By Will Burchfield
The Lions see in Jarrad Davis what Jarrad Davis sees in himself.
Asked what he can add to Detroit’s defense as a linebacker, his reply was telling.
“Not only as a linebacker but as a player and a teammate, man, I bring that hard-working mentality. I’m not a guy that’s gonna come in and try to steal the spotlight. I’m a guy that’s gonna come in and fit the mold and work with the program,” said Davis, shortly after the Lions made him the 21st overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
He added: “But I also make sure that I push everybody, because at the end of the day it’s all about winning.
The Lions drafted Davis to fill a void at linebacker but also to groom a leader on defense. Between his talent and his character, he represents a quick fix and, perhaps, a foundation.
Said GM Bob Quinn, “(Linebacker) is a position where I think you really need a guy in the middle of your defense that can be looked upon to call the defense, hopefully become a leader in time and really be that gel between the secondary and the offensive line. It was a position of need for sure.”
Among the linebackers on the board when the Lions’ first-round pick rolled around, a group that included Alabama standout Reuben Foster and Vanderbilt star Zach Cunningham, it was Davis who stood out.
“We came up with Davis as the top guy at that time,” Quinn said.
It was a perfect meshing of their team needs and the best player remaining on their board.
The Lions like Davis for his versatility, his proficiency as both a middle- and weak-side linebacker. They were gashed for yards over the middle last season, the linebackers often strewn across the field like pylons. Davis, with his sideline-to-sideline ability, should help clean things up.
“He’s a guy that we feel can play mike and will,” said Quinn, “so we’re going to put him in the mix with all the guys we have on our roster and just kind of figure out the best way to use him. But he definitely has position flexibility.”
At Florida, Davis was a captain by title and a general by practice. Just as he set an example off the field, so did he issue orders on it. He is fit to lead.
“I played the mike and will, but more mike. I played strictly mike all the way through my junior and senior year,” he said. “Being able to just lead the defense and have an opportunity to make a play on almost every single snap in the middle of the defense, it was a position that I really enjoyed.”
There was a sense of disbelief on the part of both Quinn and Davis after the Lions had made their selection. Quinn, who entered the press room with a smile on his face and promptly began cracking jokes with reporters, was giddy with his team’s good fortune.
“The board fell the way it did,” Quinn said, marveling at how many offensive players were taken before the Lions were on the clock. “Like I said, he’s a player we targeted and a player we wanted and we’re fortunate to get him.”
Davis, meanwhile, was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that he was an NFL draftee.
“In my younger years it almost felt like a path that was unreachable. But as the years went on and the harder I worked and the older I got, it became more and more real,” he said.
“I’m just blown away by the fact that I was picked by the Detroit Lions.”
The Lions would agree.