Analyzing The Detroit Lions’ Acquisitions From University Of Arkansas.
This is the third article in a 12 part series that will examine which colleges have been the best at producing Detroit Lions in the 21st century. Today will be a look at Lions players from the University of Arkansas.
Jeremiah Ledbetter played only two season at Arkansas, his junior and senior years. He played all over the defensive line for the Razorbacks, at the end and tackle positions. In his first collegiate season, he recorded 55 tackles and two sacks. He topped that in his second year tallying 49 tackles with 5.5 sacks and two passes defended. He was very versatile in college, and was a bright spot on Arkansas’ defense last year.
Ledbetter was selected by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round of this years NFL draft. The Lions have said that they want Ledbetter to bulk up and play the 3-tech defensive tackle position. Ledbetter has the talent to do this, but it could take time for him to put on the mass. There is no guarantee Ledbetter will pull this off, but he is a high potential player.
It is far too early to draw any conclusions about Ledbetter, but he is a high upside day three pick who could absolutely contribute to the defensive line rotation this season.
After being redshirted in his freshman year, Travis Swanson would start every game for the Razorbacks over the next three seasons. He was a big part of the blocking for high powered Arkansa offenses in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2012, Arkansas’ offensive line allowed one or fewer sacks in eight games and Travis Swanson was named the team captain. In that same season, Swanson was named to the second team All-SEC team and was named as a first team All-American.
Swanson’s impressive collegiate career led to him being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft. Swanson didn’t see a lot of playing time in his rookie season, as he sat behind long time Lions center Dominic Raiola. In the 2015 offseason, Raiola retired and Swanson was named the starter. Swanson was not good at all in his second NFL season. Seemingly every week he would forget his blocking assignments, or miss blocks altogether, and allowed many sacks. His play was so bad that Detroit drafted Graham Glasgow in the third round of the 2016 draft.
In 2016, many had written off Swanson and expected Glasgow to start the season at center. Swanson won the job in training camp and was named as the starting center. Swanson surprised many Lions fans in 2016, as he was fantastic all season. He looked like a completely different player and was arguably Detroit’s best offensive lineman.
Travis Swanson eventually suffered a severe concussion against the the New Orleans Saints that caused him to miss the last four games of the regular season and the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.
At this point, Swanson is the presumed starter at center for the Detroit Lions. His concussion is somewhat frightening, but it was the first concussion of his career. If Swanson keeps up his play from last season he will have a very good NFL career.
Chris Houston played for three seasons at Arkansas, seeing significant time in his sophomore and junior seasons. As a sophomore, he recorded 24 tackles and defended eight passes, while also forcing a fumble. In Houston’s junior year, he had a big breakout season, making 46 tackles and three interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown). He would then be drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons on the strength of his junior season.
After three underwhelming seasons in Atlanta, the Detroit Lions traded a 2010 sixth round draft pick and a conditional 2011 seventh round draft pick for Chris Houston. Houston would immediately become Detroit’s number one cornerback, starting all 15 games he played in during the 2010 season. In 2010 he made 50 tackles and defended 12 passes. Chris Houston would have the best season of his NFL career in 2011, intercepting five passes and returning two for touchdowns. He also had 44 tackles and 14 passes defended.
Houston was somewhat injury plagued through his entire career in Detroit, never staying healthy for a full season. Chris Houston was released by the Lions before the start of the 2014 season. Houston missed the entire 2014 season with a toe injury. After a very brief stint with the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 preseason, Chris Houston would injure his toe and decide to retire.
Although Chris Houston was never a shutdown cornerback for the Lions, he was still an above average cornerback capable of making big plays. Houston simply wasn’t meant to be a number one corner but that is where he was forced to play for the Lions. If he had played at the same time as Darius Slay, the two could have been one of the best duos in the NFL.
Two good Lions players have come from the University of Arkansas, Chris Houston and Travis Swanson. Ledbetter has yet to take a snap for the Lions, but he has potential to be a third good player from Arkansas. However, I would say there is an equally likely chance that he doesn’t develop and has little to no impact for the Lions. Overall, Lions fans should be happy about the production they have received from Arkansas, and completely open to continuing to look there for talent.