Lions snatch up Swanson in 3rd

Published: Saturday, May 10, 2014
Arkansas center Travis Swanson during an Aug. 31, 2013 game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas center Travis Swanson during an Aug. 31, 2013 game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Travis Swanson's rise in versatility this season paid dividends on Friday night.

The 50-game starter at center for Arkansas was taken by the Detroit Lions with the 12th pick of the third round of the NFL Draft as the 76th pick overall.

Arkansas' switch to a more traditional power running game in 2013 gave Swanson the chance to showcase his skills as a pulling blocker.

"That was a very big difference from my junior year to my senior year," said Swanson, who watched the draft in Fayetteville with his wife of six weeks, Emily.

Swanson, of Kingwood, Texas, was the third center taken, behind Colorado State's Weston Richburg and Southern California's Marcus Martin.

Swanson, 6-5, 312 pounds, had the highest blocking consistency grade for any offensive lineman in college football over the last 24 games at 90 percent, according to a statistic on detroitlions.com.

NFL Network analyst Heath Evans, the former Auburn fullback, said, "Good pick," after Swanson's name was announced.

Former Detroit Lions president and CEO Matt Millen, also an NFL Network analyst, liked the choice by his former organization.

"He's a smart guy," Millen said. "He's one of those guys that, he's the communication leader. He comes from the inside-out. He's never stumped on stuff. He corrects the quarterback. He's one of those guys.

"Centers fall in two schools anymore. You can get the big physical guys who are going to play inside, work to the second level inside, or you get the guys who can pull and get to the outside. This guy can actually do a little bit of both."

Swanson is the second Arkansas center to go in the top four rounds since 2009. Jonathan Luigs was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 106th pick in the fourth round of the 2009 draft.

"He's a very good football player and somebody is going to be rewarded because of that," Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said of Swanson. "I think the part that all of the NFL gets excited about is all the things he can do off the field too. He's a tremendous leader. ... I think his best football is in front of him."

The Lions list 13-year pro and 35-year-old Dominic Raiola of Nebraska and Sherman Carter of Tennessee State, a 2013 acquisition, as their only centers.

Sports on 05/10/2014

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