Going into the 2023 offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles were prepared to lose their starting running back, Miles Sanders. He was coming off a career season, one in which he played all 17 games for the first time and set a career-high in carries (259), rushing yards (1,269), and touchdowns (11). He was sure to sign for big money, something the Eagles weren’t prepared to offer.
As a result, they signed RB Rashaad Penny to a low-risk, one-year deal in the first week of free agency before Sanders had even signed. That officially signaled the Eagles’ desire to move on. Sanders would eventually sign a four-year deal with the Carolina Panthers, leaving both parties happy.
Penny has put up elite stats when healthy. That’s the key phrase there — “when healthy.” He has missed a total of 32 games over the last three seasons, hence the one-year “prove-it” deal the Eagles gave him. No one really thought the Eagles were done adding to their RB room after signing Penny and bringing back the Giant Killer, Boston Scott, to compete with holdover Kenneth Gainwell for touches.
And it turns out GM Howie Roseman wasn’t done.
On Day 2 of the NFL Draft, Roseman pulled off one of his patented Draft Day trades, acquiring RB D’Andre Swift from the Detroit Lions in a swap of 7th-round picks and a 2025 4th-round pick. Swift was made expendable when Detroit spent the 12th overall pick on RB Jahmyr Gibbs out of Alabama. As a result, Roseman pounced on the opportunity to grab a talented RB who has been underutilized over his first three seasons in the league.
Swift is ready for a fresh start, changing his jersey number to Zero, and a return home — he’s from the Philadelphia area. What can we, as fantasy managers, realistically expect from D’Andre Swift in 2023? Let’s read some tea leaves.
D’Andre Swift 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook
Swift’s Receiving Prowess
Over his first three seasons, D’Andre Swift has never eclipsed 151 carries or 617 rushing yards. Something he has done, though, is provide value as a receiver. He averages 68.3 targets, 52 receptions, 399.3 receiving yards, and 2.3 TDs per season. Those are numbers fantasy football managers love.
When players show the ability to earn targets, they continue to do so, even if they change teams or are dropped into new systems. D’Andre Swift is about to test that theory in 2023.
Eagles 2022 Offense
The Eagles were a dominant offense in 2022, en route to an appearance in the Super Bowl. They finished 2nd in points scored, 2nd in total yards, 9th in passing yards, and 5th in rushing yards. Those are the good numbers. So on the surface, adding a running back like Swift, who can command over 60 targets in a season and averages 4.6 yards per carry over his career, is a good thing.
But when you dig a little deeper, you notice the Eagles finished dead last in targets to RBs (61) and RB target share (11.4%). Not a good sign for Swift, right?
If you look at 2021, though, there’s hope for Swift. According to Fantasy Pros, the Eagles targeted the RB position 106 times, good for a 22.7% target share. That ranked 7th in the NFL.
So what was the biggest difference between 2021 and 2022?
Arthur Juan Brown. You may know him as A.J. Brown. We Eagles fans know him as Swole Batman.
A.J. Brown changed the offense
During Jalen Hurts’ first full year as the starting QB, he was given a young WR room to grow with. First-round pick DeVonta Smith proved to be the guy the Eagles hoped their 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor would have been. He eclipsed 100 targets and topped 900 receiving yards as Hurts led the Eagles to a surprise playoff birth.
As good as Smith was, and he would get better, Roseman knew this Eagles offense needed more. He swung a draft day trade for disgruntled Titans WR A.J. Brown to be the first true Eagles WR1 since Terrell Owens. Roseman then signed Brown to the type of contract a true WR1 deserves, a 4-year, $100 million extension.
Brown and Smith went out and made a case to be one of the best WR tandems in the league, combining for 281 targets, 183 receptions, 2,692 yards, and 18 touchdowns. That’s 52.4% of the Eagles team’s pass attempts to just two players.
So, um, what’s left for the rest of the team?
QBs who run don’t target RBs
As stated earlier, the Eagles ranked 7th in 2021 in RB target share. So, this statement isn’t entirely true. But the decree has some merit, and it got me thinking. So I did some research.
I used 100 rush attempts as a baseline for a QB. And since 2010, 29 Quarterbacks have rushed 100 or more times in a single season (stats courtesy of stathead.com):
Some familiar names on this list, huh? And quite a few repeat names, so this should be easy to find some correlation that we can apply to Jalen Hurts and D’Andre Swift’s potential connection for 2023.
(Note: As you can see from the image above, not all QBs started all 16 or 17 games in their respective seasons. I’m taking the TEAM stats for this exercise, not how often the QB in question directly targeted the position.)
Of these 29 seasons, 11 saw a team RB target share of fewer than 15%, 11 seasons between 15% and 19.5%, and seven seasons over 19.5%.
Since I’m trying to prove running QBs don’t target RBs, let’s focus on those seasons over 19.5% target share to RBs.
|Year||Team||QB||RB Targets||RB Target Share|
I first want to address the fact that Cam Newton is on this list three times. In two of those years in Carolina, he shared a backfield with Christian McCaffrey, arguably the best pass-catching RB ever. The third time, while in New England, he had James White, who saw 62 targets, and no WR eclipsed 100 targets.
Of these seven seasons, four of these teams saw an offense that did not have a single WR or TE see 100 or more targets. In the other three seasons, each team had only one WR or TE to see 100 or more targets.
The most interesting data point from this study? Every team that had two WRs or TEs see 100 or more targets also saw their RB target share at 15.6% or lower.
The Josh Allen Trajectory
When looking at this data, the one player that truly stood as a potential comp for Jalen Hurts is Bills QB Josh Allen.
We know how effective Allen is as a rusher. And his rush attempts have increased from 102 to 122 to 124 in the last three years. Over that same period, the Bills RB target share has also increased, from 12.9% to 14.7% to 19.3%. This is primarily due to his increase in pass attempts.
Allen’s 3rd season in the NFL was back in 2020. Allen has thrown 572, 646, and 567 pass attempts since 2020. Those numbers are up from 320 in his rookie season and 461 in his 2nd season. Guess who is entering his 3rd year as a starting QB? Jalen Hurts.
Jalen Hurts has never thrown for more than 460 passes in a season, good for 30.67 pass attempts per game. If Hurts can approach Allen’s 3rd-year numbers of 35.75 pass attempts per game, the number of times the Eagles target the RB position can increase, even if the RB target share doesn’t eclipse 15%.
Swift is great; Brown and Smith are better.
An offense can have plenty of great players. But there’s only one football to go around. And the Eagles’ offense has two great receivers, one of the best TEs in the league (Dallas Goedert) and one of the best pass-catching RBs in the league.
And when a team has two elite options at WR, the RB position tends to be a forgotten source of targets. Add in the fact that Dallas Goedert is one of the best-receiving TEs in the league. Swift will have an uphill battle to secure those valuable targets in this high-powered offense.
Swift’s Current ADP
For Swift to secure these valuable targets, it’ll likely be because one of Brown, Smith, or Goedert misses time due to injury. Or Jalen Hurts suddenly starts throwing the ball 35 or more times a game. Swift’s career average of 5.1 targets per game would very much appreciate that type of jump in pass attempts.
Swift’s ADP has steadily declined throughout the summer. He’s now being drafted as the RB23 on Underdog. And one could make the argument that it’s still too high. With Jalen Hurts likely handling more than 140 rush attempts, that will leave “maybe” 360 rush attempts to divvy up between the rest of the RBs.
My current projections have Swift with 104 rush attempts and Rashaad Penny with 137. But on the off chance Penny remains healthy for 10 or more games, Swift won’t see 100 rush attempts.
Swift has competition literally all over this offense. So unless the Eagles view his receiving prowess like that of Christian McCaffrey, Swift isn’t likely to see the 70+ targets he’s seen the last two seasons.
As a result, Swift is strictly an upside draft pick. For ZeroRB drafters, he’d be a prime target. His ADP, though, is just simply too high to qualify as a proper ZeroRB candidate. You need a lot to break your way for Swift to pay off. Let him be someone else’s problem on draft day.
A Look Inside the Philadelphia Eagles
Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Josh focused on D’Andre Swift in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Eagles by Ryan Weisse.
If Hurts doesn’t miss two games, he’s your top fantasy QB last season. We already knew what he could do with his legs, but 13 rushing touchdowns are ridiculous. There is no reason to think he won’t get even better in 2023, with another year building rapport with AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. He is worth the high draft capital.
If he can stay healthy, he is one of the most efficient runners in the league. His 5+ yards per carry make him deadly on even limited touches. He will split time with Swift, but taking those small breaks might keep them both on the field more in the long run.
Remember the dummies last year that worried if the Eagles would throw enough to support Brown? It’s me. I’m the dummies. Brown finished with 146 targets and had his best season as a pro. Heading into Year 2, he could get better, but even if he breaks even, you want him on your fantasy team.
Smith actually had seven more receptions than Brown on 10 fewer targets. That, my friends, is called efficiency. They can both thrive, and, at just 24 years old, the sky is the limit for DeVonta Smith. He was WR9 last year, so he can’t climb too much further, but his draft cost is still reasonable, considering how good he was last year.
Goedert’s TE12 finish doesn’t look good from a 10,000 foot-view. But when you dig into the numbers and see that he MISSED FIVE GAMES, it becomes a lot more impressive. From a points-per-game perspective, he was the TE5 and, perhaps more importantly, averaged over five targets per game. That is the kind of volume you want from your fantasy tight end. Plus, his 12.8 yards per catch were tied with George Kittle for the league lead among tight ends with 50+ targets. If he can add to his three touchdowns from 2022, we should see a true top-5 season.
We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles.