We continue looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at tight end and right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds.
#7 - Haason Reddick - Linebacker - Temple - 6-1, 237
Games Watched: Memphis, Cincinnati, South Florida
Pros: Light on his feet with excellent agility and change of direction. Very active, pursues extremely well and never gives up on a play, works his way back to the quarterback as a pass-rusher when initially beaten. Spent most of his time in college as an edge rusher although he looked natural dropping into coverage at the Senior Bowl; showed that he has more than enough athleticism and speed to handle backs and tight ends in coverage as a pure linebacker. Only showed flashes of natural coverage ability at Temple but not very often due to his role, confirmed it during Senior Bowl. Very good recognition and instincts in the run game, shows the ability to work through traffic/weave around blockers to get to the ball carrier. Impressive sideline-to-sideline speed as a linebacker and closing speed as a pass-rusher. Even though he is likely to be a pure linebacker in the NFL he showed that he could hold his own in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills vs. linemen at the Senior Bowl. Shows some natural pass-rush ability as far as dipping his shoulder to bend around the corner, as well as some technique (swim move, inside counter move). Natural feel and timing for stunting/blitzing, NFL running backs will have a very difficult time if caught with him 1-on-1 on a blitz. Brings rare pass-rush ability for his projected NFL position (4-3 linebacker). Extremely productive with 35.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks, and 4 FF’s over the last two seasons.
Cons: The obvious concern is that he will be playing a position in the NFL that wasn’t his primary position in college, although he has shown that he has plenty of size/speed/athleticism for it. Based on how he looked at Temple his coverage ability could use some refinement, although he looked extremely natural at the Senior Bowl, which is a testament to how quickly he picked up the responsibilities of the position in a short time. More of a “blitzer” than “pass-rusher”, so if you want to use him as a pure “edge” player you will be disappointed. As a 3-4 OLB his pass-rush technique is raw and unrefined, but as a 4-3 pure linebacker it is very advanced. Will need to improve his tackling technique and become more of a form tackler, misses tackles at times due to reckless/out of control form.
Conclusion: For a time after the Senior Bowl it seemed as if Reddick could be around at 28 but it looks like that went out the window with his absolutely dominant Combine performance. There is very little chance that he makes it to 28 now, although he’s been one of my favorite prospects throughout the entire process so I felt compelled to make him my last prospect profile.
Let’s just pretend for a minute that he does make it to 28 on Thursday night. For me, he’d be a no-brainer BPA pick, and the only guy I would consider over him (that is somewhat within the realm of possibility) is Derek Barnett. He has the look of an explosive three-down linebacker who has the athleticism to hold up in man coverage and the instincts to stuff the run, but what really makes him special is the pass-rush ability that he developed while used as a quasi-defensive end at Temple.
It is rare to find a 4-3 linebacker who can bend the edge, who has developed some level of pass-rush technique, and who is used to going against offensive linemen 1-on-1. He spent most of his days at Temple banging heads with 300+ lb. linemen, so staring down a 220 lb. running back on a blitz should mostly be a breeze.
He certainly will need a creative defensive coordinator who maximizes his versatility, but consider how often Rod Marinelli went with 3-2-6 or 3-3-5 formations last season and brought guys like Barry Church, Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Byron Jones, and Jeff Heath on blitzes from different angles/positions. Now imagine the versatility and advantage you could have with a linebacker with natural coverage skills but also advanced pass-rush ability like Reddick. He is clearly not a conventional edge rusher but he could be a creative solution to the Cowboys’ desire for a more explosive pass-rush.
Not only that but he would also provide insurance for Sean Lee (who will be 31 in a few months) and Jaylon Smith, who nobody really knows exactly how much of his old self he will be, or for how long.
And if all three can stay on the field?
Well, having three linebackers, any of whom can cover or be significant threats as blitzers would be an immense advantage in nickel/dime packages.
Linebacker clearly isn’t a huge need but Reddick would be too good of a prospect for me to pass up, and I think he could actually be more of a solution to the need for a more dynamic pass-rush than first meets the eye.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.