As the Detroit Lions begin their rookie camp this week, the new draftees and undrafted free agents will have their first chance to work the Lions’ coaches and get a feel for the professional game. Each rookie brings a different skill set and will have different expectations entering 2017. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will cover every Lions draftee and a few of the UDFAs that have a chance to make the final roster. We start with first-rounder Jarrad Davis.
Jarrad Davis LB – Florida
As the 21st overall pick in the draft, Davis will have the highest expectations of any of the Lions’ rookies this season. He will most likely be flung into a starting role his rookie year, and may be expected to take on the “quarterback” role of the defense.
Jarrad Davis is expected to push out Tahir Whitehead for the starting middle linebacker role. He may slide into the most important position on the defense and help boost what was arguably worst unit on the team last season. Davis was an elite run stopper at the University of Florida. He excelled at stuffing gaps and did not miss many tackles. His instincts were impeccable and he had a knack for being at the right place at the right time. He was a strong tackler with great technique that may carry over well into the NFL.
Davis did not play much man coverage at Florida, but his speed, athleticism and natural instincts give him at least the potential to be valuable while dropping back into coverage. Davis has the potential to be the most valuable linebacker on the roster and may be the best linebacker on the roster day 1.
Davis is entering the NFL coming off of a senior year at Florida where he struggled with an ankle injury. He dealt with nagging injuries throughout his college career. The Lions are betting that these won’t hamper his play at the next level. He never really excelled in pass defense for the Gators either, and he might struggle handling the huge responsibility of fixing the Lions’ issues with covering tight ends last season.
The rookie may not win the starting middle linebacker role over Whitehead in training camp, and could potentially be forced to play as a strong-side outside linebacker, a position he may not be very familiar with. Even if he does, he will be expected to play almost every snap next season. The speed and intensity of the NFL is hard to adjust to for almost every rookie, and Davis may struggle with that kind of workload next year.
Davis is the only Lions rookie who is entering rookie camp as a week one starter. The expectations will be high, but he has every chance to live up to them and become a star in his rookie year.