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Extra film study gave Lions confidence to draft Florida's Tabor

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
The 6-foot, 199-pound Teez Tabor was a shutdown corner at Florida, holding quarterbacks to a 41.2 passer rating over three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions continued to address the team’s defense in the second round of the NFL draft, selecting Florida cornerback Teez Tabor.

Tabor was college teammates with Detroit’s first-round pick, linebacker Jarrad Davis.

The 6-foot, 199-pounder was a shutdown corner at Florida, holding quarterbacks to a 41.2 NFL passer rating over three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s significant for a Lions’ defense that allowed a league-worst 72.7 percent completion percentage and 106.5 passer rating in 2016.

“I think I’m just a very smart player, a very instinctive player,” Tabor said. “I’m a student of the game and I think that’s going to correlate well to the NFL.”

Despite general manager Bob Quinn previously showing a strong preference for elite athletes at the cornerback position, Tebor didn’t perform well at the scouting combine, where he clocked a surprisingly slow 4.62-second 40-yard dash and a below-average 31-inch vertical jump.

Typically prospects will use their pro days as an opportunity to improve their combine numbers, but Tabor actually posted a slower time in the 40, unofficially running it in 4.75 seconds. That would have been the worst time among all defensive backs at the combine.

The slow times forced Quinn go back and spend extra time on Tabor’s tape. A lot of extra time.

“In Jalen’s case, me personally, I probably watched more tape on him than any prospect I can ever remember watching film on because everyone said he ran really slow and I said, ‘OK, well the games I watched, I didn’t see him getting run by,’” Quinn said.

Quinn estimated he watched 14 of Tabor’s games, dating all the way back to his 2015 freshman season.

“Timed speed is what it is,” Quinn said. “I take game speed as a far more important gauge than timed speed.”

Ironically, at his draft party, many of Tabor’s friends and family members wore shirts that read, “Press play. Watch the tape,” a slogan he said his mom thought up when she felt people had become overly focused on the 40 time.

There are also some minor character concerns on Tabor’s resume. He was suspended twice at Florida, once for a fight with a teammate and a second time for missing a drug test as a sophomore year after testing positive as a freshman.

While not a pressing need for the 2017 season, Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs are the only cornerbacks on Detroit’s roster under contract for 2018. Tabor will come in and compete with Nevin Lawson and free-agent addition D.J. Hayden for playing time.

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Like many players at his position, Tabor is supremely confident, but was generally reserved and humble on a conference call with Detroit media after his selection. He said he intends to lean heavily on Slay as he adjusts to the demands of the NFL.

“One of the things I said I wanted with whoever picks me is somebody I can come in and learn from and pick his brain,” Tabor said. “(Slay) is one of the top corners in the league. When I come in, I’m going to be connected to him like his phone, I’m just going to be on his hip everywhere like he goes. I want to study what he does and makes him so good because I have a lot to learn.”

In three seasons at Florida, Tabor recorded 104 tackles, defended 28 passes and snagged nine interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.

The selection of Tabor was announced by Lions Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @justin_rogers