As the NFL Draft nears, certain players begin to gain steam whether it’s because of great workouts, being a small school player who originally went overlooked, or fans and analysts finally catching up to what front offices already know. In some cases, these players sneak into the top-20 picks, after not initially being pegged as such a prospect.
Aside from quarterback and offensive tackle, few positions are as coveted as edge rusher. As the NFL and offensive schemes have evolved, gigantic defensive ends have suddenly been ranked equally among “‘tweeners”, as talented defensive coordinators have found creative ways to use the smaller, speedier guys to maximum efficiency.
Temple linebacker Haason Reddick is one of those players who fits the above-mentioned profiles. After being a do-it-all defender for the Owls, NFL Scouts are clamoring to find ways to use him to his strengths in the NFL. He played on the edge and roamed the field on passing downs in college, and after recording some excellent workout numbers, many have re-evaluated Reddick as a late-first/early-second round pick.
Weight: 230 pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.52
Broad Jump: 11’1”
Projected Round: 1-2
Tackles: 149 career; 65 in 2016
Sacks: 17.5 career; 9.5 in 2016
Tackles For Loss: 47 career; 22.5 in 2016
(Editor’s Note: Our apologies for the NSFW language in the music played in the clip below.)
There is a lot of athleticism for NFL teams to work with when it comes to Reddick, as he was originally a walk-on cornerback the Owls converted to linebacker. When watching him, you can see flashes of a dominant, three-down pass-rusher, but some wonder if he’s best suited for teams that employ a 3-4 defensive system, as a “rover” type of player as an outside linebacker in a more traditional unit.
While many have liked Reddick’s skill set from the get-go, he has really shot up boards as of late. One recent mock by Kristopher Knox at Bleacher Report had Reddick going to the Bengals at No. 9, but most feel as if that’s a slight reach. Still, his mix of being able to play in space, along with the possibility to rush off of the edge on passing downs makes for a quality addition for Cincinnati. After all, the Bengals are in need of three-down linebackers, if they can find them.
If we’re talking about the Marvin Lewis who helped propel the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl win back in 2000, this is precisely the type of player he’d look for. However, Lewis’ Bengals have yet to find that impact “‘tweener” player in the mold of former Raven, Peter Boulware. Would Haason Reddick go the way of Sean Porter or Dontay Moch in Cincinnati, or do his skills provide too high of a ceiling to pass up?
Who the Bengals select in the draft is going to depend on value, need and which players they may be targeting who get selected before they are on the clock. While No. 9 overall may be too high for a player like Reddick, grabbing him in the top of the second, should he somehow fall that far, or even moving back into the first for him, could bring huge dividends.
The team that drafts Reddick might just want to take the leash off and let him be him. He seems to roam the field with ease, has a nose for the football and can get to the quarterback with pretty frequent regularity. But, do you trust the Bengals’ staff to mine out the talent he has, or will his skill set be quelled by a potential pigeonholing of his role with the team?