I could sit here and try to justify and explain the Detroit Lions’ Day 2 picks in the draft, but I’ll just be straight-up honest: I’d be feeding you the opinions of other people. Over the next few weeks, I’m prepared to consume every piece of knowledge I can on Jahlani Tavai and Will Harris, but I’m just in the early stages of that.
And why tap me for information, when you can it straight from the source. Lions general manager Bob Quinn stepped to the podium on Friday night and explained why he made those unpopular choices. Rather than chop up his quotes and leave out potential important parts, here’s a look at the transcript (as provided by the Detroit Lions) in its entirety—with only irrelevant questions/answers pulled.
I’ve also bolded part that I feel are especially relevant, if you don’t want to read through 2,400 words.
“I thought we had a really, really good second day of the Draft. (We) acquired Jahlani Tavai from Hawaii – really versatile player, four-year starter, two-time captain, very versatile linebacker, can play the run, can rush, can blitz, can cover. (He’s a) very unique player. When we started scouting him during the season – actually going back to last spring – very unique with his body type, his playing strength, his ability to rush, cover, play the run, throw special teams in there as well. So there’s that. Just because he plays in Hawaii – he’s probably off the radar a tiny bit, but not for our scouts. It’s a pretty interesting process with scouting the guys form Hawaii because you would think the West Coast area scout gets to get on a plane and go to Hawaii for a week. It’s really not how it happens. Hawaii, obviously they play a majority of their games stateside, so they come over for a week. Sometimes if they have back-to-back games they occasionally stay over, so our scouts get access to their players and staff at games or the days leading up to the game because I think they usually travel on Thursdays – if I remember correctly. So it’s a little bit of a different process than going to Alabama or Stanford – just with the proximity. Really good player, really excited that he was there. There was a lot of interest in him in and around our pick that I think we kind of held on there for about four or five picks, not knowing if he was going be there. Felt good about that – had a really good visit with him. He came in about two, three weeks ago, had a thorough visit with him here. He was a late Pro Day guy. He was coming back from an injury, so he did a late Pro Day. (He) was invited to the Senior Bowl – couldn’t play in it because of the injury. Didn’t do much at the Combine, so everything was later in the process, so that’s why we brought him in here. So felt really good about him.
“Then we made a pretty good trade, I thought, to move up a couple spots to secure Will Harris from BC. Three-year starter, team captain, versatile guy, playing strength, speed – Senior Bowl was, probably one of the better players at the Senior Bowl, I’d say, overall in terms of practice setting, game setting. Had a really good week down there. Obviously, I’m from that neck of the woods, so I went up and saw Boston College practice this year, saw them play in a game – have a lot of really good, long-time, professional colleagues on that staff. Obviously, (defensive coordinator Paul) Pasqualoni is here too, so that kind of helped with that process. Felt really good about those two picks and then we’ll dive in tomorrow, kind of reset the board here tonight, get in an early start tomorrow morning. I think we have five picks remaining. Is that correct? Right, five picks. So with that, I’ll open it up.”
On if he sees versatility between rookie LB Jahlani Tavai and LB Jarrad Davis
“Absolutely. I think ‘J.D.’ obviously – you put Jahlani in there with ‘J.D.’ and Christian (Jones) and (Devon) Kennard, we have a lot of guys that can do a lot of different stuff. You go back to Devon Kennard when we were looking at him in free agency, like, he played MIKE linebacker for the Giants about one-third of the snaps back in 2017. So we have a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things. You add a guy like Jahlani to the mix that can – you see him on the film play on the edge, you see him set the edge, you see him rush the passer and then two snaps later, he’s playing MIKE bubble linebacker coming downhill and smashing a guard. There’s guys that can do that. A lot of guys in the Draft, I would say, every year there’s a very select few guys that you can actually see them do it on film. You’re projecting, ‘Well, this guy plays on the edge, but we project he can play at MIKE and play downhill.’ This guy actually has visual evidence that you see him do that on, really, a game-by-game basis. Did I answer well enough?”
On valuing his gut-instinct verses projected selections:
“You weigh all that. But I think you also have to weigh who else is on the board at that position. (Linebacker) was a position we wanted to address. So like I said, not giving you every detail of what our draft board looks like, but linebackers that play in this defense that are very, very good natural fits – there’s only a couple every year. You wait a year, you don’t get one, you might not get him next year, you might not get him the year after. This guy was a guy we had targeted as early as October.”
On what made LB Jahlani Tavai stand out: “Versatility, body type. We like thick, built linebackers – really thick guys that can take on blocks, but when they play on the edge, they have enough playing strength and enough arm length to set the edge like where Kennard plays. He can go out there against a good tight end, hold the edge of the defense, which is crucially important. Then you see him play off the ball. You play him like ‘J.D.’ or Christian and that’s the versatility. I think he’s six (feet), two-and-a-half (inches), about 250 (pounds). I think his wingspan is as tall, as big as some of the guys who are six (feet), four (inches), six (feet), five (inches). If I remember correctly, I think he has an 82- or 83-inch wingspan – which is pretty rare for that position. He has a really wide back, his arms are of average or to above average length. It’s just something where these guys are hard to find – really felt fortunate to be able to get him because there was some interest in and around our picks that we were getting pretty nervous there for a few picks.”
On if LB Jahlani Tavai was able to test at his Pro Day:
“Yeah, he did everything. It was late. It was the first week in April, I think. He actually had two Pro Days: he had one that he did a portion of it at the UCLA Pro Day, and then he finished up the rest of the testing at, I think, at his high school if I remember correctly, about a week after that.”
On how he weighed LB Jahlani Tavai’s past arrest in his draft evaluation:
“Yeah, we weighed it, especially. And I think that’s part of the reason we brought him in for the visit. Everybody in the building sat down with him. He told the same exact story that he told us at the Combine. So, it was very consistent from point A to point B. He made a mistake. You guys read the articles. You know what it was. I think a lot of people in this room would’ve stepped in and tried to do the right thing as well. So, it was unfortunate. He made a mistake, and we are totally fine with him character wise, one thousand percent.”
On if Lions Defensive Coordinator Paul Pasqualoni or anyone at Boston College said anything specifically that sold him and his scouting staff about DB Will Harris:
“Yeah, his leadership ability. His love for football, this guy’s a passionate football guy. I remember going to practice, and like I said, I know a bunch of staff members, honestly probably 15 or 20 years, and you go there and Boston College had a pretty good list of prospects this year. So, there was a lot of guys to talk through, including guys that were probably a little bit more, I’d say, ‘names.’ You know, one guy went in the first round. Zach Allen went today. Really, the first guy that a lot of guys mentioned to me was this guy. Like, ‘This guy’s like the heartbeat of our team.’ Not that those other guys were bad, they weren’t, because they have a lot of good football players and a lot of good leaders. But this guy was voted captain on that team, on that defense. So, that spoke volumes to me.”
On if he sees similarities between DB Will Harris and former Lions S Glover Quin:
“Little bit different, I’d say a little bit different skillset. Will’s a little bit bigger, I think a little bit taller. He ran a little faster. Glover was kind of a combo-corner-safety when he came out of New Mexico State a long time ago, 10, 12 years ago. This guy’s been a safety his entire career. So their body types, when you meet Will, he’s a little bit taller, a little bit longer player. Glover kind of grew into his safety body over the course of his career. So, I’d say it’s a different kind of player. Similar in terms of leadership and all that other stuff, but the body type is a little bit different.”
On if he is looking at the secondary depth as a lot of versatile players who can be interchanged weekly:
“Yeah, I think that’s something that is definitely a part of the equation. It’s about having different types of skillsets in the secondary with the outside corners that—when you build a roster, like you can only have a certain number of guys that just do one thing. Like, if the guy’s an outside corner, then that’s great, he’s got to be a really good outside corner because position versatility when it comes down to picking your 46-man roster is hard. Because you’ve got to be able to backup multiple positions, just like the offensive line. You know, you bring seven (offensive linemen) to the game, will they be able to backup center, guard and maybe tackle. Same thing with the secondary, so you’ve got to have guys with position flex. They can play strong safety, they can play free safety, they can cover a tight end. You know, if something happens, they have to go out and play corner, at least a guy runs a 4.37 (40-yard dash). You can go out there and kind of run with those guys. So, that’s something we definitely take into account for sure.”
On how much a special teams impact factored into the selections of DB Will Harris and LB Jahlani Tavai:
“Yeah, a pretty high amount. I’d say, probably more so for Will, just by the position that he plays. Jahlani can definitely do it. He will do it. You’ll see him out there, but I think Jahlani was like a four-year starter. He didn’t play as much special teams at Hawaii as Will did (at Boston College). You can pull up Will’s special teams plays from his sophomore and junior year and there’s some really good stuff on there. There’s just less to go off of on Jahlani because he hasn’t played as much. But his skillset, his tackling, his instincts, all that stuff would project to me that he’s going to be a good special teams player as well.”