Can the 2021 Detroit Lions show signs of Improvement?

Frederick Hubacker
6 min readMay 6, 2021


By:Freddy Hubacker

As the 2021 NFL draft concludes, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. The Detroit Lions, the team I hold dearest to my heart was coming up with the 7th overall pick. Me knowing the Lions, I fully expected them to go receiver with that pick. I didn’t necessarily want them to go for a wide receiver knowing all too well the Lions history for drafting receivers. Sure, the Lions finally got Calvin Johnson, but that was after they picked 3 different receivers within the top 10 all of which turned out being busts. So, I was certain the Lions were going to go with wide receiver Devonta Smith because of his stellar Heisman trophy season last year at Alabama, and due to the fact both the Lions top receivers, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, left in free agency. When the pick at number 7 overall was announced though, a feeling of shock and optimism flowed through my mind.

The Lions ended up drafting Penei Sewell, Left Tackle out of Oregon, and widely considered the best offensive lineman in the draft. I was completely and utterly shocked by this move, mostly because this is something the Lions don’t normally do. O-Line wasn’t necessarily a big need for the Lions, and the lack of receiving talent on the roster is borderline laughable, but this new Lions regime wants to do things differently. New head coach Dan Campbell wats to turn the Lions around, but he wants to do it differently than in the past. Earlier this year at Campbell’s introductory press conference, he went into how he wants to turn the lions around. You can watch the full interview here.

Looking back at these exact words he said in the first day as the Lions new head coach, it makes a ton of more sense why the Lions chose to draft Sewell. Around the NFL, it is widely regarded that championship football teams are built through the trenches (offensive and defensive lines). Along with taking Sewell in the first round, the Lions chose to take 2 defensive tackles in the second and third rounds in Levi Onwuzurike and Alim Mcneil, who both could’ve been selected higher according to some draft experts.

We’re looking at the Lions as whole though, and it’s hard not to like how these draft picks help out the current players on the roster. In my opinion, no one should be happier with the Lions draft than 2nd year running back D’Andre Swift. He came on strong towards the end of the season last year, and with the addition of an elite run blocker on an already good offensive line, this season could be a breakout effort for Swift.

Swift’s Touchdown Numbers compared to other rookie backs

As you can see, Swift more than held his own amongst rookie running backs this year. Also, most of these running backs were the top options on their respective teams for most of the season, while Swift didn’t see his role increase until towards the middle of the season. With a full offseason of training and a key addition on the offensive line, it’s not crazy to envision Swift being the top running back the Lions have needed since, well, Barry Sanders. Not only did he hold his own running the ball, but he was the top rookie pass catching back in the NFL as well.

Overall, keep an eye on D’Andre Swift, especially if you’re a fantasy football player. If everything goes right, he’s as big a bet as anyone to have a great season.

Another player who has benefitted greatly from the Lions 2021 draft picks is new Quarterback Jared Goff. Sure, they waited until the 4th round to finally grab a receiving threat in Amon Ra St. Brown, but Goff cannot be happier with the way his offensive line looks right now. It’s also not like he has absolutely nothing to throw to. He still has D’Andre Swift who, as mentioned earlier, is a receiving threat out of the backfield and will take the pressure off of Goff running the ball as well. He has TJ Hockenson who made the pro bowl in only his second season last year, and is probably the best up-and-coming tight end in the league right now. The Lions also signed two veterans in Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman who will provide competition for young receivers Quintez Cephus who is going into his second year, and St. Brown whom I mentioned earlier. So, this really isn’t such an awful supporting cast for Goff considering his offensive line should be borderline elite, and his offensive supporting cast is filled with exciting youth. It is unfortunate that the Lions traded long time Quarterback Matthew Stafford right when they decided to try and complete, but right now Jared Goff is the guy and he has been to a super bowl before, and that’s something Matthew Stafford can’t say. With the right supporting cast who knows, maybe Goff can get back to his 2018 self where he led the Rams to a super bowl appearance against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

The offense has definitely improved, and the defense might be as well. I mentioned the two defensive tackles the Lions selected earlier, but they also addressed the cornerback and linebacker positions as well. The defense as a whole was just a bad unit last year, but with a brand-new defensive staff this unit should improve drastically.

Where the Lions ranked in total defense. Source:

That isn’t a pretty sight to see one bit, but It highlights one thing; there is nowhere to go but up. Young cornerback Jeff Okudah, who was drafted with the third overall pick last year, struggled mightily in his first season. It seemed like the game was too fast for him, and he couldn’t keep up with receivers he was covering.

Jeff Okudah’s 2020 grade according to Pro Football Focus

As you can see by his Pro Football Focus grade, he really got burned at times last season. On the flip side, he was facing a murderer’s row of receivers which included Davante Adams(twice), Allen Robinson(twice), Adam Thielen(twice), Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, and AJ Brown. He also showed flashes of being an elite corner as well. With new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn coming in as a former NFL cornerback, he should really help Okudah realize his full potential.

The Lions have been a laughingstock of the National Football League for quite a while now, but it’s time for that to end. Head coach Dan Campbell and General Manager Brad Holmes are building a team differently from Lions teams in the past, and Lions fans should be interested in where they can take this success-starved organization. They’ll have an extremely difficult job on their hands, and dealing with adversity is a given when running the Detroit Lions. One thing is for sure though, other teams better watch their kneecaps!



Frederick Hubacker

Student at Central Michigan University, Studying Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts and Sports Management.