The Detroit Lions needed help in a big way along their front seven on defense, and help is now on the way.
The Lions selected Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis with the 21st overall pick in Thursday night's first round of the NFL Draft.
It turns out Lions general manager Bob Quinn and his staff did a lot of homework on Davis, including a trip down to Gainesville for a private meeting and workout.
"I felt like we did a really thorough job and got a player that is really going to help us," Quinn said. "It's a player we targeted, it's a player we wanted and we were fortunate to get him."
View photos of the Detroit Lions' first-round pick, linebacker Jarrad Davis. Photos courtesy AP and University of Florida.
Davis notched 60 tackles, six tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and two sacks for the Gators last season, despite missing four of the team's last five games, including the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 with an ankle injury.
As a junior, Davis had 98 tackles (11 for loss), 3.5 sacks and four pass breakups playing the entire season.
After sitting out of the NFL Scouting Combine to give his injured ankle more time to heal, Davis wowed scouts, coaches and personnel people at his pro day with his testing and on-field workout.
Davis (6-1, 238) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, had a 38.5 inch vertical and 10'9'' broad jump at his pro day.
Quinn said Davis has position versatility, and can play both the WILL and the MIKE in Detroit's scheme.
"He's a passionate football player," Quinn said. "He's got very good playing speed. Very good tackler. Good blitzer. Good coverage player. This guy is a really well-rounded linebacker. As a freshman, he was the Special Teams Player of the Year for Florida when he was a backup linebacker. So he's got four-down value. I think he's a real well-rounded guy with position versatility."
Davis said he was comfortable playing both the MIKE and WILL, but played more MIKE. It sounded like it was his position of preference.
"I played strictly MIKE all the way through my junior and senior year," Davis said via conference call. "To play that and lead the defense and have an opportunity to make almost every play, every snap, being in the middle of the defense, it was a position I really enjoyed and really thrived on."
Tahir Whitehead was the Lions' starting MIKE linebacker all of last season.
Davis is a sideline-to-sideline run defender with explosive closing speed, and should be a three-down player in Teryl Austin's defense.
The Lions signed veteran linebackers Paul Worrilow and Nike Bellore in free agency this offseason, but Quinn knew he had to add young talent to that group at some point early in this draft.
"It's a position where I really think you need a guy in the middle of your defense that can be looked upon to call the defense, hopefully become a leader in time, and really be that gel between the secondary and defensive line," Quinn said. "It was a position of need, for sure."