It’s officially Week 1 in the NFL, and that means our Detroit Lions are less than a week away from kicking off their 2021 regular season against the San Francisco 49ers. It’s time to start looking at both the 49ers and the entire season as a whole, as we now know far more about the team than we did when we made our original predictions back during the schedule release in May.
So for game week, we gathered the Pride of Detroit staff together to make some predictions for the 2021 Lions season. We’ll be dropping one a week starting today.
We kick things off with Offensive MVP. The Lions offense didn’t get rave reviews in the offseason, likely due to their drastic change is personnel. Gone is the Matthew Stafford era, as well as the entire starting receiving corps from last year.
But that isn’t to say this unit is bereft of talent. They’ve got a Pro Bowl tight end, an All Pro center, a top-10 left tackle, an up-and-coming running back, and a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback who has made it to the Super Bowl.
So who will be the Offensive MVP for the Lions in 2021? Here are our picks:
Andrew Kato — D’Andre Swift
D’Andre Swift will contribute more than 1300 all-purpose yards and at least eight touchdowns on offense. While he won’t break 1,000 yards on the ground due to load-splitting with Jamaal Williams, the deliberate use of a two-man backfield will keep him relatively injury-free and in the lineup.
Hamza Baccouche — T.J. Hockenson
T.J. Hockenson, and it’s not close. The only people who would challenge him are D’Andre Swift and Frank Ragnow. Hockenson is going to be a lubricant for this offense in 2021, and as noted in training camp, the offense is a whole lot better when he’s out there than when he’s not. Hock has already become Goff’s favorite target through training camp, and as he grows into his role in a skill-starved offense, I would be surprised if Anthony Lynn didn’t lean into him more. You know, Anthony Lynn who carried Antonio Gates into the sunset and brought to life Hunter Henry’s career.
I don’t see Swift having a heavy enough workload to claim MVP, and with soft tissue injuries limiting him in the preseason, I’m not going to bet on anything from him to be consistent and healthy throughout the season. Likewise, if Jamaal Williams has a role similar to his workload in Green Bay, we’ll be looking at more of a 1A-1B situation in the backfield than a 1-2. Ragnow is objectively really good, but the offensive line doesn’t get enough love, and they certainly won’t if they continue to play as they have in the preseason.
Jeremy Reisman — T.J. Hockenson
Hockenson has been the most dominant offensive weapon in camp and it isn’t particularly close. With so few options elsewhere for Jared Goff to look for, Hockenson will almost certainly lead this team in targets. I still have a question as to whether he’ll be able to overcome the extra attention he’ll be sure to get from opposing defenses this year, but based on what I’ve seen from camp, that may not matter.
Kellie Rowe — Hockenson
It’s T.J. Hockenson’s year. Not only is he one of the top tight ends in the game, but Jared Goff — uhhhh — really doesn’t have a lot of other options to throw to. Now with two seasons under his belt including a Pro Bowl nod, it’s really his time to shine.
Kyle Yost — Hockenson
About as chalk of a take as possible, but having a top-10 pick turn out as projected is something that should not be overlooked given this organization’s struggles with drafting. On offense, MVP is (rightly or wrongly) determined by counting stats, and Hockenson is going to be the only player with any numbers that draw attention outside of Detroit. This is the season he makes it abundantly clear that he is a top-five player at the position and will continue to be so for years to come.
Chris Perfett — Hockenson
He’ll be there by virtue that he’s probably the most talented offensive player on this roster right now.
John Whiticar — Hockenson
I almost wanted to put Frank Ragnow here, but in the end, it’s hard to justify a center as your MVP. T.J. Hockenson is Jared Goff’s best target, which says more about the targets than Hockenson. I don’t expect Hockenson to be an elite tight end like George Kittle or Travis Kelce, but he seems to be in line for a massive portion of the targets. Goff struggles with deep passing, so Hockenson should benefit from a short aerial attack. Coupled with no real established receivers, and Hockenson is probably the only player worth throwing to. I don’t have enough confidence in D’Andre Swift’s health to consider him for MVP. If Goff plays well, he could be the MVP, but I think he’s a bottom 10 quarterback.
Mike Payton — Jared Goff
The Lions offense is lacking in a lot of areas and in order to get over, Jared Goff is going to have to step up and control the Lions offense. From what we’ve seen in camp, he should be able to do that. Goff should be able to change the perceptions about him in 2021.
Ryan Mathews — Frank Ragnow
There are a couple of frontrunners for this award in T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift. Both players figure to be fixtures for a new-look offense in search of establishing an identity, but they’re expected to be the top two sources of offensive production. While I think Hockenson and Swift will have productive seasons so long as they manage to stay healthy, I think the Lions’ offensive MVP in 2021 will be center Frank Ragnow.
If Detroit wants to find success, it’ll start up front with an offensive line that gives Jared Goff time to operate and creates space for runners. In this respect, Ragnow will continue to be a tone-setter for this offense.
Erik Schlitt — Frank Ragnow
Quick logic says this is T.J. Hockenson’s award to lose but I’m going to take a different spin on the word “valuable” and pick Frank Ragnow as my choice. This offense won’t stand a chance of succeeding if they can’t block, and Ragnow will be calling out and making adjustments to all the blocking assignments. As the anchor on the line, he will play critical roles on every offensive play, regardless of the call. It also helps he’s the best center in the league and arguably the best player on this roster.
Jerry Mallory - Swift
When asked about some of the team’s strengths in their most recent dual press conference, general manager Brad Holmes mentioned the offensive line and running game on offense. Head coach Dan Campbell was quick to agree. I’d put Frank Ragnow as our offensive MVP if that wasn’t such a boring selection, but the man he will help a ton (D’Andre Swift) is a great answer also.
Swift won’t be the only running back to excel as Jamaal Williams will also be a key contributor. Swift, however, is simply more talented and will get plenty of love in both the running a passing game. The Lions wide receiver group is one of the most questionable in the league. As such, guys like Swift and Hockenson will be primed for plenty of targets. Injuries could play a role for Swift, but that’s the case for every NFL player. Buy plenty of D’Andre Swift stick in 2021.
Who will be the Lions’ offensive MVP in 2021?
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