Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis selected as sleeper breakout candidate

Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Will Jarrad Davis finally live up to his first-round potential for the Detroit Lions?

Of all the Detroit Lions‘ first-round draft selections made under the watchful eye of general manager Bob Quinn, linebacker Jarrad Davis is likely rated as the biggest bust so far. Those other names being left tackle Taylor Decker, center Frank Ragnow, tight end T.J. Hockenson. and cornerback Jeff Okudah.

Davis was the 21st overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. And entering the final year of his rookie contract, the Lions elected not to pick up the fifth-year option on Davis for 2021. That should speak volumes about his play over his first three seasons in the NFL.

Although Davis racked up 196 total tackles in his first two years in the league, he is coming off an injury-shortened third year. Struggling with an ankle injury all season, he recorded 63 tackles and 2.0 sacks in only 11 games.

Pro Football Focus graded Davis out as one of the worst linebackers in the NFL last season, giving him an overall grade of 40.4. That’s nothing new for PFF who have never graded the former first-rounder with anything higher than a lowly 52.8 during his three NFL seasons.

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This offseason, Lions head coach Matt Patricia called Davis a cornerstone player for his defense. And while Detroit may not be interested in retaining the former first-rounder at an estimated price tag over $10 million for 2021, that doesn’t mean they don’t have him in their future plans.

In fact, the 24-year old linebacker has a chance to make Detroit regret not picking up that option according to one insider. Here’s what Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press recently wrote in a mailbag article about Davis, whom he believes could have a career performance in 2020.

"“My sleeper breakout candidate is Jarrad Davis. He looks rocked up after changing his diet and workouts habits this offseason, and maybe this is the year he finally puts it together.”"

Did the Detroit Lions already sign a potential replacement for Davis?

This offseason, on top of the Lions electing to not pick up the fifth-year option on Davis, they potentially signed his replacement. Detroit inked free-agent linebacker Reggie Ragland, hot off a Super Bowl win with the Kansas City Chiefs, to a one-year deal. And the former second-rounder has a similar skill set to that of Davis.

Ragland was selected 20 picks after Davis in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Alabama and missed his entire rookie season due to a knee injury. Over the past three seasons with the Chiefs, the 26-year old has started a total of 32 games, including seven regular-season contests last season and in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers.

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In Detroit, Reggie Ragland figures to play a rotational role behind Jarrad Davis. And each should be motivated as they are scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. It would benefit both Davis and Ragland, as well as the Detroit Lions, to post a career-performance in 2020.