The Detroit Lions set out to find a replacement for center Dominic Raiola, and they did just that with the selection of Travis Swanson in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Swanson enters training camp locked into battle with the incumbent Raiola, and it’s a battle Swanson has a good chance to win.
Swanson was the best center in the draft on a lot of people’s draft boards, including my own. He’s a great pass-blocker, showing quick feet and athleticism, and he has a ton of experience. Swanson started all 50 games of his college career, and he was solid in every single showing. He was a two-time captain, and there’s no doubt he’s a leader, not only for the offensive line, but for the entire team.
That said, there are a few things that could hurt Swanson as he attempts to beat out Raiola for the Lions’ starting center job. He’s not the strongest guy, and that shows up especially in the running game. Swanson struggles to get to the second level, and there are times when a defender simply overpowers him. With better weight training in the NFL, that can be corrected, but it will take time.
Overall, despite his shaky run-blocking and questionable strength, I expect Swanson to be the Lions’ starting center in 2014. On a team that passes the ball as much as the Lions, Swanson is a very valuable asset, and his impact on the line and in the locker room could be tremendous.