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Scouting Report: Jahlani Tavai

Tackling has never been a problem for former University of Hawaii standout Jahlani Tavai. And now, the 6-2, 250-lb. linebacker is just days away from grasping his dream of playing in the NFL. Tavai, who finished second on UH’s all-time tackles list, is expected to be selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, which starts on Thursday, April 25 and continues through Saturday the 27th. Here’s a round-up of what the draft pundits are saying about Tavai:

KYLE CRABBS, THE DRAFT NETWORK: “Jahlani Tavai is an intelligent linebacker who has the consistency in his reads needed to be in proper positioning and help a defense. Tavai’s challenges stem from him not being the most dynamic functional athlete, he’s a bit of a throwback linebacker who doesn’t project all that favorably to today’s spaced out NFL game. Tavai has a role to play, but I’m not sold on his functional athleticism allowing him a role as a three down linebacker.” (PROJECTION: ROUND 5)

LANCE ZIERLEIN, NFL.COM: “While the level of competition wasn’t always noteworthy, his impact production was. In a draft that is heavy on undersized, uber-productive linebackers, Tavai offers an NFL frame, good play strength, an aggressive demeanor and almost 10 tackles per game over the last three seasons. He’s not overly explosive, but his decisiveness and motor are play traits that should serve him well as a pro. He could be a good three-down backup who could develop into an eventual starter inside.” (PROJECTION: ROUNDS 4-5)

GAVINO BORQUEZ, DRAFT WIRE: “Tavai flashes excellent run defense, using mental processing, short area burst, natural strength, and play speed when shooting gaps to disrupt plays. He shows overall good movement skills and fluid hips when dropping back in coverage. Tavai is also adept at coming off the edge as a blitzer, where he shows some bend and hand usage to get around the corner. Overall, Tavai is flying under the radar, but when he’s healthy, he might be one of the better players at his position in April. Tavai’s play reminds me of Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch when he came out of Boise State. He will immediately add a three-down hybrid linebacker, offering inside-out versatility, a playmaker, and a leader to a defense at the next level. (PROJECTION: ROUND 3)

JOE MARINO, THE DRAFT NETWORK: “Tavai filled up the stat sheet for Hawaii and was used in a variety of ways, including rushing off the edge. While his versatility is intriguing, his modest athletic profile presents some restrictions in how he can be deployed at the next level. Tavai’s best ability is playing downhill into the line of scrimmage, taking on blocks and filling gaps. His range is below average and he’s inconsistent in space. He does have some appeal as a blitzer and defending shallow zones but man coverage and deeper drops are not ideal. Tavai projects as a special teams contributor and sub package player at the next level.” (PROJECTION: MID-DAY 3)

CHRIS TRAPASSO, CBS SPORTS: “Big, imposing off-ball linebacker with above-average twitch for someone his size. Played and has ability on the edge with an impressive outside speed rush an a small assortment of pass-rushing moves. Sideline to sideline range good, not great. Same goes for his block-shedding skills. Old-school linebacker with some new-school traits.”

DANE BRUGLER, THE ATHLETIC: “Tavai has been my favorite “sleeper” since the fall. Top-5 LB in this class and could easily be a top-60 draft pick. Three-down, inside-out versatility. Modern day LB.”

THE DRAFT ANALYST: “Tough, disciplined linebacker best in the box. Rarely off his feet, breaks down well and effectively uses his hands. Strong, forceful up the field and stands up blocks from opposing offensive linemen. Instinctive, quickly locates the ball and works hard to make plays. Constantly around the action, sells out on the blitz and stacks well against the run. Missed time due to injury and suspension last season. Displays average lateral speed in pursuit of the action outside the box. Inefficient, often too quick up the field and gets caught the trash. Tavai is a solid run-defending linebacker who could back up in the middle of the 4-3 alignment. (PROJECTION: ROUND 6)