In the weeks leading up to Detroit Lions training camp, we’re going to do a position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. Our series continues with the Lions centers.
Starter: Travis Swanson (2017)
Backup: Graham Glasgow (2019)
On the bubble: Leo Koloamatangi (2019)
There isn’t much question where the Lions stand with their centers in 2017. Travis Swanson is the bonafide starter after an impressive 2016 season. Graham Glasgow, though potentially a starter at left guard, would undoubtedly take over if Swanson suffered an injury at any point in the 2017 season. In fact, that exact scenario played out at the end of 2016, and there’s no reason to believe that would change this year.
But then there’s Leo Koloamatangi, the undrafted rookie who received second-team reps during OTAs and minicamp this year, but that was more so out of necessity than intrigue; Detroit had to do some shuffling along their offensive line with starting right guard T.J. Lang sitting out practice all spring. Still, Koloamatangi could sneak onto the roster if the Lions change their mind and want to keep Glasgow as a pure guard.
Need going forward?
This is where things get interesting. Swanson was presumed a goner after two very disappointing seasons in the NFL. The Lions went ahead and drafted Glasgow in the third round in the 2016 NFL Draft, essentially spelling the end of Swanson career as the Detroit Lions center. It was not a matter of if, but when.
Then, with a little fire under him, Swanson played his best ball in 2016. Suddenly, it looks like Swanson could potentially be the center of the future in Detroit, but this is the final year of his contract. If he plays well, he may earn himself a big payday in Detroit next offseason. If he struggles, he’s likely gone.
Of course, the biggest conundrum would be if Swanson proves last year was not a fluke. Would the Lions commit to him and hope that Glasgow improves at left guard, even though he’s probably best suited as a center? That doesn’t seem like the intended plan when Detroit drafted Glasgow, but if Swanson impressed Bob Quinn—who didn’t draft him—it could change course. More than anyone else on the Lions roster, Swanson stands to gain the most from an impressive 2017 season.