When the Detroit Lions picked with the eleventh pick in the second round of the NFL draft, they caught everyone off guard selecting a linebacker out of Hawaii, a player not many fans had ever heard of prior to the announcement.
The Detroit Lions made their second-round selection after the Denver Broncos made back to back picks. First John Elway‘s Broncos took an offensive lineman out of Kansas State. Then they traded up with the Cincinnati Bengals to take Missouri’s quarterback Drew Locke. The Lions picked next, although there were plenty of options available General Manager Bob Quinn tossed everyone a curveball selecting Jahlani Tavai with the 43rd pick overall.
It’s no secret that the Lions were seeking linebacking help; this could end up being a terrific choice, but many of us had never heard of this player from Hawaii. After the pick was made the NFL Network where I happened to be watching the draft slipped back to talking about the Broncos pick Drew Locke. If I recall Rich Eisen even said wow after the choice, and it wasn’t an excited expression, it was more of the shocking variety.
I had a feeling the team would opt for a corner with this pick, possible Justin Layne a lengthy corner who could work playing the outside opposite of Darius Slay. The Detroit Lions recently signed Justin Coleman via free agency; he will work exclusively in the slot. Coleman is considered one of the best nickel corners’ throughout the league; a great signing by the Lions.
Another option would have been taking Greedy Williams out of LSU, but he’s a big personality, although he’s very talented he’s a player that I understand Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia passing on. They would add a corner later in the draft. I was wondering if Chase Winovich was an option, but he slid down and ended up going to the New England Patriots in the third round.
Bob Quinn recently mentioned that Jahlani Tavai fits their system perfectly, he’s a long-armed backer is exceptionally versatile. His position coach with Hawaii recently described his style in an article published by the Freep.com written by Dave Birkett;
"“He was more than that in the scheme that we brought in with us,” Banker said. “He played our mike (middle) ‘backer. He played our sam (strong-side) ‘backer, which is traditionally down on the line of scrimmage, outside the tight end in our base package. But then we have another package called peso where we have a nickel in but we take the nose out and we make that sam ‘backer a strong-side defensive end who rushes the passer and/or can drop. And so many of the (odd-front) teams nowadays, they use the weakside end in that manner, where he’s that quote-unquote hybrid where he can drop. He has cover ability or he can come off the edge and rush the passer.”Quinn said the Lions were drawn to Tavai by his size (6-2, 250 pounds) and versatility, noting that “linebackers that play in this defense that are really very, very good natural fits, there’s only a couple every year.”“You see him on the film play on the edge, you see him set the edge, you see him rush the passer and then two snaps later, he’s playing mike bubble linebacker coming downhill and smashing a guard,” Quinn said. “There’s guys that can do that. A lot of guys in the draft, I’d say every year there’s a very select few guys that you can actually see them do it on film. You’re projecting.”"
Although Tavai was coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury and was unable to participate in pre-draft workouts his former coach is emphatic, he will excel at the next level. His lack of speed is a bit alarming, but we have to trust Quinn until we see Tavai in action on Sundays’ with our own eyes. We can’t be too disappointed with the pick especially if he fits what Patricia was looking for. By all accounts he’s a player that doesn’t take a play off, he plays hard throughout the game and is able to contribute on special teams.
He’s spent time in college playing as an outside linebacker, inside linebacker and at times on the end of the line with his hand in the dirt. He was projected to be chosen anywhere between the third-fifth rounds, Bob Quinn claims he expected Tavai to be taken shortly after the Detroit Lions picked at 43, so if that is the case we should be happy the team got their guy, let’s just hope it works out.