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Round 2 ‧ Pick 11
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DRAFTLions select Jahlani Tavai No. 43 in the 2019 draft
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Jahlani Tavai (pronounced jah-lan-ee tah-VIE) is the third member of his family to play college football. One brother, Jordan, was a defensive lineman at Kansas while another, J.R., played linebacker at USC and for the Tennessee Titans. As a redshirt freshman, Tavai started 11 of 13 games played (56 tackles, five for loss, three sacks). He was a first-team All-Mountain West pick in 2016, starting all 14 games and leading the conference with 19.5 tackles for loss (129 total, seven sacks). He was a second-team all-conference selection in 2017, ranking 10th in the FBS with 124 tackles and leading his team with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. In his senior season, he was suspended for the season opener due to a June arrest for assault at a Honolulu night club and then missed the last month of the season with a shoulder injury. Tavai was named honorable mention all-conference after recording 82 tackles (5.5 for loss, two sacks, forced fumble, blocked kick) in just eight starts.
By Lance Zierlein
While the level of competition wasn’t always noteworthy, his impact production was. In a draft that is heavy on undersized, uber-productive linebackers, Tavai offers an NFL frame, good play strength, an aggressive demeanor and almost 10 tackles per game over the last three seasons. He’s not overly explosive, but his decisiveness and motor are play traits that should serve him well as a pro. He could be a good three-down backup who could develop into an eventual starter inside.
- Aggressive field demeanor
- Plays with knock-back pop against tight ends
- Pro-ready hands punch and separate at point of attack
- Eyes play beyond his blocker
- Rabid finding the ball and making the tackle
- Adequate short-area acceleration Nimble to avoid foot traffic and continue flow to the ball Makes well-timed adjustments in pursuit angles
- Rugby tackler with accurate aim to the hip
- Has tools to rush or drop on passing downs
- Works hands effectively as blitzer
- Finds seam routes and faces them up in man
- Will miss Senior Bowl and Combine due to shoulder injury
- Hustles in pursuit, but top speed looks average
- More active and frenetic than explosive
- Needs to play off blocks more quickly
- Has to stay disciplined to snuff out back-side cuts Could struggle in pure man coverage
- Tackle technique can be segmented with feet stopping to load and explode hips
- Misses tackles when he leaves his feet behind