McShay: Possible Lions pick Davis has ‘passion, energy’

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Mock drafts are conversation pieces, not to be taken all that seriously, but in his first projection way back in December, ESPN analyst Todd McShay gave the Detroit Lions Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis.

Five months later, the possibility of the team actually drafting Davis is as realistic as ever.

Linebacker is a short- and long-term need for the Lions, and after a strong pro-day performance by Davis, it’s not inconceivable he could be in play when the Lions are on the clock with the No. 21 pick in the first round next week.

“Yeah, from a talent-standpoint, Jarrad Davis is a first-round player,” McShay said during a conference call on Tuesday. “From an intangibles-standpoint, he’s top-five in the class. He’s a player who loves the game. You can see the passion and energy he has for the game when you study him on tape. Then, you talk to people around the Florida program and scouts who have been evaluating him and doing the background, there’s just nothing but positives when it comes Davis.”

Last week, at the team’s season-ticket holder summit, Lions general manager Bob Quinn talked about the importance of targeting prospects who truly love football. The problem is every incoming player knows this is important to teams and are coached to answer accordingly during the interview process. But try to not be convinced by Davis.

“Football is not all I have, but I treat it like it’s all I have,” he said at the combine. “I treat it like it’s everything, and I feel like that separates me from a lot of guys. The way I approach the game and the way I approach my work, I feel like I separate myself from a lot of people with the way I think.”

The downside with Davis is his durability. His sophomore season was cut short by a knee injury and his senior campaign was derailed by a high ankle sprain, preventing him from rubber stamping an impressive junior year.

At the scouting combine, Davis was confident with how his medical evaluation went and he further put concerns about his health to rest at Florida’s pro day late last month. His 4.56-second 40-yard dash would have been the second-best time among linebackers at the combine, and his 38.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad jump would both have been the top numbers at his position.

“I think it just helps solidify everything you see on tape,” McShay said. “Good instincts, very active versus the run — I think he’s probably top two or three in range versus the run. He’s got an extra gear. Solid tackler, good take-on skills. I think he can improve a little bit in zone coverage, just the feel he has, but I think it’s also coachable and he’ll develop it.

At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, Davis anticipates playing on the weak side as a rookie, but believes he’s also capable of being a long-term fit as a middle linebacker. The Lions released long-term weak side starter DeAndre Levy this offseason and the starter in the middle, Tahir Whitehead, is in the final year of his contract.