ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions were thrilled to see all the offensive players taken early in the draft, leaving them with choices on defense that they really wanted.
Like Jarrad Davis.
Detroit drafted the Florida linebacker with the 21st overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
“When we started seeing those receivers go off the board, it was a good see,” general manager Bob Quinn said.
The 6-foot-1, 238-pound Davis missed about a third of last season with a sprained left injury, but was still second-team all-SEC. He played in nine games, making 60 tackles, including two sacks. Recovering from the injury ended up making Davis even stronger mentally.
“It was something that showed me what I had deep down inside,” he said. “You almost forget what you have in you when you’re down so long. I knew what got me to the point where I was at, so I stuck to that even through the injury. I haven’t lost a step. I’m still the same guy you’ve seen on film.”
Detroit addressed a desperate need by adding a player who can fill in for released linebacker DeAndre Levy and perhaps bolster the franchise’s weakest link.
“It’s a position we had trouble with last year,” Quinn acknowledged. “It was a position of need, for sure.”
It looked like the Lions were going to be in a good position to add a defensive player they coveted when eight of the first 12 picks were used on offense. The next five picks, though, were all defensive players before Tampa Bay took Alabama tight end O.J. Howard No. 19 overall. Denver followed by selecting Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles, leaving Detroit to draft Davis.
After missing the Senior Bowl and combine while recovering from his ankle injury, the athletic linebacker answered questions about his health at Florida’s pro day last month. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, had a 38 1/2-inch vertical and covered 10 feet, 9 inches in the broad jump.
“I think it helped me out a lot,” Davis said. “I showed that I have speed, I’m able to move around.”
Detroit will get another chance to improve its roster on Friday night with the No. 21 pick in the second round, the 53rd selection overall. The franchise has a pick in each of the next five rounds, including a pair of picks in the sixth.
Quinn seems to have more needs on defense than offense, but insists he will take the best player available even if a particular player doesn’t appear to have a place to play immediately.
The Lions’ most significant additions this offseason have been on offense, signing veteran linemen Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang.
Detroit surged atop the NFC North last season with eight wins in a nine-game stretch and became the first NFL team to come back from fourth-quarter deficits to win eight games in single season. The Lions, though, closed with three straight setbacks to spoil their shot at winning a division title for the first time since 1993. They lost at Seattle 26-6 in a wild-card game, extending their postseason losing skid to nine games over 25 years.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about winning,” Davis said.