With their third round pick of the 2014 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions selected Arkansas center Travis Swanson. Swanson is a durable center who started fifty games in his college career at Arkansas. He was a very vocal and respected leader and captain of the team. He is a very intelligent football player who played consistently against NFL caliber defensive players throughout his college career. His leadership and experience alone will be an added asset to the team. He is a little on the weak side as far as strength is concerned. He only benched twenty repetitions at 225 pounds. In college he consistently showed limited power and push. Adding some strength in the weight room will help with that. He also does not have the flexibility of other center prospects that we have looked at. Marcus Martin of USC who visited the Lions was able to play center and guard. Russell Bodine, who i did a draft profile on, also was able to play both center and guard. Swanson will only be a center in the NFL.
Travis Swanson stands six foot five and weighs 312 pounds. He is much bigger than Dominic Raiola is, which is a definite plus for someone who is expected to be the next starting center when Raiola does decide to retire. The plan here was to draft a center who would back up Raiola and be his eventual replacement. By adding Swanson, they brought in a player who is very intelligent and capable of picking up the position from Raiola in the two years he has left here in Detroit. He also already has the experience against NFL talent so he will not be lost when he does see playing time. The extra, typically overlooked, bonus is that while Raiola has been a team captain for years here in Detroit, they added a player in Travis Swanson who is a vocal leader and who had the experience of being a team captain so he can take over just as Raiola was.
Adding a center was definitely a necessity in this draft. Detroit was expected to add one in round three or four so it came as no surprise when they did pick one. The surprise though was with who they chose. While I do not think it was a bad choice as he was talked about plenty prior to the combine, and even talked about by many as being a second or possibly late first round caliber talent, adding a player with strength concerns was a surprise. Russell Bodine, who played with current Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford, displayed ideal strength for the position and the positional flexibility that the Lions typically covet in a player. I think Swanson was coveted more though as a leader than as a physical presence. This year’s draft showed more focus on leadership and stability and less on raw talent, which I feel is related to some of the maturity issues that plagued the team in the past. I just hope it does not backfire. Overall I think this pick will be defined by how well Swanson can develop the strength he lacks so that he translates to the pro game better.