NFL.com’s resident draft scout—and former NFL talent evaluator—Daniel Jeremiah annually puts together his rookie rankings at the beginning of the season. He then updates his rankings at every quarter mark throughout the year. Think of it as a monthly rookie power ranking.
For the 2017 season, Jeremiah has Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis ranked as the No. 2 rookie overall, only behind fellow linebacker Reuben Foster of the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s a pretty shocking choice, considering Davis is not getting much hype about being a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Davis was the 21st overall pick and the 10th defensive player off the board in this year’s draft.
In Detroit, Davis has already assumed the starting middle linebacker role, which usually comes with gaudy tackling statistics. Though his play in the preseason has been up and down, there’s no indication that Davis’ grasp on the starting job is in jeopardy. He will get the opportunities to prove himself in his rookie year, and that’s exactly why Jeremiah listed him so high.
“Davis has outstanding lateral quickness and instincts,” Jeremiah wrote. “The Florida product is still a work in progress in pass coverage, but he's going to be a tackling machine in Detroit.”
It’s interesting that Jeremiah placed Reuben Foster ahead of Davis, as many believed Foster should have been the pick for the Lions when they were on the clock. Foster, selected 31st overall, came along with some injury and off-the-field concerns, but the general consensus was that all other factors aside, Foster was the more talented football player.
To give you a sense of how accurate Jeremiah is in his rookie predictions, last year he had Dak Prescott, Vernon Hargreaves and Ezekiel Elliott atop his preseason rookie rankings. Prescott ended up winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Elliott won the rushing title and Hargreaves enjoyed an impressive 76-tackle season.
The last time a Lions player won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors was back in 2010, when Ndamukong Suh walked away with the award. A Lions player hasn’t won Offensive Rookie of the Year since Barry Sanders in 1989.