Many linebackers have been linked to the Detroit Lions in the first round up until this point: Zach Cunningham, Raekwon McMillan, Jarrad Davis, Ryan Anderson, Takkarist McKinley, you name it. But there is one name that hasn’t shown up once, and has not gotten the recognition that he deserves until recently. I’m talking about Temple linebacker, Haason Reddick.
Reddick was criminally misused on defense with the Owls, playing most of his snaps with his hand in the dirt as an edge rusher. While he did an okay job in this role and managed to tally 9.5 sacks as a senior, he’s consistently giving up a full 70 pounds against opposing tackles and simply doesn’t have the frame to match up on a snap-by-snap basis.
Throughout Senior Bowl week, Reddick earned praise for his versatility and positive attitude when taking on a role change. His skillset was put to better use during this time and earned most of his reps as an off-ball linebacker, which is where he should spend most of his time at the next level. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock had nothing but positive things to say about Reddick’s switch:
He [Reddick] had a really impressive week. He was a hand-in-the-dirt 4-3 defensive end with a lot of sack production at Temple, but down here they asked him to stand up and play two different positions, and every day he got better. And his attitude about the switch was terrific; I got a kick out of how he embraced it. The last two days of practice, I don't think he lost a rep. He bounced around and made plays all week. At 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, most see him as a tweener, but I think he showed versatility. I came into the week wondering what he would be at the next level, and at the end of the practice sessions I left thinking he could be an inside linebacker in a 3-4, an inside linebacker in a 4-3, and an occasional edge rusher. Bottom line: He showed he can do a bunch of things and do them well. He might not have to come off the field.
Just like Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham, Reddick is an outstanding athlete, although he isn’t quite as bulky as Cunningham. Reddick’s flexibility is remarkable for a linebacker, and his ability to react and change directions on a dime makes him a special talent. Reddick is arguably the best athlete in this year’s linebacker class, and I would be shocked if he doesn’t prove so at this year’s combine.
If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past few or so months, then you know how I feel about the Lions’ current situation at linebacker (Hint: they’re slow as heck). Tell em’ what we need, Mick.
Reddick has proven that he can make plays all over the field. He’ll need to work on his technique as well as finishing more plays at the next level, but most importantly, he can put himself in position to make plays that others cannot.
Though he hasn’t spent a ton of time as a coverage linebacker just yet, Reddick has shown flashes that he can become a legitimate coverage linebacker in the pros. His plus-instincts and closing speed give him a huge edge as a prospect, and so far, he’s done a nice job of showing that he’s a quick learner. His experience as a pass rusher is also a huge plus, as he exhibits good-enough bend around the edge and is able to weave his way through bodies to get to the QB on twists and inside blitzes.
An obvious concern with Reddick is his lack of experience as an off-ball linebacker, but he should have put most of those concerns to rest after Senior Bowl practices. Still, Reddick far from polished. He is clearly not a full-time pass rusher at the next level, that much is clear, but even as an off-ball linebacker, he’ll need to work on shedding blocks and timing when disengaging.
Reddick can put himself in position to make plays that virtually no other linebacker can make, but he has to do a better job of finishing as a tackler. I saw plenty of dives at the ankles and a few poor angles taken on his way to the ball carrier. He’ll have to clean some of that up if he wants to start right away.
After an impressive showing during Senior Bowl week, Haason Reddick is seeing his name rise up the draft boards and should be a household name fairly soon. Following the combine, I expect to see his name on virtually every first-round mock and don’t be surprised if he’s linked to the Detroit Lions at 21st overall. He has the sideline-to-sideline speed that Teryl Austin desperately needs at linebacker.
As a former defensive back and edge rusher, Reddick knows what it’s like to play at all levels of a defense and has the instincts and versatility to make plays all over the field. He will be used best at the next level as an off-ball linebacker and could play 4-3 or 3-4 ILB, as well as 4-3 WILL.