DETROIT (AP) — D’Andre Swift said Barry Sanders is his all-time favorite running back, even though he was born after the Hall of Famer ended his career with the Detroit Lions.
Reminder: You can watch the 2020 NFL Draft on Channel 7 Friday and Saturday night.
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Swift heard so much about Sanders that he watched the way he ran and tried to emulate him.
The Lions, clearly, loved what they saw Swift do at Georgia.
Detroit drafted Swift early in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night with a slightly surprising pick.
The Lions also started the night with a pair of selections in the third round, including No. 85 overall as part of the trade that sent Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to Philadelphia.
They took Notre Dame linebacker Julian Okwara early in the third round. His brother, Romeo, is a defensive end for the Lions.
In his ninth game for the Fighting Irish last season, the 6-foot-4, 252-pound Okwara broke his left leg and his college career was over. He had 15 1/2 career sacks and 24 tackles for losses over his last three years at Notre Dame.
With its first pick of the night, Detroit decided Swift was too good to pass up at No. 35.
The 5-foot-8, 212-pound Swift was projected to possibly be a first-round pick.
He is known for being a big-play running back, who has good vision and makes quick cuts. Swift entered the draft after running for 1,218 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.
Despite sharing time in a talented backfield with the Bulldogs, he had 2,885 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. The three-down running back also had 73 career catches for 666 yards and five scores.
Detroit went into the second day of the draft with eight picks remaining, giving the team assets to make moves.
The Lions chose to stay with their first slot Friday night, and the selection suggests they may not be confident Kerryon Johnson can stay healthy after he missed games in each of his first two seasons with injuries.
“I’m just looking forward to compete,” Swift said.
Johnson missed eight games last year and six games in 2018 as a second-round rookie from Auburn. In 18 games in the league, Johnson has run for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns and has made 42 receptions for 340 yards and two scores.
“I know a lot about him,” Swift said. “He had a great career in college.”
The franchise was interested in possibly moving back in the opening round Thursday night to pick up extra picks, but general manager Bob Quinn said no one made him an offer.
ADVERTISEMENTThe Lions addressed a need with what appeared to be a perfect fit, selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 pick overall. He should help a defense that ranked No. 31 in the league last season.
Detroit’s rookies may prove to be pivotal for Quinn and coach Matt Patricia, who probably have to at least contend for a spot in the playoffs to come back in 2021. The Lions lost their last nine games last season and finished 3-12-1.
Swift and Johnson potentially give the offense a potent backfield to help take pressure off quarterback Matthew Stafford. The passing game features a receiving corps that is perhaps the strength of the team.
The Lions were expected to take Okudah if they didn’t trade out of the No. 3 slot. They were not projected as a place Swift would land on Friday night.
Detroit still has needs on both the offensive and defensive lines and likely will use some of its picks to get help at the line of scrimmage.