'Excellent pick': Analysts praise Lions' draft choice
Allen Park – While only time will tell if the Detroit Lions made the right choice on Thursday when they selected Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis with the No. 21 overall pick in the NFL draft, the analysts on TV were effusive in their praise.
Some wondered if the Lions might go with Alabama’s Reuben Foster, rated by most as the top inside linebacker in the draft. However, as he continued to drop, the Lions stuck with the player they wanted all along and went with Davis, the athletic and physical captain for the Gators that comes with high grades off the field.
“You talk about character, production and the pro day which was remarkable,” ESPN Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said on the broadcast. “This kid is all about playing with attitude, and I think when you look at what he does week-to-week, when he was healthy – he was a little bit banged up this year – he was fast to the football, a real good form tackler, his read reactability is excellent. … This kid gets after the football. He will tackle you. He’ll bring you down. In coverage, he was OK.
“I think you look at Reuben Foster, he would’ve gone higher had it not been for the off-the-field concerns. Davis, when you think about what they’re looking for in Detroit now, high-character players, that’s what they’re trying to build with. They’re deficient at linebacker. Jarrad Davis should start as a rookie for the Detroit Lions.”
Foster, who has been dogged by issues at the NFL Combine where he had a diluted urine sample and reportedly got into an altercation with medical staff, eventually went No. 31 overall to the 49ers.
And as talented as he is, many believe the Lions got the right man with the 6-foot-1, 238-pound Davis.
“He's got the physical traits,” said Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. “I was at his pro day, and he ran a 4.58 and was explosive. He jumped 38 inches and he's a tough kid. He's today's NFL inside linebacker. He can run and stay in the game on third downs, which I think is critical in Detroit. He's got some pretty good instincts. He's going to be a three-down player for them, and that's an excellent pick.”
Added ESPN’s Louis Riddick, “This is a guy who is a phenomenal athlete, who can play all three downs, who can run and hit and cover and sack quarterbacks. A tremendous athlete who just needs to stay on the football field. It’s a need pick, but it’s a great pick for them because this is a tremendous football player.”
Just hours before the draft kicked off, Lions general manager Bob Quinn talked about the unpredictable nature of the process. In fact, he said on WJR 760 that he couldn’t remember a year where he could envision so many scenarios that could play out over the first 32 picks.
“I’ve been doing this since 2000 at different levels at different teams,” Quinn said. “This year in the top 25 to 30 players is the most unpredictable that I have seen. We went through a couple different scenarios the last couple days with about four or five of our staff members, just with their educated opinion of, ‘All right, if you’re the GM of this team and you’re picking here and these are the players left on the board, who are you taking?’ We came up with numerous different scenarios that it’s so hard to predict.”
Through the first 12 picks on Thursday, the fluid nature of this year’s draft Quinn predicted was proving to be true as three quarterbacks were taken and all three were the result of trades.
First to go was North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, who was taken No. 2 overall after the Chicago Bears moved up a spot, swapping positions with the 49ers to take the first quarterback.
Later in the first round, the Kansas City Chiefs moved up from the 27th spot and traded with the Buffalo Bills to take Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech at No. 10.
Two picks later, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson was taken at No. 12 overall after the Houston Texans moved up from 25 by trading with Cleveland.
Around 700 fans were at the Lions practice facility on Thursday awaiting word on who the team would select at No. 21.
The event was just another way for the team to connect with its fans, president Ron Wood said.
“These are the die-hard fans, the ones that come out to watch the draft,” Wood said on WJR. “Even though it’s fun, it’s going to be a long night when we’re picking 21, so hopefully we keep them entertained.
“I think it’s all part of — we only play 16 times and we only have 10 home events when you include the two preseason games. So to keep the fans engaged year-round, you have to do things like this. I was watching the news and listening to the radio. When you look at the Free Press and the News, the whole sports section is about the Lions in the offseason, so there’s a lot of interest. The fans are passionate and we’re happy about that.”