After addressing a big need in the first round with the selection of tight end T.J. Hockenson No. 8 overall, general manager Bob Quinn opened Day 2 of the NFL Draft by taking care of a need on the other side of the ball with the selection of Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai in the second round (No. 43 overall).
Tavai is a big linebacker (6-2, 250), and fits the mold of what Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia started bringing into their linebacker room last year with players like Devon Kennard and Christian Jones.
In Tavai, the Lions have acquired a tackle machine.
He was a first-team All-Mountain West pick in 2016, starting all 14 games and leading the conference with 19.5 tackles for loss, 129 total tackles and seven sacks. He ranked 10th in the FBS with 124 tackles and led Hawaii with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a junior in 2017.
Tavai missed the opening game this past season due to a suspension, and missed the final four games due to a shoulder injury, but still finished with 82 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked kick in eight starts.
“I want fans to know that I’m going to play every down I can, I’m going to hustle to the ball and show that I’m giving 110 percent on every down,” Tavai said in a conference call after his selection. “I’m going to be that guy that they’re looking for.”
Tavai moved around as a chess piece in Hawaii’s defense due to his size, which seems to fit the multiple scheme the Lions deploy.
“I'm not sure, from what I know, inside backer was my primary position, so I believe that’s going to be where Day 1 starts,” he said. “I love this (Detroit) defense because you never know what they’re running in. From the film I’ve watched, they stunt a lot and I love that they bring pressure on the quarterback.”
View photos of linebacker Jahlani Tavai.
Tavai missed the Combine in February and was limited at Hawaii’s pro day because of the shoulder injury.
He has an NFL frame, and averaged 10 tackles per game over the last three seasons. He’ll get an opportunity to compete for a role in Detroit’s defense.