What can the Detroit Lions reasonably expect to see from their 2017 fourth round selection, rookie linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, this upcoming season?
Tennessee’s Jalen Reeves-Maybin was the second linebacker selected by the Detroit Lions in the 2017 NFL Draft. The first? The Lions’ top selection, 21st overall, Florida’s Jarrad Davis.
And just like Davis, Reeves-Maybin will be fighting for a starting role next month when Lions’ training camp kicks off. But unlike Detroit’s top pick, the former Volunteer will most likely be competing as a weakside linebacker.
So what can Lions’ fans reasonably expect from the fourth rounder in year one? Let’s look at his ceiling and floor to find out…
The Lions are hoping to rejuvenate their linebacking corps this season as it was far and away the worst positional unit on the team last season. Reeves-Maybin does not have much competition at linebacker, and his skills in coverage fill a huge need.
The 22-year old rookie has a fast first step and displayed amazing vision throughout his college career. Reeves-Maybin can keep up with a majority of tight ends and has the vision and anticipation necessary to make plays in coverage. He has potential to be a formidable cover linebacker in his rookie year.
No, the bad news. The Tennessee product struggles against contact while stopping the run, and that is a huge red flag heading into the NFL. Reeves-Maybin can’t shed blocks as well as the Lions’ would probably like.
When Reeves-Maybin does get by blocks, he struggled bringing down running backs in the open field. He has the anticipation and first step to plug the running lane, but isn’t strong enough to bring the runner down.
A shoulder injury limited Reeves-Maybin at Tennessee and concerns surrounding it dropped his draft stock. The Volunteer missed majority of his final year in college with the injury, and there are some long-term concerns.
Also, Reeves-Maybin’s speed will not translate as well as it did in the SEC. And lacking the physicality expected from a NFL linebacker, he will certainly struggle against bigger, stronger tight ends.
Bottom line is Jalen Reeves-Maybin has an opportunity to start year one. He has the skills needed to serve well in pass defense, but he will most likely be a liability against the run.