Despite the poor overall season for the Detroit Lions, there were a handful of players who had career years. Detroit found themselves two big weapons on offense, a pass rushing threat on defense, and a special teamer who may have established himself as a weapon that will be a part of this LIons team for years to come.
Here are your 2020 nominees for Breakout Player of the Year.
Stats: 44 tackles, 10.0 sacks, 18 QB hits
Back in 2018, Okwara had 7.5 sacks, suggesting he could become a serious pass rusher once he grows into his NFL career. But when taking a closer look at his performance that year, his overall performance may not have been as good as those stats suggest
However, the same can’t be said about his 2020 season. His 10.0 sacks were all well-earned. In fact, he probably could have had a handful more were it not for some bad luck. Okwara was not the beneficiary of some other pass rushing threat on the team—he was the pass rushing threat on the team.
Okwara finished fifth in the NFL in PFF’s pass rushing productivity metric, and it may have earned him a big contract this offseason.
Stats: 67 catches, 723 yards, 6 TDs
After a predictably mild rookie season, Hockenson exploded in 2020, nearly doubling his production from the previous year.
2019: 32 catches, 367 yards, 2 TDs
2020: 67 catches, 723 yards, 6 TDs
Hockenson’s efforts earned himself his first Pro Bowl nod and a placement among the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-NFC team. He also had the game-winning touchdown against the Falcons.
Stats: 80.3 PFF grade
After improving from Year 1 to Year 2, Ragnow established himself as one of the best centers in football last season. Ragnow earned a Pro Bowl nod and was named second-team All Pro last year, and after seeing some of these highlights, it’s easy to see why.
#Lions rookie RB D’Andre Swift...— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) November 16, 2020
Career-highs in touches (21) & total yards (149) vs. WASH.
Saw the explosive traits + the change of direction ability. Run/pass game impact. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/hRz2WWx2xN
#OnePride Hell of a combo block by Jonah Jackson (LG 73) and Frank Ragnow (C 77) on this DT. Pushes him all the way to the LB and gets him tripped up. Also, Ragnow gives him a good push at the end.— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) October 21, 2020
Meanwhile...this run from D'Andre Swift pic.twitter.com/90sx7hkZZg
Stats: 114 rushes, 521 yards (4.6 YPC), 8 TDs; 46 catches, 357 yards, 2 TDs
One of the beneficiaries of Ragnow’s solid play was rookie running back D’Andre Swift. While I’m not sure I’d call a rookie’s first year a breakout season, he certainly started displaying some breakout ability in the final half of the season.
From Week 9 and beyond, Swift averaged 55.8 rushing yards per game (23rd) and had 183 receiving yards (10th among RBs), despite only playing in six games. In fact, with just 13 games played and being sparsely used in the first half of the season, Swift still finished 27th among running backs in yards from scrimmage, with 878.
Stats: 49.1 yards per punt, 44.8 net average, 26 punts inside the 20, 7 touchbacks
Like Ragnow, Fox earned a Pro Bowl and a second-team All-Pro nod in 2020. What makes Fox’s accomplishments truly remarkable is that this was his first season of action. Detroit added him late in 2019, and after winning a tight training camp battle, Fox made his first NFL appearance in Week 1.
From the minute he stepped on the field, he looked like a natural. At this point, it’s almost hard to remember that Detroit made a difficult decision to move on from Sam Martin, but that choice appears to have been the right one. Fox finished the year third in overall yards per punt and second in net yard average.
Who was the Lions’ Breakout Player of the Year in 2020?
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