Detroit Lions: Is Jahlani Tavai another wasted second-round pick?

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Detroit Lions linebacker Jahlani Tavai the next Teez Tabor?

When Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn used the 43 pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft on linebacker Jahlani Tavai, I’d love to say I was overly excited, but instead, I started a google search.

You can do this in every draft, but two players who immediately stand out that Quinn passed on are receivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf.

It was clear the Detroit Lions would elect to draft a defender after using the eighth overall pick on tight end T.J. Hockenson. Still, when you consider the Lions receivers’ current state, it would be nice to have either one of those guys on a cheap rookie contract.

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Instead, Quinn and Patricia felt the need to re-tool this Lions defense; how is that going?

The defender that stands out the most to me in the second round Detroit should have been in the market for is safety Taylor Rapp, selected by the Rams.  Rapp has accumulated 93 tackles and three interceptions over the first year and a half of his career. Rapp has earned an overall grade of 68.5 according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).   The Lions selected Will Harris a round later; he’s primarily a backup while earning 49 tackles but has yet to make an interception. Harris’ PFF mark comes in at a disappointing 51.6.

When you look at Detroit’s last five drafts, they’ve selected A’Shawn Robinson, Teez Tabor, Kerryon Johnson, Tavai, and D’Andre Swift.  How many impactful players are on this list? One?  We’re not talking at the fifth round here; we’re talking about a top-50 player in every case aside from one.  It’s an organization that’s struggled in the draft for years, but especially in the second round.

Things are not looking too bright for Tavai.  The second-year linebacker is rated as the teams’ worst overall defender in 2020 according to PFF, and 82nd out of 85 overall at his position.

Remember when Quinn and Patricia informed us that Tavai was a scheme fit?  He’s a big-bodied linebacker that is a gap-filling thumper rather than an athletic sideline to sideline player.  What are today’s offenses built around?  Yes, speed.  What does Tavai lack? Right, speed.  I don’t care if he fits Patricia’s scheme, he’s not a starting-caliber linebacker in 2020, but he was drafted as if he were.  It’s just another example of Patricia’s stubbornness and unwillingness to adapt.

Tavai is proving to be another wasted pick; he’s totaled 75 total tackles, two sacks, one interception along with ten total hurries over his first 900 NFL defensive snaps.

Next. Something needs to give and it starts at the top. dark

In his rookie season, Tavai earned a below-average overall grade of 61.6, not great but much better than his atrocious 29.9 mark in 2020.  The second-year linebacker is free-falling in the wrong direction.