbins hasn’t seen the level of target share or receiving output that he did in college, it’s no denying his talent or the all-around ability he possesses (20 receptions in each of his three years at Ohio State).
He is talented and efficient – a top-nine RB in each season in key metrics: true yards per carry, yards per touch and juke rate. While his fantasy output hasn’t exactly mirrored the talent, it’s not to say there haven’t been flashes and in the right situation, Dobbins could definitely flourish. Explosion in the run game has been his calling card, but the talent is there to translate into the passing game also.
Dobbins had an excellent college career as a bellcow RB at Ohio State (Credit: Sports Reference).
Swift struggled with volume and opportunity in 2022, ceding 57 red zone touches (including 22 goal-line carries) to Williams. Last year was Swift’s worst performance of his career for opportunity share and overall touches – bringing into question his long-term future in Detroit and making him the subject of trade speculation. To further question his opportunities in 2023 is the free agent addition of David Montgomery on a three-year deal.
While Montgomery will take up the role vacated by Williams, the investment of a higher amount leads to the logic he could also take work in the passing game – which has been vital for Swift’s fantasy production. Montgomery also has a top-five fantasy season on his resumé. With this signing, it’s unlikely further quality competition is added, however Detroit used a myriad of role players in 2022 including Craig Reynolds and Justin Jackson. All signs point towards a continued struggle for consistent touches.
Similar to Swift, Dobbins has yet to see his workload correlate from college, where he averaged 18.9 touches per game. He has just 10.9 in the NFL. Where Swift has missed the odd game here and there, Dobbins has dealt with big injuries that caused him to miss significant time. It’s hard to pinpoint just how healthy he’s been in a lot of games. If we focus on 2022, Dobbins registered 66.7% of games where he had at least 12 touches, compared with 35.7% for Swift.
The competition he faces in 2023 is in the form of familiar faces Gus Edwards and Justice Hill – less fierce competition than Swift has in big free agent signing Montgomery. With both Swift and Dobbins entering the final year of their rookie deals, the likelihood of one or both being traded increases. As it stands and with the recent trend of touches, plus the backfield competition, it’s clear that Dobbins has a safer workload. There is a non-zero chance the Lions give Swift a similar workload to 2022, which would be troubling for his dynasty outlook in the short term.
Winner: JK Dobbins
Swift has missed time in each of his three seasons in the NFL. That is not uncommon for the position but far from ideal – in particular with a low touch count. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal and the subject of trade rumors, however many Swift owners will be hoping for a fresh start on another NFL team. He’s only just turned 24 years old, is a lower-risk asset due to excellent pass game usage, and has already proven as a consistent top 18 RB producer in each of his three seasons in the league.
When Swift is on the field he produces and while the injuries are a concern, the RB position is known for players missing time. I think a move away from Detroit would further enhance his usage and continue to decrease the risk you hold in rostering Swift.
Dobbins has also battled injuries during his time in the NFL, although was an injury-free workhorse in college. He’s the same age and has the same contract situation as Swift (free agent in 2024), however the key difference is role/usage. Dobbins has traditionally been an early down, red zone RB – relying on TDs and breakaway plays to propel his fantasy value.
The lack of usage in the receiving game makes him a volatile and risky bet on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis – indicated by 32 targets in 23 games in the NFL. I truly believe he has upside as a receiver, but as it stands and with no reason to think it changes significantly soon, Dobbins is a bad bet from a risk point of view.
Winner: D’Andre Swift
Swift previously valued high at market, now lower than Dobbins (Credit: Keep Trade Cut)
Swift was the RB3 in DLF August 2022 Superflex ADP and currently sits at RB12 in March 2023 data. The current market value at Keep Trade Cut has him at RB17. Dobbins, meanwhile, went from RB17 to RB16, and KTC has him at RB16.
Both Swift and Dobbins are similar dynasty assets as RBs entering the final year of their rookie deals, are both 24 years old, were selected in round two of the 2020 NFL Draft, and have failed to live up to their lofty expectations in dynasty. Both will have a similar level of suitors, as mid-range RB2 types with the potential to become RB1s in a perfect scenario. While Swift is slightly less appealing at market value, he’s an asset who has depreciated over the last year, whereas Dobbins has been a relatively stable asset. Cross-referencing live data from Keep Trade Cut and current data at DLF ADP, I’m calling this one a coin flip.
Swift is an extremely interesting asset in dynasty. He has provided many years of frustration through glimpses of superstar potential, mixed in with a cocktail of other injuries and lack of volume. There is still a huge amount of untapped potential, however it is looking unlikely to be achieved on the Lions and the further unknown of where he will end up either via trade or free agency in 2024.
The archetype of the explosive pass catcher is very intriguing. If he put together a Tony Pollard 2022 season, I wouldn’t be shocked. I am a firm believer that talent wins out in the end. Luck will be a factor in landing him in the best situation to thrive, but there’s too much to like with the pass game ability and overall talent profile.
Dobbins comes with unquestioned hype as a three-down potential bell cow, but has failed to live up to expectations – battling injuries and struggling with pass game usage. Like Swift, owning him in dynasty has been extremely frustrating. It’s looking less likely he is what I thought he could become as a prospect – a featured guy with 50-60 catch seasons akin to a Joe Mixon-type production.
The talent is unquestioned and he could land in a great spot either in free agency or via trade. All signs point to another season with a low target share in Baltimore, with it becoming hard to bank on college production four years ago as a yardstick for increased pass usage moving into 2024.
It has been an extremely interesting battle for me to work through, with a ton of parallels for these two dynasty assets. The main differences are the player archetype (explosive receiving back vs explosive rush and TD guy) and the more intense rumors of Swift leaving Detroit before the end of his rookie deal. As the NFL continues the shift towards split backfields, my philosophy is to target the RB with upside in the passing game in my PPR leagues. If I’m rostering an RB2 role player with upside, I want an explosive nature combined with the safe floor and ceiling combination.
Playing the probabilities, I would rather make a bet on a guy with a track record of higher fantasy output and in my view a less risky asset than betting on a change of usage or the perfect change in situation. It is a close one, with Swift winning this ‘Dynasty Duel’.
Dynasty Duel Winner: D’Andre Swift
Here are a couple of recent trades from the DLF Trade Finder I’d be happy to do:
- Miles Sanders and 2023 3.02 = Swift
- Elijah Mitchell and 2023 2.03 = Swift
- 2023 1.10 = Swift
- Dobbins = Jahan Dotson
- Dobbins, Kadarius Toney and 2023 third = DeVonta Smith and 2023 fourth
- Dobbins = Swift
Also, here are a few trades I would do based on the DLF Trade Analyzer (12-team SF TE Premium):
- Javonte Williams and 2023 2.06 = Swift and 2023 2.03
- Nick Chubb and 2023 2.06 = Swift and 2023 2.01
- Deebo Samuel = Swift and Chigoziem Okonkwo
- Dobbins = Montgomery and 2023 2.01
- Dobbins = 2023 1.09
- Dobbins and 2023 2.09 = 2023 1.06
Swift is a huge dynasty buy for me right now. Previously he was valued as a top-three RB asset in dynasty, which makes him volatile but also highlights his ceiling and perception. He isn’t maximizing his potential value in Detroit, needing luck to land in a solid landing spot. However I love his talent and pass-game explosiveness. If I’m fishing in the RB10 to RB20 range, I need top-five upside or my process is to aim lower and take on less risk.
Dobbins is a sell. Many micro-economies value him as a cusp RB1 type, however I’m always fading any costly RB with limited pass game work (with the exception of Derrick Henry). Any move from Dobbins to a WR2 type is a smash move I’d make.