How Will Jarrad Davis Help Detroit’s Defense?
I’m sure you have heard by now that with the 21st pick of the draft the Lions selected Florida linebacker, Jarrad Davis. Obviously, linebacker was a major need for the Lions after they didn’t get much production from the position in 2016. Before the draft many experts predicted Davis going to the Lions.
Some have questioned why they chose Davis over Alabama linebacker, and one of the draft’s most talented prospects, Reuben Foster. If you’re simply looking at how the players performed on Saturdays for their team then Foster probably would’ve been a better choice. However, that’s not how things work. Foster comes with baggage. He tested positive for a diluted test at the combine. Some teams were concerned with the people he hangs around with. And on top of that, there are worries about Foster’s surgically repaired shoulder.
Jarrad Davis comes with fewer headaches than Foster. But he’s also an extremely talented football player. Let’s take a closer look at what Davis does well and also what his weaknesses are.
Jarrad Davis didn’t participate at the combine because he was still dealing with an ankle injury. He made up for it with an outstanding pro-day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, had a vertical leap of 38 and a half inches and busted out 23 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press. Had he put up those numbers at the combine he would have been one of the best performers among linebackers.
His athleticism transfers to the field. When he recognizes where the ball is going he’s able to explode to the football. In coverage, he can run with tight ends and many running backs all over the field.
The Lions didn’t have much athleticism at the linebacker position. Davis will add much-needed speed and explosiveness to the Lions defense.
Bob Quinn had a great quote at his press conference following the first round of the draft. Quinn said, “You have to not only evaluate the player on the field, you have to evaluate the person that comes with it”. Davis isn’t the type of guy that the team will have to worry about doing something stupid and getting himself in trouble.
Everybody who has been around Davis has only positive things to say about him. As mentioned earlier in the article this is what set him apart from Alabama’s Reuben Foster. The Lions felt safer with Davis than someone like Foster.
Linebackers are often considered the quarterbacks of the defense. Because of this many feel that leadership is an important trait for a linebacker to possess.
Much like his character, Davis has received praise for his leadership skills as well. During his junior and senior seasons, he was the leader of a talented Florida Gator defense. His former coach at Florida Jim McElwain said that Davis is a guy that his teammates respect.
Also, Davis has a motor that doesn’t stop running while he’s on the field and a strong work ethic. His passion for football will hopefully inspire his teammates to play harder as well.
Jarrad Davis is 6’1” and 238 lbs and has a solid length to go with it. He may be a tick shorter than some would prefer as a linebacker but his weight is right about where you want it to be. Bob Quinn said his size is something that the team liked about Davis. He said that many college linebackers are too light for the NFL.
The fact that Davis has the bulk needed for the NFL should help his ability to contribute early.
Davis’ elite athleticism certainly helps in this area. So do his instincts and ability to predict how a play will develop. He has fluid hips and the ability to change direction smoothly, both of which help limit the amount of separation he allows his receiver.
The Lions needed a linebacker who can cover. Last season Detroit’s linebackers struggled in this area. Even if he doesn’t win a starting job it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on the field on obvious passing downs.
Jarrad Davis suffered a couple of injuries in his college career. In 2014 he suffered a torn meniscus. And last season he missed time with an ankle injury that lingered long enough to force him to miss the combine.
His performance at Florida’s pro-day shows that his ankle is coming along nicely. There is no obvious reason to believe that either of these injuries will have any impact on him in the future. But any time a player has to miss time with injuries there will be people who claim that he is “injury prone”.
As great as it is that Davis plays fast sometimes he plays a little too fast. He comes into the ball-carrier out of control at times. This leads to missed tackles. He needs to slow down and square up to the ball-carrier. The good news is that this is an area that he should be able to improve.
Also from time to time, he tries to deliver big hits rather than making sound tackles. This is common for college players and most of the time he does a pretty good job of wrapping up so that won’t be a major issue.
Was Jarrad Davis a Good Pick?
Overall Jarrad Davis looks to be a solid pick by Detroit. At the very least he should be able to help the Lions in passing situations. Also, he played special teams early in his career at Florida so if he doesn’t win a starting job this season he could help there. He will get an opportunity to win a starting job immediately. Bob Quinn said that they think he can both middle linebacker and weakside linebacker.
Davis has potential to be a three-down linebacker and in time he could develop into the leader of the defense for years to come.