Firstly, I'll start by stating that I hate the concept of "winners" and "losers" in a trade. The word itself is too arbitrary to really describe what is a complicated issue.
However, I'm getting sick and tired of two narratives -
1) D'Andre Swift is this transcendent talent at running back that we've let go too easily of.
2) Howie Roseman fleeced the Lions, for example: "Lions' GM Brad Holmes got fleeced by the Eagles with a nonsensical deal in every way." 97.1 The Ticket. Now, of course this is 97.1, but other outlets are also plugging this same narrative, both national and local.
Let's deal with the first issue. D'Andre Swift is a very talented and explosive running back who can win games by himself... for 2 games in a season. When he's playing, he's more bad than good (to be justified later), and often he's not able to play through injury. Regardless of the "top-end" of someone's talent, and D'Andre's is undoubtedly really high (Swift went for 144 yards off 15 carried vs the Eagles in Week 1 of 2022), you need to take someone's average performance when really trying to value what the bring to a team.
And you saw this exemplified in HBO's Hard Knocks. Duce Staley almost had to plead with Swift to trust his blocks and the scheme and not bail outside at the first opportunity. There are multiple instances in almost every game where Swift would run into blockers when the offensive line had done the hard work and created a hole for him to burst through. In this, Swift was a net NEGATIVE for the running game, considering the investment in quality up front to do the hard work for the running back. In the passing game, Swift was also an asset, being able to contribute well, but again there are far too many instances of him dropping easily catchable balls, or worse, tipping balls in there air, risking interceptions.
The end result is this, the media value Swift at the top of his ability, but his performance, on the majority of the games (whether he plays or not) is to play below the level of the expectation of an average player. It comes down to this - Swift averaged 4.6 yards per carry in Detroit, whereas Craig Reynolds has averaged 4.3 - barely any difference for a vast difference in "perceived talent". And Swift only carried the ball 99 times last year, despite being healthy for a majority of the year, which is a damning indictment internally, the writing was on the wall for this trade already.
This first issue informs the second. The media narrative of Swift being a game breaking running back means that he's obviously worth a good amount of trade capital right? Maybe a 3rd round pick? Well, no. He's an oft-injured running who despite physical talent, underperforms, Maybe another coach can get the best out of him, but based on what he's put on tape so far (and what he hasn't by not being on the field), our own internal discussions here thought that Swift was worth a 2023 6th round pick in a trade pre-draft. In this scenario, we favoured keeping Swift since he'd contribute more to us in one year that the trade capital would provide.
Now, the actual trade terms - a 2025 4th round pick and moving up 30 spots in the 7th round.
A rule of thumb is that a year of deferral for a draft pick is worth a round of value. So, a 2023 6th is roughly equal to a 2024 5th and a 2025 4th - so this appears about par value compared to our internal expectations. However, we've already highlighted that a 2023 6th is unlikely to have moved the needle for the Lions, who have time on their side as a team. A 4th round pick, in whatever future draft, for the Lions specifically, is a win. That's the place in the draft where Brad Holmes really eats. Also, as an alternative, if the Lions let Swift play out the deal, no compensatory pick is likely to be recovered because with so much cap space in 2024, the Lions will likely be buyers in free agency which will wipe out the net departures required for compensatory picks.
For Philadelphia, they get potentially their RB1. Swift is probably better than Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Swift will need to be managed in terms of workload to keep him fresh, and guidance in order to get the most out of him, but for the cost of a 2025 4th, he's worth more to the Eagles than he is to the Lions. And if he plays out his deal and is released, Swift may recover for the Eagles a 4th round comp pick - in 2025, a pick the Lions are likely to not receive in the same circumstances!
In the end, the Lions received good trade capital in return for a prospect unlikely to get more than 5 snaps a game in the 2023 season, in that, they "won" their side of the trade. The Eagles get an upgrade at RB1 for cheap, and they may only lose some spots in the 4th in 2025 to do it, so in that they ALSO won the trade.
Finally, I just want to wish D'Andre well. Whilst I found him a frustrating player to support at times, he was exhilarating at times in a Lions jersey and I'll miss him. He was a stand up person and I wish him all the best.
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