The Lions appear to be going through a much-needed youth movement – on defense. They run a 4-3 scheme and last year started getting younger on the D-line with DT A’Shawn Robinson and DE Kerry Hyder. This year, they focused their attention on the LB group, drafting Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Early indications are Davis will man the middle, which will move Tahir Whitehead into a competition for the weak side spot, with Reeves-Maybin & Paul Worrilow. If healthy, Reeves-Maybin is clearly the best of the three in my opinion. The one wild card for the LB group is if the Lions sign free agent LB Zachary Orr, who recently retired due to injury. In an era with all the complex offenses, you want as much versatility as you can get in your LBs. To me, although Reeves-Maybin is a rookie, he offers that more than the others.
At the University of Tennessee, Reeves-Maybin was a high effective weak side LB. He stepped in as the starter as a sophomore and over the next two seasons, he would lead the Vols in tackles (101 & 105), showing off his ability to cover from sideline to sideline. He reads & reacts quickly to plays and is always playing downhill. He rarely got in too deep or trapped to the point where he couldn’t get out and chase when needed. He has easy and fluid movements, whether he is in traffic or in coverage in the open field. With great vision, he can navigate through the trash with ease. Reeves-Maybin measured in at 6’0” 230 lbs at the combine and was clocked at 4.68 seconds in the forty. The biggest issue with Reeves-Maybin is not his size, but his ability to stay healthy. A shoulder injury cost him almost all of his senior season and caused him to slip in the NFL Draft. He could have redshirted and then came back for another season at Tennessee (which I was hoping he would do), but decided to turn pro.
Depending on where Reeves-Maybin is with his recovery and how the Lions want to bring him along, I can see him playing a lot this year. I will venture to say that he will play a lot in sub packages and special teams early on, but if he’s healthy, it will be hard to keep him off the field with his talent. If he can grab a starting position, he will rack up some very good tackle numbers – and in fantasy that’s a big plus. The Lions may bring him along slowly to make sure he is fully healthy and not rush him. I believe that will make him a great sleeper option for this year and if you have the room to stash him on your bench, I suggest you do so. I believe he will be a very nice long-term fantasy option and if he wins the starting job this year, he will be a nice spot starter or bye week fill-in for fantasy owners. In the recent rookie draft for my IDP league, he was taken in the 5th round. That’s about where I would slot (5th-6th round) him and if you can get him later, then his value increases.
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