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25 Days of Draftmas: Jahlani Tavai could offer linebacker depth at multiple positions

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The Chiefs could add a player late that could fit as a rush SAM or a MIKE linebacker.

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

A very Merry Draftmas to you! It’s 25 Days of Draftmas on Arrowhead Pride, where we’ll be giving you a Kansas City Chiefs draft prospect every day in April leading up to the NFL Draft. You’ll get a daily prospect profile like this one right up until Draft Day.


Jahlani Tavai, linebacker

NFL: Combine Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

6’2” | 250 lbs | Hawaii

Projected draft range: day three

Combine: didn’t participate due to shoulder injury

I would take him: round five

One-sentence bio: two-time All-American in rugby, three-time All-Mountain West nominee

One-sentence scouting report: versatile linebacker that can set the edge, drop into coverage and is an effective blitzer

One play:

How he fits in KC: Tavai is an ideal depth candidate for Kansas City in 2019. His comfort level as a rush SAM, MIKE and WILL linebacker in a 4-3 Under system make him a perfect player to groom behind the Chiefs starters. He has good range and exceptional short-area quickness. This quickness allows him to trigger downhill and meet the ball carrier with full force in the gap. He’s long enough to set the EDGE in the run game and will give little ground against blocking tight ends. In man coverage, he shows plenty of ability to drop and carry players vertically, as well as being able to kick out into the flats against a running back. He regularly disrupts the quarterback with his blitzing ability, making him a good fit with Spagnuolo’s higher blitz tendencies.

Tavai is coming off of a serious shoulder injury and teams will have to monitor it to make sure that he’s healthy enough to contribute in 2019. While he’s good in man coverage, he struggles a little bit with his spot drops in zone. He tends to squeeze other zones and drops to an “exact” spot, rather than reading and flowing with the play. He will need work with deconstructing blocks between the tackles, as offensive linemen tend to stick on him and take him out of the play. He’ll also need to work on squaring up and anchoring when making the tackle — too often the ball carrier was able to gain extra yards going through Tavai.

There are a lot of question marks about the Chiefs linebacking corps, and even more, going forward in 2020. Tavai is a talented player that could definitely up the quality of the group and offer a starting spot at the SAM linebacker position in the future. He would likely be a special teams player in 2019, but his upside and potential contribution are precisely what the Chiefs should be looking for in a day three pick.

Want to read more player profiles from Arrowhead Pride’s 25 Days of Draftmas? Click here for the complete list. And to stay informed on the players in which the Chiefs have shown interest, be sure to check out AP’s Chiefs draft prospect visit and workout tracker.


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