Prior to the start of the 2022 campaign, the Lions’ 2019 draft class didn’t look great. And now, it looks even worse after the trade of tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Hockenson, Detroit’s first-round pick in ’19 (No. 8 overall), was traded to the Minnesota Vikings at the NFL trade deadline Tuesday. The Iowa product played three-and-a-half seasons with the Lions, amassing 186 receptions, 2,068 yards and 15 touchdowns in 47 games.
With Hockenson gone, Detroit now just has three players remaining from its nine-player ’19 draft class: defensive back Will Harris (drafted in the third round), EDGE Austin Bryant (selected in the fourth round) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (taken in the fifth round). While Oruwariye has been, by far, the most consistent performer of the three, each of the aforementioned players has struggled with being consistently productive.
When examining this subpar class produced by former Lions general manager Bob Quinn, linebacker Jahlani Tavai, the team’s second-round pick in the ’19 draft (No. 43 overall), sticks out the most (and not for good reason).
From the very moment he was drafted, Tavai was considered a poor selection. Prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, he received a fourth-fifth-round grade from a variety of draft analysts. Pro Football Focus, for instance, had him ranked as the No. 24 linebacker in the draft and the No. 237 overall player.
And then, he put on a Lions uniform, and the results, as predicted, were not good. He suited up for just two seasons in the Motor City, and never looked like a quality NFL starting linebacker. He failed to develop sufficient pass coverage skills, and his tackling ability, although better than his ability in coverage, wasn’t good enough to warrant continuing to employ him.
Subsequently, Detroit decided to waive the Hawaii product prior to the start of the 2021 regular season.
Tavai produced two sacks, 116 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four quarterback hits in 31 career games in Detroit.
And, in 2020, he ranked a measly 80th out of 83 qualified linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus.
It was far from a productive tenure for Tavai with the Lions, and there’s no debating the fact that he’s the biggest disappointment from the team’s 2019 draft class.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s sixth-round selections in the ’19 draft — wide receiver Travis Fulgham (No. 184 overall) and running back Ty Johnson (No. 186 overall) — did little-to-nothing in Lions uniforms. And, the same can be said about the team’s seventh-round picks — tight end Isaac Nauta (No. 224 overall) and defensive tackle P.J. Johnson (No. 229 overall).