The linebacker position is expected to look very different in Detroit for the 2017 season and beyond.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn wasted little time addressing what he identified as a need going into the draft by selecting Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis with his first pick (No. 21 overall).
Davis has the kind of speed and instincts to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL, and Quinn foresees him taking over the MIKE duties upon arrival in Detroit.
"We'll play him at middle linebacker we hope for many years with him calling our defense," Quinn told detroitlions.com after the draft.
Veteran Tahir Whitehead started 15 games at middle linebacker for the Lions last season and made a career-high 132 tackles, but he struggled in pass coverage. He was the lowest graded inside linebacker in the NFL by Pro Football Focus last season, and he allowed an 82.8 completion percentage, a 124.9 passer rating and seven passing touchdowns when thrown at, per PFF statistics.
Some of Davis' best qualities are his speed and agility to drop effectively in coverage, and he can run with tight ends and backs sideline-to-sideline.
Before moving to the MIKE, Whitehead played some at the SAM linebacker spot. It will be interesting to see if the Lions have Davis and Whitehead compete for the starting MIKE spot, or if they immediately shift Whitehead over to the SAM to start the offseason.
At the WILL (weak-side), Quinn drafted Tennessee's Jalen Reeves-Maybin in the fourth round and immediately projected that as his best position.
"He'll be an outside linebacker," Quinn said. "Probably more of a WILL.
"Really good tackler, speed, athleticism, playmaker, I'd say. This guy's instincts at the linebacker position are very good. So that's one thing that led to him."
Quinn signed veteran Paul Worrilow away from the Falcons this offseason as a player who can play both the MIKE and WILL. When he was a starter in Atlanta, he recorded back-to-back 100-tackle seasons.
The team also returns second-year linebacker Antwione Williams, who a number of veteran Lions players have identified as a guy to watch in his second season after playing in 14 games with three starts at outside linebacker.
The biggest thing this past weekend's draft afforded the Lions are options at the linebacker spot. They now have a couple talented rookies, some experienced veterans and a second-year player in Williams expected to make a big leap in ability from his rookie season.
Detroit's linebacking corps will look very different in 2017, and that gives hope that it will also be much more productive, too.