Lions take Swift in 2nd round, Okwara in 3rd

(AP) — D’Andre Swift’s favorite all-time running back is Barry Sanders, even though he was born after the Hall of Famer ended his career with the Detroit Lions.

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 used that third-round pick in a deal with Indianapolis to move up to No. 75, then selected Ohio State guard Jonah Jackson.

Detroit took Notre Dame linebacker Julian Okwara earlier in the third round. His brother, Romeo, is a defensive end for the Lions.

In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Julian Okwara, wearing cap, is hugged after being selected by the Detroit Lions during the third round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 24, 2020. (NFL via AP)
In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Julian Okwara, wearing cap, is hugged after being selected by the Detroit Lions during the third round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 24, 2020. (NFL via AP)

“It’s definitely a dream,” Julian Okwara said. “I’m pretty much speechless. I’m kind of just still letting it marinate and thinking about it.”

He does not, however, need much time to ponder where to live in the Motor City.

“I’m looking forward to living a rent-free year,” Julian Okwara said.

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.

“I’m good to go and ready for the season,” he said.

Okwara 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 running back 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.

“I know a lot about him,” Swift said. “He had a great career in college.”

The Lions addressed a need with what appeared to be a perfect fit Thursday night, selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 pick overall.

Detroit’s rookies may prove to be pivotal for general manager Bob 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 on either side of the ball.

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, but taking Jackson seemed like a sound move. The former Ohio State and Rutgers standout will have an opportunity to start in the spot vacated by Graham Glasgow, who left in free agency to sign with the Denver Broncos.

Okwara, meanwhile, helps the linebacking corps become perhaps the best part of the defense.