If you’re like me, you’ve been looking to learn every piece of information about the Detroit Lions’ second-round pick Jahlani Tavai. While we likely won’t get an idea of the impact he’ll make on the football field until OTAs and training camp, we were afforded the opportunity to get to know Tavai as a player this week.
Linebacker wasn’t considered a huge need for the Detroit Lions going into this year’s draft. The team is returning all three starters from last year in Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard and Christian Jones.
But the Lions shocked many when they selected Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai with their second 2019 pick. Little was known about the young linebacker at the time, and we’re only now catching up with the Lions scouting team.
Tavai joined DetroitLions.com’s Tori Petry on this week’s episode of the One Pridecast to give his impression of the team after last week’s rookie minicamp.
“I think everything is just about being on time and just doing everything for the team. That’s everything that all of us rookies are about,” Tavai said. “We care so much about each other because we don’t want each other to get in trouble. We don’t want anyone being late, so we’re always on each other’s head to make sure we’re all at the meetings on time. So it’s just a good place to be because you can tell that everybody’s about family, and it’s awesome experience.”
And while the Lions didn’t focus much on the linebacker position for the rest of the draft, they did make the position a priority in their undrafted rookie class. They signed three undrafted players by the time rookie minicamp was over: Clemson’s Tre Lamar, Miami’s Juwon Young and Wayne State’s Anthony Pittman. Tavai came away impressed with all of them.
“We have a really good rookie linebacker class,” Tavai said. “We’ve got Juwon, we have Austin Bryant. We have Pitt, oh, and we have Tre Lamar. Those guys are all great competitors. I love it, because it’s just another way for each one of us to improve something in our game.”
Did you catch that?
Tavai referred to Lions fourth-round pick Austin Bryant as a linebacker. And although he’s currently listed as a defensive end on the Lions’ official online roster, he was also announced by Lions legend Lomas Brown as a linebacker when he was drafted.
In college, Bryant often lined up in a role similar to that of current Lions linebacker Devon Kennard—commonly referred to as the Jack linebacker role. At 6-foot-4, 271 pounds, he’s a little big for that role, but we know how the Lions like their linebackers big and strong. That’s far from proof that Bryant will be playing that role with Detroit, but it’s something to keep an eye on as Detroit’s rookie class takes the field for OTAs this week.
Overall, it seems like the Lions’ linebacker corps may be going through some big changes in the near future. And while Davis-Kennard-Jones didn’t seems like a particularly inspiring group, Davis-Bryant-Tavai is one that certainly offers more promise, although probably not for another year or two.