Lions Surprise Second-Round Pick Jahlani Tavai: "The Draft Is A Tricky Thing"

He was projected to go in the fifth or sixth round.

Will Burchfield
April 26, 2019 - 9:33 pm
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First it was Frank Ragnow. Then it was Tracy Walker. 

And on Friday it was Jahlani Tavai. 

The Lions took the linebacker from Hawaii in the second round of the draft, 43rd overall, and left most observers saying, Wait, what? 

Most projections, including NFL.com, had Tavai going in the fifth or sixth round. 

As for Tavai himself? 

"Prior to the draft, my agent was telling me either day two or day three, so really I wasn’t really sure. I was just waiting for a phone call within those rounds," he said in a conference call with local reporters. 

Asked if he was surprised to go so early, Tavai said, "The draft is a tricky thing, of course. I'm just blessed and happy that the Lions took the opportunity to draft me. Thankful for them for showing some love toward me. Really happy right now, speechless." 

The primary knock against Tavai is his lack of speed and explosiveness.  But he's considered a versatile, physical player and an strong tackler. He injured his shoulder last season, which lowered his draft stock, but scouts generally rave about his ability to play a variety of roles on defense. 

He did have 17.5 sacks in 47 career games, primarily as an inside linebacker. 

Tavai said he first spoke with the Lions at the scouting combine. The team later brought him in for one of its 30 player visits. 

He joins a linebackers room led by Jarrad Davis and Devon Kennard. That duo combined for 13 sacks last season, thriving in a scheme where linebackers have ample opportunities to rush the passer.

It's one that appeals to Tavai. 

"I love their defense because you never know what they’re running in," he said. "From the film that I’ve watched, they stunt a lot. I love that they bring pressure on the quarterback a lot. That’s getting me really juiced up right now." 

For Lions fans wondering what to make of Tavai, a player few people knew of beyond the Mountain West Conference, allow him the floor. 

"I want fans to know that I’m going to play every down that I can, I’m going to hustle to the ball and just show that I’m giving 110 percent effort every play," said Tavai. "That’s the main thing that I want to show, is that I’m going to be that guy that they’re looking for."