Lions draft safety Will Harris after trading up in third round

He says Friday was best day of his life

ALLEN PARK — Will Harris said Friday was the best day of his of his life.

In fact, to make his point, he repeated it several times.

Harris, a safety from Boston College, was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions who traded up to grab him. Detroit dealt picks 88 and 204 to the Vikings for the 81st pick.

“I’m ready to rock,’’ Harris said in a conference call late on Friday night.

He will be reunited with Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni who coached him at Boston College. “I can’t wait to get back to work with him. I’m familiar with the things we’ve done in the past it’s really exciting to be able to play under him again,’’ Harris said.

That familiarity may have played into the decision to key in on Harris, but it wasn’t the only factor.

“I remember going to (Boston College) practice, and like I said, I know a bunch of staff members, honestly probably 15 or 20 years. And you go there and Boston College had a pretty good list of prospects this year,’’ GM Bob Quinn said. “… Really, the first guy that a lot of guys mentioned to me was this guy. Like, ‘This guy’s like the heartbeat of our team.’ Not that those other guys were bad, they weren’t, because they have a lot of good football players and a lot of good leaders. But this guy was voted captain on that team, on that defense. So, that spoke volumes to me.”

Harris started at strong safety for the Eagles since late in his freshman year. He started all 12 games as a senior, finishing with 75 tackles and one interception.

CBSSports.com reported on Harris: “Active, run-support specialist safety who’s best when he can flow toward the line of scrimmage after the snap. Hips are a little stiff but his range is above-average, and because he’s decently explosive, he can close on the ball in a hurry. Good No. 3 safety with starting upside.’’

Harris’ father, Will, played receiver at Mississippi State from 1989 to 1992 and was drafted in the seventh round by Buffalo in 1993.

“Ever since I could remember, ever since I was really young, since I was able to even pick up a football, I’ve always been enamored by the game,’’ Harris said. “He grew up playing receiver. So, naturally I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but also at a young age I fell in love with defense. So, switched over to the defensive side of the ball in college and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

“He played an integral part in my football career and in my life. That’s my father. That’s my guy. He’s been there every step of the way. He’s been my coach growing up, my trainer, my mentor, above else, my father. He’s been a great father. It meant the world for me, for him to be here and see our culmination of work finally come down to this day. So, this is the best day of my life,’’ Harris added.

Earlier on Friday night, the Lions drafted linebacker Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii) in the second round, 43rd overall.

The Lions drafted tight end T.J. Hockenson In the first round on Thursday night with the eighth overall pick.

The 2019 NFL draft wraps up starting at noon on Saturday. The Lions have one pick in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, and two picks in the seventh round.

Detroit Lions draft LB Jahlani Tavai in second round; Bob Quinn explains why

GM says Tavai’s body type is a perfect fit

ALLEN PARK — GM Bob Quinn and the Detroit Lions coaching staff have a preferred style of linebacker.

Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii) fit the bill which is why the Lions drafted him in the second round with the 43rd overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft on Friday night at the Lions facility.

“Versatility, body type we like thick-built linebackers, really thick guys that can take on blocks, but when they play on the edge they have enough playing strength and arm length to set the edge,’’ Quinn said. “… He’s 6-2 ½, he’s 250, his wingspan is as tall as guys who are 6-4 or 6-5. If I remember correctly he has an 82- or 83-inch wingspan which is rare for that position, he’s got a really wide back and his arms are average to above average length.

“These guys are hard to find and really felt fortunate to be able to get him, there was some interest around our pick so we were getting pretty nervous,’’ said Quinn who said they had targeted him as early as October.

Tavai will give them options at the position along with Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones and Devon Kennard.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who do a lot of different stuff. … When you add a guy like Jahlani to the mix, you see him on film play on the edge, you see him set the edge, you see him rush the passer. Two snaps later he’s playing mike bubble linebacker coming downhill and smashing the guard,’’ Quinn said.

“There’s guys who can do that, a lot of guys in the draft, (but) every year there’s a very select few guys you see them do it on film. You’re projecting this guy plays on the edge but we project he can play mike and come downhill. This guy, there’s visual evidence, you see him do that on a game-by-game basis,’’ Quinn said.

It didn’t matter to Quinn that many analysts projected Tavai to go in later rounds. Part of that could be because his senior season was cut short with a shoulder injury but that is no longer an issue. He was able to have a pro day in April.

“Right now I’m feeling blessed and thankful that the Lions showed some love towards me. I’m really happy right now, I’m speechless,’’ Tavai said in a conference call after the pick.

Prior to the draft he said his agent told him to expect to be selected in Day 2 or Day 3.

CBSsports.com had Tavai ranked as the 195th best draft prospect and the 17th best linebacker. ESPN analyst Todd McShay had Tavai ranked as the 93rd best prospect in the draft.

“I want fans to know I’m going to play every down that I can, I’m going to hustle to the ball and show that I’m giving 110 percent after every play,’’ Tavai said. “I want to be that guy that they’re looking for.’’

The linebacker said the Lions talked to him at the NFL Draft Combine and brought him to Lions headquarters for a pre-draft visit a few weeks ago.

At Mira Costa High School (Manhattan Beach) he was rated as the No. 305 athlete nationally by 247sports Tavai was also a standout in rugby, lettered in volleyball and track, and was a Bay League champion in discus as a sophomore.

“I love playing rugby, that’s one of my hobbies,” said Tavai who was on the national rugby team.

His brother Jordan, was a defensive lineman at Kansas while another, J.R., played linebacker at USC and for the Tennessee Titans.

Tavai was a first-team All-Mountain West pick in 2016 when he started all 14 games and led the conference with 19.5 tackles for loss (129 total, 7 sacks). He was a second-team all-conference selection in 2017, ranking 10th in the FBS with 124 tackles and leading his team with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

According to his NFL draft prospect bio, he was suspended for the season opener in 2018 due to a June arrest for assault at a Honolulu night club.

“I try not to think about that, the past is the past. Right now I’ve learned from my mistake and I’m trying to move on right now and show the Lions I’m ready to go and not allowing anything off the field to ever affect me again,” Tavai said.

Quinn said they are totally comfortable with his explanation and his character.

In the third round on Friday night the Lions drafted safety Will Harris (Boston College).

The Lions drafted tight end T.J. Hockenson In the first round on Thursday night with the eighth overall pick.

The draft starts again at noon on Saturday. The Lions have one pick in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, and two picks in the seventh round.

Five things to know about Detroit Lions first-round pick T.J. Hockenson

Iowa tight end likes Disney, golf and football

ALLEN PARK — T.J. Hockenson was introduced to Detroit Lions fans on Friday.

The tight end from Iowa was the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night in Nashville. He and his parents flew to Detroit on Friday and were welcomed into the Lions practice facility.

“We’re very excited about the addition of T.J. When the opportunity came up last night in the draft, he’s somebody we targeted, somebody we knew would be a great fit in our organization, we’re thrilled to have him and his mom and dad here to celebrate just a tremendous achievement but also a beginning and the next phase of what’s going to be a great career,’’ coach Matt Patricia said in his introduction.

The coach said it was a perfect match. They were excited when he was not selected early but didn’t want to get too excited.

Five things to know about Hockenson:

1. The 21-year-old tight end was not heavily recruited out of Chariton but Iowa and Iowa State came calling. “Being from Iowa and being from a small town, growing up and watching coach (Kirk) Ferentz there, I was excited to be a Hawkeye,’’ Hockenson said.

2. At 6-foot-5, he was just 220 when he arrived at Iowa which was way under-sized for a Big Ten tight end. He redshirted his first season. He tips the scales at 250 now. He credits the coaches at Iowa with giving him all the tools he needed to gain weight and strength. “It comes down not only working hard, but having the right tools to do it,’’ said Hockenson who only played two full seasons for the Hawkeyes. Those early practices when he weighed 220 certainly toughened him up. “They’ll definitely get you tougher that’s for sure, they were fun,’’ Hockenson said. “You just have to play the game. When you get knocked down you’ve got to get back up and go back at it and go as hard as you can.’’

3. He’s excited to get going but has to wait a few weeks for rookie minicamp. He’s had a chance to talk with quarterback Matthew Stafford. “I’m excited, he’s such a great quarterback and he’s a great person, just being able to talk to him today, just learning who he is as a person and how genuine he is, I’m excited about learning the game from him and see how he sees it,’’ Hockenson said. “Like I said I’m going to try to be a sponge and figure this thing out.’’

4. It will be a big change coming from Chariton, Iowa, which has a population of 4,122. “It’s cool, the entire community has come together. Last night they had a draft party and able to get a lot of pictures and phone calls,’’ Hockenson said. “I literally think I have 600 text messages right now. I don’t know what I’m going to do I’ll spend next week (going) through them. I’m excited, they’re so excited, they’re happy. I’ve loved my time in Chariton. It’s put me where I needed to be from a small town, I always know I’ll have those people.’’

5. Away from football, he enjoys playing golf and being outdoors. He was pleased and surprised to learn the Lions have a par-3 hole behind their practice fields. He’s also a big Disney fan. He was wearing “Lion King” socks on Thursday night at the draft and his dog is named Lilo from the Disney movie, “Lilo and Stitch.” He’s been to Disney properties a few times. “It’s the best place on Earth,’’ Hockenson said.

Detroit Lions: Three take-aways from GM Bob Quinn’s pre-draft press conference

He would like to trade down from the 8th overall pick

ALLEN PARK — Is Bob Quinn trying to send out secret messages about his NFL draft plans?

That’s doubtful, but  the Detroit Lions GM has been pretty clear that he wouldn’t mind trading down in the first round.

He reiterated that stance on Thursday during his annual pre-draft press conference. The Lions have the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft — and eight additional picks. The draft starts next Thursday, April 25, with the first round. Second and third rounds will be drafted on April 26, with the final rounds on April 27.

Quinn estimated that he and his staff have evaluated 1,800 prospects in preparation for his fourth draft for the Lions.

Three thoughts to ponder:

1. While he’s willing to trade down, don’t expect him to move up. “There’s a couple players at the top you obviously would love to have, I just don’t think I have enough ammunition to get up there,’’ Quinn said. “I think, like I said previously, I’d rather move back a couple spots if anything. So there’s definitely good players at the very top, there’s good players at 8 too, guys that we’re excited about. Hopefully a couple are there and we can choose from a couple of them.’’

He’s open to most anything. He would trade down into the 20s if that deal made sense and he could still grab a player that he wanted.

“It’s hard to say right now, to be quite frank, some teams in that 13-15 they don’t want to do anything. You get an offer from 21 and it looks really good and you look at the board and saying 8 to 21 is 13 spots — there’s 13 good players I like there,’’ Quinn said. “You do the math and think I could at least get that guy and then evaluate from there.’’

2. Fan sentiment plays no role in his draft decisions. None. This should be obvious, but there are still fans who will groan if he drafts a tight end (or even a wide receiver) in the first round. That’s because they were disappointed in first-round tight ends Eric Ebron (2014) and Brendan Pettigrew (2009).

“In all due respect to the fans out there, I can’t take the fan sentiment to who I draft and who I sign to this team,’’ Quinn said. “I wasn’t the person who drafted Eric so I think it’s two different conversations.’’

3. In the last few weeks, Quinn and his staff have been taking their time and going through special teams rankings from the scouts and coaches. Quinn said some of the players haven’t been on special teams since 2016 which makes it a little more interesting.

“Really the final piece of the puzzle is how much special teams value does this player have. Because ultimately in fourth through seventh (rounds) nd rookie free agents that’s really how guys end up sticking on the team,’’ Quinn said. “They could be a really good receiver but have no special teams value and you look at it the other way — you know if they have really good special teams value you know they’ll be able to get on the bus, go to the game, be on the 46-man roster and work it out there.’’

That’s exactly why a guy like running back Zach Zenner, an undrafted free agent, stuck around and got a chance on offense. Same with several other players on the Lions’ roster in recent years.

Trey Flowers arrives in Detroit, discusses his connection with Matt Patricia

DE spent last 3 seasons with New England Patriots

ALLEN PARK — Trey Flowers’ 6-year-old daughter Skyler has attended three Super Bowls. She might be kind of spoiled when it comes to her daddy playing for a winning NFL team.

The Detroit Lions newest defensive end, who spent the last four seasons with the New England Patriots, tried to explain to her why he signed with the Lions as a free agent. 

“I kind of hinted it to her what if Daddy is a Lion? Do you like Lions?’’ Flowers said.

It’s not an easy conversation with a 6-year-old.

“Her favorite color is blue. (I told her) they’ve got blue, your favorite color. She said, ‘Oh OK, I get it.’ It’s just things like that, bringing your family along that’s very important for me,’’ Flower said at an introductory press conference on Thursday.

He mentioned that she may be able to have more McDonald’s too — his contract is worth $90 million over five years with $56 million guaranteed.

Flowers is one of three former Patriots who signed with Detroit this week. Not a surprise with GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia’s ties to New England. They also signed slot corner Justin Coleman and wide receiver Danny Amendola.

Flowers, who is 25, was at least in part attracted to the Lions because he had played for Patricia. He was a fourth-round pick by the Patriots in the 2015 draft.

“Definitely the familiarity was there, he kind of taught me a lot of things …’’ Flowers said. “He’s just a great guy to work for, obviously he demands a high standard of excellence from his players. When you get somebody who can challenge like that, day in and day out for the team to get better those are the type of guys you want to play for.’’

No one thinks Flowers is overpaid — he was the top free agent edge rusher available.

He’s versatile — can play any spot on the line — and will be a good fit on a line along with Snacks Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand. 

“I think it’s just me understanding that wherever I am on the field, I want to be productive and if it’s a foreign position to me I’m going to work hard at it. I’m going to work after practice, I’m going to put in the time, energy and effort to kind of get great at it,’’ Flowers said. “I think just precision and detail, attention to detail with fundamentals and technique and understanding different guys along the line knowing you can’t play the tackles as same as you play guards. Film study helps better understand the game and understand what I’m doing is something I can take advantage of.’’

The words echo Patricia’s philosophy.

Flowers didn’t want to get into specifics about which teams were most interested in signing him.

He said he has no big plans to spend his newfound money except for maybe helping out his folks.

Flowers also has a 3-month-old daughter, Shylo. The question is when will she see her Daddy play in a Super Bowl wearing a Lions uniform?

Lions off to good start in free agency

DE Trey Flowers one of 3 former Patriots targeted

Bob Quinn’s busy Monday resulted in what appears to be one of the best days in Detroit LIons’ recent free agency history.

The Lions GM addressed some of the biggest needs which should open the team up for more flexibility in the NFL draft (April 25-27).

While free agency doesn’t officially start until Wednesday, Monday was the first day for legal tampering. So while the deals appear imminent the players can’t be signed until Wednesday.

That excludes wide receiver Danny Amendola who signed with Detroit after he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after just one season. He was a free agent so could ink the deal early.

Amendola, one of three former Patriots making the move to Detroit on Monday, is a two-time Super Bowl champ and quite familiar with Quinn and coach Matt Patricia.

On a conference call, the 35-year-old Amendola said he’s in the best shape of his career.

In case you’ve been in a cave, defensive end Trey Flowers was the biggest fish that the Lions landed on Monday.

Flowers, a two-time Super Bowl champ who is only 25, has missed just three games in the past three seasons in New England. The former fourth-round pick (2015) is expected to sign a deal worth approximately $17 million a year for five years. He should be worth it and could replaced 29-year-old Ziggy Ansah who just couldn’t stay healthy missing 14 games in the past three seasons.

And, of course, he knows Matt Patricia who coached him his first three seasons with the Pats. (He missed most of his rookie season in 2015 with a shoulder injury.

Justin Coleman, who will play nickel, spent the last two years in Seattle after his first two seasons with the Patriots. So he knows Patricia and Quinn well. (Sense a trend?). He’s expected to sign a four-year deal with $36 million. The Lions released Nevin Lawson earlier on Monday.

Quinn addressed the huge need at tight end by signing Jesse James who played with the Steelers the past four seasons. The 24-year-old is more of a blocking tight end but could give Matthew Stafford another option.

Lions GM Bob Quinn: QB Matthew Stafford is not going anywhere

‘He will be our quarterback here’

ALLEN PARK — If there was any doubt about the future of Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Lions general manager Bob Quinn set the record straight in his season-ending press conference on Friday.

The Lions quarterback, who just finished his 10th season, is going nowhere.

“Matthew Stafford is our quarterback. He will be our quarterback here,’’ Quinn said. “Listen, this guy is a really talented player. Myself, the coaches need to put him in better situations to allow him to use his skill set. Matt’s extremely tough, he’s extremely diligent in his work ethic. He sets a great example for all of our players, and really all of our staff, of how to go about his job.’’

Stafford’s back injury late in the season was on the daily injury report. But apparently that is not all he was fighting through.

“He had the back thing, and he went through numerous things where he wanted to play through it and our doctors said he could play through it, and he showed a lot of toughness,’’ Quinn said. “That’s a credit to him. That’s one thing I’ll never, ever question. This guy loves football, he’s competitive, he’s talented. We need to do a better job of putting better players around him and scheming up things better to use his talent.”

The Lions finished 6-10 in coach Matt Patricia’s first season. The defense outperformed the offense for most of the season, but that was not all on Stafford. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s contract was not renewed.

It was the first season since 2010 when he only played in three games,  that Stafford didn’t have at least 4,000 passing yards.

Quinn does not blame Stafford for the offense’s midseason struggles.

“It was a combination of we had some injuries, we had some things that were happening during the games defensively that kind of affected the offense. We kind of put them in some bad situations. Special teams, field position. It’s not just Matthew Stafford. That’s not what this is,’’ Quinn said. “We have 53 players on the field, on the team every week. We have 46 that dress. So, just because he’s the quarterback and he touches that ball every play on offense doesn’t mean he gets all the blame. The blame can be passed around. It starts with me, it starts with the coaches, and it starts with everybody on the team. It’s not his fault.”

Quinn said Stafford holds himself accountable at a “very high level.”

“I think Matthew’s kind of a reserved guy with you guys. I think in the locker room, in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, this guy holds himself at a very, very high standard, and that resonates with his teammates, that resonates with the staff,’’ Quinn said. “We didn’t win enough games, Matthew didn’t have as great stats as he normally does, and we’re going to improve that in the offseason.”

A possible trade of Stafford has been recent fodder for Detroit sports talk radio. In 10 years Stafford has yet to win a playoff game, but that is not all on him as Quinn made clear. Stafford is on his third head coach and will soon be working with his fourth offensive coordinator. Since Reggie Bush was not brought back after the 2014 season, the Lions haven’t had much of a running game until this past season when Kerryon Johnson made his mark.

“I understand the outside perception. What I know on the inside is, working with this quarterback every day, seeing his car in the parking lot, early in the morning, late at night. I know what he does when he goes home, he puts the girls to bed and he works,’’ Quinn said. “I see that every day. I see what he does to get his body ready to play football. I see what he does on the practice field.’’

The GM noted how Stafford works extra before and after practice, notably with Bruce Ellington who was signed after Golden Tate was traded. But also with younger receivers like Andy Jones and even Justin Stockton who was on the practice squad.

“I understand what you’re saying, I really do,’’ Quinn said. “But when you live in this building, and you live with this guy, there’s things that go very unnoticed with him that are very, very valuable.”