Detroit Lions take Hawaii LB Jahlani Tavai in Round 2 of 2019 NFL draft
The Detroit Lions are serious about upgrading their linebacking corps, and they went about doing so Friday in unexpected fashion.
The Lions took linebacker Jahlani Tavai with the 11th pick of the NFL draft's second round, passing on several notable defensive backs in the process, including LSU’s Greedy Williams and Michigan State’s Justin Layne.
Tavai made 82 tackles in eight games at Hawaii last season, but missed the end of the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
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Tavai did not take part in testing drills at the NFL combine in March or his pro day because of the injury, though he did do position drills at pro day.
Former Michigan linebacker Devin Bush told the Free Press on Wednesday that the Lions told him during a visit to Allen Park that they projected him as a middle linebacker in their system, and that could provide a clue as to how they plan to use the 250-pound Tavai.
Jarrad Davis, the Lions’ first-round pick in 2017, had six sacks and a team-high 100 tackles last season, but the team may want to use him more as an outside linebacker to take advantage of his skills as a pass rusher.
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Tavai played outside linebacker as a freshman at Hawaii, and middle linebacker the last three seasons. He said he wasn't sure how the Lions plan to use him.
The Lions return all three starting linebackers from last season in Davis, Christian Jones and outside linebacker Devon Kennard. Jones made 69 tackles in 16 starts and is entering the last year of his contract.
"I’m not sure, but from what I know, inside backer was my primary position so I believe that that’s going to be where Day 1 starts," Tavai said.
Tavai was reportedly arrested for a nightclub altercation last June after he and a teammate assaulted a man who pushed a woman to the ground.
Asked about the incident Friday, Tavai said it's something he tries "not to think about" now.
"The past is the past and right now I’ve learned from my mistake and I’m trying to move on right now and just show the Lions that I’m ready to go and I’m not allowing anything off the field to ever affect me again from missing time or anything like that," he said.
The Lions have one more pick today, No. 88 overall in the third round, the choice acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles in last year's Golden Tate trade.
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