The Detroit Lions didn’t garner great reviews from the NFL draft. The pick of Jahlani Tavai was heavily scrutinized. Did Bob Quinn make a good pick?
Everyone has opinions about the NFL draft and players chosen by the Detroit Lions. Jahlani Tavai was selected by Bob Quinn with pick number forty-three in this year’s NFL draft. Today, we’ll take a look at the pick with the benefit of getting more information from general manager Bob Quinn and looking at his fit in head coach Matt Patricia’s defense, which has its genesis with Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots.
Kick In the Crotch Weekly looked at several different perspectives to craft this article and what should be kept in mind is that there’s no way to definitively know if this is a good pick or bad pick until Tavai has played some professional football. Many fans weren’t happy with either of the Lions’ first two picks, which also included tight end T.J. Hockenson with the eighth pick. Quinn has earned a reputation as a very conservative drafter and these picks fall into his normal modus operandi, his way of doing things.
Looking at the Lions’ second pick from a physical talent and athleticism standpoint will probably leave you feeling unsatisfied with the Tavai pick. Kent Lee Platte, a writer at Pride of Detroit, also invented the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) system to compare NFL prospects in their measurable athletic traits on a scale from zero to ten. Below is the run-down of how Tavai compared to other linebackers in athleticism, a ten being best athleticism ever, a zero would express worst athleticism ever.
A couple of points to notice, Tavai did not do every test, so he may have been better in the overall score if he had not had his shoulder injury. The things he did do, he didn’t do well but he did score highly on height and weight for his position. It’s important in understanding Bob Quinn’s perspective on the selection, even if you still don’t love the pick after you do understand.
Having read many fans reactions, a common problem is Tavai’s lack of speed, burst, and agility. We will compare his results to some New England Patriots players who were drafted for the same kinds of roles that Tavai will be taking on in the Lions system. Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Trey Flowers all play similar parts or fit the athletic mold that is similar to Jahlani Tavai.
There was an overwhelming feeling that his skills did not merit a top fifty selection but also rumors that he might be a target of several other franchises, including the New England Patriots who run a nearly identical “multiple” defensive scheme; they also owned the forty-fifth pick in the draft. Tavai’s 1.7-second split time and overall 4.86-second forty-yard sprint were an oft-cited area of concern by draft experts and fans alike but his vertical jump (33.5″), broad jump (9-02), and short-shuttle run (4.22 seconds) were all forgettable.
His shoulder injury, although expected to heal, is another cause for concern; not to mention some off-field trouble, a physical altercation, that he seems to have learned from but that raised a flag leading up to draft day. Obviously, those barriers did not deter Quinn or his staff from sending in the card with Tavai’s name on it to the NFL Draft podium.
Tavai had a lot of production at Hawaii, where he amassed 390 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, and 16.5 sacks in his four years, stats from Sports Reference. For reference, Josh Allen, the number seven overall pick, had 31.5 sacks, 42 tackles for loss, and 220 total tackles. So, there’s no denying that Tavai has done well against Mountain West competition.
How that will translate from a smaller conference like the Mountain West to the NFL remains to be seen but we can compare Tavai’s skills to others who have succeeded in the “multiple” defense that the Lions have adopted from the Patriots.