The Detroit Lions made a surprising decision in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft by selecting Florida Gators cornerback Jalen “Teez” Tabor 53rd overall. The corner had received some attention early on in the draft process due to the great coverage instincts and playmaking ability he showed in college. He fell off the radar for many, though, after a horrible combine and pro day, including a 4.62 40-yard dash.
General manager Bob Quinn decided to take a risk on Tabor, though. It turned out to be a risk that has not yet paid off.
Tabor was a healthy scratch for much of his rookie season and never saw real playing time until 2018—where injuries and a quickly-ending season opened things up for the young corner.
He played in 12 games in 2018, starting in four. Tabor did not intercept any passes and miraculously managed not to defend a single pass.
The issue that has haunted Tabor the most over his first two NFL seasons was one that nearly everyone expected. He is not athletic enough to compete at the NFL level. He often is not fast enough to keep up with wide receivers that he is tasked with defending in man coverage and gives up a step too easily.
He also lacks the closing speed to make up ground when he does lose a step. The lack of speed and agility also make it tough for him to close down on receivers upfield when he leaves them a large cushion.
His issues are not just physical, though. Tabor seems to have a lot of mental issues as well. His technique seems to have somehow regressed since college and at times he seems lost in the middle of a play. Tabor does not diagnose plays that well and often will walk himself into a bad position.
These are issues that Tabor seems to be working through these issues, though. MLive’s Kyle Meinke wrote a piece on Tabor and his mental struggles last month. While it is impossible to know what it will take for Tabor to get his head in the right place, there is a possibility that he will turn into the smart, instinctive, corner Detroit expected him to be.
And the tape is not all bad for Tabor. While he may not be athletic and often gets lost in coverage, he is not scared of getting physical in coverage and often does well when he jams receivers.
While this may not make up for all of his other deficiencies, it is one small bright spot for Detroit to work on going forward.
The corner is entering a key year in Detroit. With Nevin Lawson out of the picture, and no one on the roster truly standing out at CB2, he could realistically compete for a starting role this summer. It will be a long shot, with Rashaan Melvin and Amani Oruwariye probably having the inside track, but it is a possibility.
Tabor has two more years left on his rookie deal. While the odds of him getting an extension are low, there is still a good chance Quinn allows his former second-round pick to stick around and hopefully develop into an NFL caliber player. Detroit also does not have much depth at the position at the moment, as Slay and Melvin are the only two outside corners on the roster who are not late rounders, UDFAs or fringe roster guys. That means that Tabor could easily find himself on the 53-man roster in August.
For now, Tabor is not playing at an NFL level yet. If Detroit is forced to rely on him this season then they will probably be in trouble.