With The 53rd Pick In The 2017 NFL Draft, The Detroit Lions Select Teez Tabor, Defensive Back, Florida.
Taking Teez Tabor with his second round pick may be the most scrutinized move to date in Lions general manager Bob Quinn‘s young career. While Tabor was a great player for Florida, as most second-round picks tend to be, he was considered a reach by many. Those who questioned the selection were largely wary of Tabor’s speed or lack thereof. He ran a 4.62 at the combine. For those keeping score, that was good enough to tie him for dead last among all cornerbacks in attendance.
Quinn’s critics had plenty of back patting to get to early in the season. Tabor had logged exactly three defensive snaps until seeing 11 in week nine against the Packers. He was a healthy scratch six times in those games. It’s a common occurrence to let rookies sit and learn early on to some extent. Though, a second-round pick is expected to see at least some playing time. Failure to see the field completely was alarming. The difference between game speed in college and the NFL is well noted. It’s reasonable to believe that difference is compounded for a player who struggles with speed naturally. The Lions knew about this deficiency when they drafted him though. This may have been the plan from the start. The Lions weren’t in immediate need of a starting corner, they let him craft his technique and learn to make up for his flaws.
In weeks 11,12, and 13 there was a slight uptick in playing time. He was averaging near 15 snaps per game in that stretch. But it was week 14 against Tampa Bay that the coaching staff chose to make a bold move. How would the Lions defense answer Tampa’s star wideout Mike Evans? None other than the rookie, Teez Tabor. While star cornerback Darius Slay was assigned to containing speed receiver Desean Jackson, Tabor was tasked with Evans who stands 6’5”. Tabor was down five inches in the match up but corner Nevin Lawson would have been down eight. Thrust into serious action, Tabor would go on to play 39 defensive snaps including 12 in coverage against Evans. And it worked. Evans ended the day with 2 receptions for 25 yards and a key play in the match up saw Tabor successfully defend a fade to Evans at the goal line.
The scouting report on Tabor isn’t all bad of course. He had success at Florida for a reason. He’s particularly strong in zone coverage where his speed is a bit less of a vulnerability. He has reasonable ball skills; he totaled seven interceptions in his last two seasons at Florida. His height is slightly above average at 6’0” but his vertical only scored 31” which is less than impressive. Tabor is in trouble if his scores are the only indication of his production in the future. I don’t think that’s the case here though. Additional strengths include excellent footwork and ability to use his hands effectively. He’s also been known to drop the hammer and deliver huge hits when necessary. There’s no score for these things at the combine but tangibles like them can go a long way in masking other deficiencies.
Teez Tabor 2018 Outlook
I expect Teez Tabor to see a major increase in playing time in 2018. The Lions could potentially lose cornerbacks Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden both in free agency this offseason. Both were used ahead of Tabor and as a second-round pick, the expectation should be that he is ready to step in. New head coach Matt Patricia is known to harp on situational football and has been clear that he wants his scheme to fit the players he has. There are ways to use Tabor without putting him on an island with guys that will outrun him. Putting him in a position to succeed and not asking him to do things he can’t is paramount. I trust Patricia will figure that out.
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