While the Detroit Lions’ decision to draft Jahlani Tavai in the second round (43rd overall) on Friday night surprised many, the Hawaii linebacker is respected by national media.
GM Bob Quinn said there was interest in Tavai from other teams near the time of the Lions’ pick. Quinn said he’s a natural fit for the Lions’ defense. (Scroll down to see Quinn explain the pick in detail.)
No one knows if Tavai will be a Pro Bowl player or a bust. Here’s an idea: Let him get on the field and prove himself.
A few comments from national NFL media on Tavai:
Pete Prisco, CBSsports.com: “I love him. He flies around to the football. Nowadays you’ve gotta have a guy that can fly around and run and chase. Grade: B+”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “I like Tavai. Good player, a tackling machine with some versatility. But I don’t like him in the second round. Not with Mack Wilson and Bobby Okereke, among others, still there. Tavai is my eighth-ranked inside linebacker and qualifies as the biggest reach of the day; he is No. 137 on my Big Board.”
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: “Tavai was picked earlier than expected, much like Kyle Van Noy was a few years ago, though NFL scouts believe Tavai can become a starter. The Van Noy pick didn’t work out for the Lions, but hopefully this one will.”
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah: “He can set the edge on the run, he’s very versatile, which they love. This is a player you can do a lot of different things with.”
Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit: “Stemming from his Patriots roots, Matt Patricia prefers big, thumping linebackers. He has one in Christian Jones, but Jones is average on the field in a contract year—hence the selection of Tavai. What will be interesting is whether Tavai’s arrival impacts where the explosive but somewhat inconsistent 2017 first-round linebacker Jarrad Davis plays. GRADE: C+”
WalterFootball.com: “Jahlani Tavai is a linebacker with pedestrian instincts, which doesn’t sound great. However, he has three-down ability. He’s forceful against the run and athletic enough to drop into coverage. I think this is a bit early for Tavai, who was a low Round 2/high Round 3 prospect, but he makes sense for the Lions, who had to upgrade their horrible linebacking corps. Grade: B-“
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox: “While linebacker Jahlani Tavai was a reach, Detroit obviously believes that he’s a fit for the defense.”
Pro Football Weekly staff: “For the second straight year, Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn pull a big Day 2 surprise, following up the Tracy Walker selection in 2018 with Tavai, who wasn’t even our 2019 NFL Draft Mag and seems to be a mid-Day 3 prospect at a few other sites we’ve checked out. Tavai has big-time size at 6-2, 250 and hitting ability. We have to think his rugby background probably isn’t a coincidence with Patricia hailing from the Bill Belichick school of evaluating. Tavai has some red flags — including an assault arrest and shoulder injury early and late in his final season with the Warriors. We’ll be curious to see more about how fits in the plans for the Lions next to Jarrad Davis.”