Not many seem to expect much for the 2021 Detroit Lions outside of Allen Park. That’s due to the fact the Lions are in the midst of a major rebuild, one that led to the team trading away their longtime quarterback this offseason in Matthew Stafford.
The fact Stafford is no longer in Motown combined with the team posting a disappointing 5-11 record with him under center for all 16 games last year means the expectations for the Lions this upcoming season are low. Especially with a new quarterback in Jared Goff at the helm.
In the offseason, new general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have invested heavily in improving the team in the trenches. It’s clear they believe rebuilding starts from the inside out.
Not only did the Lions trade for defensive tackle Michael Brockers from the Los Angeles Rams, but the team used their first three selections in the 2021 NFL Draft in the trenches as well. Detroit drafted Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh overall selection, Washington defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike in the second round, and NC State defensive tackle
Alim McNeill in the third.
But their focus on trench play has left some other positional groups talent poor entering the 2021 regular season. One of those areas is at wide receiver, where the team is relying mostly on free agents signed to one-year deals to provide firepower for Goff’s new offense. And that fact will certainly have many fantasy football owners avoiding the Lions during their drafts this summer.
But there are two players in Detroit that could be trending under the radar in upcoming fantasy leagues that might actually benefit from the Lions’ questionable receiver corps. Here’s what Tim Twentyman wrote recently on the team’s official website about Goff and his preferred weapons through the first week of OTAs.
“The Lions ran about 10 reps of live 7-on-7, and quarterback Jared Goff looked pretty sharp in the period for the most part. He hooked up with tight end T.J. Hockenson on a beautiful deep out and hit running back D’Andre Swift on a crosser for a big gain. Watch for Hockenson and Swift to be a big part of the passing game for the Lions this season.”
With several unknowns populating the wide receiver corps in Detroit this year, tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift would seemingly be Goff’s biggest offensive weapons in 2021. Hockenson is coming off a Pro Bowl season where he posted 67 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns. He was targeted a whopping 101 times last year despite Stafford having a much better receiver group than the team has now.
As for Swift, the second-year running back should see a major uptick in carries as the projected starter in 2021. Last season, he was limited to four starts due to the presence of Adrian Peterson, who is no longer in Detroit. The rookie was still able to post 521 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Swift should also make an impact as a receiver out of the backfield for Goff as he recorded 46 catches for 357 yards and two scores in 2020.