Fantasy football: Lions RB Swift should have a breakout year

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Aug. 5—'Tis the season for football.

NFL training camps have started, and we are a scant five weeks away from the beginning of the NFL regular season, when the Dallas Cowboys kick off against the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.

That means it's time to do our fantasy football homework, beginning with breakout and sleeper selections at running back.

—Look no further than up north for our first selection. The key to Detroit's backfield situation is to badly misquote the band Kansas, which performed last week at The Blade Rib Off: "Kerryon, my waivered son".

In May, the Lions cut Kerryon Johnson, who was a second-round pick by Detroit in 2018. In doing so, that opened the door for D'Andre Swift, who was chosen by the Lions with the third pick of the second round in 2020.

Swift, who has homerun capabilities, rushed for 521 yards and eight touchdowns last year on 114 carries, and caught 46 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns. With Johnson (and Adrian Peterson) gone, this will be Swift's breakout year.

Detroit will run more in coach Dan Campbell's offense, and new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn likes to throw to his running backs. That is gold for Swift. He has top-5 running back potential, so you'll need to draft him relatively early.

With that in mind, Swift's backfield mate Jamaal Williams is a certified sleeper. He will get a fair share of rushing attempts and passes, and the former Green Bay Packer will benefit from the Lions' weak corps of receivers.

On most weeks, Williams will be a good flex play in your lineup. You can wait until much later in your draft, but don't forget about him.

—Former Ohio State Buckeye J.K. Dobbins should put up bigger numbers in 2021 than last year, and 2020 was a very good season. Dobbins rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns on 134 carries for Baltimore, and he also caught 18 passes.

With Mark Ingram gone, Dobbins will get more touches, and he will take advantage of that. He has a lot of upside, and will get the lion's share of work, even with Gus Edwards in play.

The Ravens love to run the ball, and quarterback Lamar Jackson is a big part of that, but grab Dobbins in the mid-rounds for his versatility and the fact he averaged six yards per carry last year.

Chase Edmonds has spent three seasons with Arizona, and this should be the year he puts it all together. He is entering this season as the presumptive No. 1 back after rushing for 448 yards and one TD over 97 carries last year.

Where he picked up his game was receiving out of the backfield, as he caught 53 passes (out of 67 targets) for 402 yards and four touchdowns. His role should increase in 2021, which will make him more valuable.

The Cardinals signed free agent running back James Conner this offseason, so Edmonds will lose some touches. But with Conner's injury history, look for Edmonds to excel. Make him a mid-round selection in your draft.

—Because of the unfortunate Achilles injury to starting running back Cam Akers, it appears the Los Angeles Rams will lean on Darrell Henderson as their feature back. The third-round pick in 2019 rushed for 624 yards last season and five touchdowns.

Henderson also averaged nearly 10 yards per reception in 2020, catching 16 passes and one touchdown on 24 targets. Monitor the situation, but if the Rams don't acquire another back, Henderson will get the bulk of the work and would be a great flex play.

—Pittsburgh drafted Alabama running back Najee Harris in the first round this year, which pretty much tells us he will be the Steelers' No. 1 option in the backfield. Pittsburgh, which usually doesn't use a committee approach, will rely on Harris to carry the rock.

With not many other great options in the running back room, Harris will get a lot of touches. If he can stay healthy and replicate his college success, Harris will be a great pickup for your fantasy team.