Here are three young Detroit Lions destined to have a big year in 2021
While the Detroit Lions will end the 2020 NFL regular season with a losing record for the third year in a row, there still exist reasons for hope. Not only will the organization hired a new general manager and head coach to lead them in 2021, but the team still has some talented, young players to build the new roster upon.
With the hope of better days ahead, here are three current Lions’ players we believe will have breakout performances next year.
D’Andre Swift, RB
The lack of a true offseason training program, a hip injury to start the season, and the signing of veteran Adrian Peterson all helped to stunt the growth of rookie running back D’Andre Swift in 2020.
But the team’s second-round selection out of Georgia started showing signs of his potential midway through the season. That was highlighted by his 116-rushing yard, 14-carry, two-touchdown performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week Six.
Now, the Lions’ unquestioned starter entering into 2021 (as unquestioned as you can be without a new head coach and general manager in place), Swift is set up to have a breakout campaign in his second season in the Motor City.
Posting 467 rushing yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry, Swift was also a factor in the passing game as a rookie bringing in 43 catches for 341 yards and two more scores going into his Week 17 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday.
Quintez Cephus, WR
As the only wide receiver currently on the Lions’ roster set to return in 2021, rookie Quintez Cephus is in a unique position to have a breakout performance next season. The talented receiver out of Wisconsin fell to Detroit in the fifth round of the draft after posting a slow 40-time at the combine and due to some off-the-field concerns.
The 22-year old rookie wideout was yet another victim of the stunted offseason but has still been able to flash his potential at points this year. A two-game starter, Cephus has brought in 18 of his 32 targets for 298 yards and a touchdown despite playing in only 34% of the offensive snaps. With so many of his peers set to become free agents, his one-year stint should earn him plenty of opportunities in 2021.
Tracy Walker, S
It can be argued that no one player might benefit from a regime change in Detroit more than safety Tracy Walker. The former third-rounder appeared to be on a potential Pro Bowl track earlier in his career, leading the team with 103 tackles last season.
But this year has been a different story as Walker as he seemingly lost favor with the coaching staff. After playing 87.4% of the defensive snaps through his first seven games of this year, that average dropped to just 49.3% after Week Eight.
The 25-year old Walker has still been able to record 74 tackles, four pass deflections, and four tackles for loss this season despite the drop in playing time. The new coaching staff in Detroit needs to appreciate the talent this young defender possesses and find a way to best utilize him. If not, another NFL team will likely benefit from it.