5 Detroit Lions players who are on the hot seat in 2021

Jahlani Tavai #51 of the Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Jahlani Tavai #51 of the Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Jahlani Tavai, Detroit Lions
Jahlani Tavai, Detroit Lions (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) /

Jahlani Tavai, LB

Tavai has been a lightning rod for criticism since former general manager Bob Quinn insisted that the former Hawaii prospect was drafted in Round 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft because of his specific and “rare body type”, plus the Lions’ struggles in the round.

Tavai was injured going into the draft, could not perform some of the traditional workout activities that NFL Prospects do, but he was selected quite high for an inside linebacker, at pick No. 43.

Why is his seat hot?

In this case, it’s for multiple reasons that start with his draft status; when you’re a 2nd-Round pick on a linebacker-needy team, the expectations are about as high as anyone not taking snaps from under center. Few linebackers are drafted much higher and Quinn said that he had the prototype build for a linebacker in their system.

Fast-forward to 2021, where coaches and news media are raving about him trimming down and how he looks coming into the season. Reportedly, he had dropped about seventeen pounds, from his 268 playing weight from last year, according to Mike O’Hara, a Detroit Lions media writer and longtime beat writer for the Detroit News.

The Lions’ linebackers are thin but expect a real competition for probably about six roster spots. Right now there are nine players vying for those spots, not counting Jason Cabinda, who is also slated to play fullback but can fill in as a linebacker, as well. A big need in the new scheme is speed, which was not Tavai’s strong suit leaving Hawaii.

Jamie Collins, Alex Anzalone, and rookie Derrick Barnes are already in. That leaves Tavai, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Anthony Pittman, and rookie Tavante Beckett jockeying for position.

Side note: We cross-referenced the sprint times of the other linebackers using the Draft Scout website, and Tavai is the slowest or was at the slowest leaving college. He only has to beat out one or two players but long-term, he has to improve everywhere to stay after 2021 despite being signed through 2022.