Haason Reddick: Defensive End/Linebacker, Temple
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 237 LBS
40 Time: 4.52
Vertical Jump: 36.5″
If you wanted to keep it simple you could sum up Reddick’s strengths in a single word: athleticism. Reddick is an absolutely awesome athlete who combines strength, with speed, balance, and a natural aggression as a pass rusher that makes him an absolute terror to try to block. He combines strength that seems to defy his frame, a burst off the line that shows on tape that his vertical leap and 40 time are in no way wasted, and fluid movement that brings it all together. That last part is really the most important to me. Lots of guys do tons of reps on the bench, jump high, run fast in shorts, and then get out on the field and can’t do anything with it. Reddick doesn’t have that problem. He’s fluid moving side to side, shifting his weight, and attacking downhill (he’s ALWAYS attacking). Some of that comes as a result of his history as a defensive back, yes, in case you didn’t know Reddick was originally a defensive back in college who grew into an edge rusher. He’s actually similar to Obum Gwacham as far as the athleticism defining his ceiling aspect is concerned, the difference is that while Gwacham still needs to figure out who he is as a player and how to play along the line…Reddick is already there.
He does need to continue to develop his technique (like virtually every player coming out of college), but his combination of tenacity and talent will almost definitely translate to being a productive pass rusher at the NFL level. Where he really starts to become valuable, and why I’m quickly getting more and more in favor of the Saints taking him is his ability to play multiple positions. Reddick is a legitimate pass rushing prospect, which means he helps to fill the Saints single biggest need. However, he isn’t just limited to rushing the passer (if he were I would still say just draft Barnett who is about even as a pass rusher), Reddick has the fluidity to be able to play in coverage and can play a hybrid linebacker role. The Saints, like almost every team in the league, use both 3-4 and 4-3 alignments and concepts in their defense, and Dennis Allen likes to be hyper-aggressive. Getting a player who worst case is a phenomenal athlete who can be a speed rusher, and best case can be an X-factor for your defense is exactly the type of move you want to make in the first round. Reddick has absolutely awesome tools, but more importantly he’s shown enough polish and production in roles similar to what he would be asked to do in New Orleans that his appeal is very, very high.
Some of Haason Reddick’s weaknesses are entirely dependent on how he is used and what position he is playing. At 237 pounds he’s extremely light for a defensive end (Vic Beasely is around the same weight though). He’s likely to be vulnerable against the run and to at times get totally swallowed by the larger stronger tackles in the NFL. If he’s played as a linebacker his over-aggressiveness will be his greatest strength, and also his greatest weakness because he will just as often put himself out of position as in position. He’s also got extremely limited experience playing linebacker and depending on how much of a true hybrid role they put him in, he could have an enormous learning curb coming into the league. Talent is great, and Reddick’s is game breaking, but talent alone won’t equal production at the NFL level, and the Saints don’t have enough established quality players around him to allow the coaching staff (assuming they can) to scheme away his flaws until he develops. As a pass rusher he has surprising strength that goes along with his excellent athleticism and I’m comfortable with him there, but if he’s to be maximized he will need to be placed in a hybrid role that I’m not totally sure he’s ready for.
The perfect fit for Reddick is interestingly enough the exact role the Saints put Ellerbe in last year. Sometimes covering, sometimes acting as a ball seeking missile, and frequently rushing the passer as an extra rusher or even the end. That’s the exact role I would envision or Reddick, especially as a rookie and the Saints have already built it into their defense. That role would not only give the Saints the opportunity to maximize Reddick as he fully develops, but also gives them an X-factor playmaker on defense that has to be accounted for, something they desperately need.
Beyond the position Reddick is a very passionate player who plays with passion, tenacity, and intelligence. This makes him an ideal locker room fit as well which needs to remain a priority. Reddick’s athleticism and versatility give him an opportunity to be a major playmaker for the defense sooner rather than later, and because he has both a natural fit in a role they already use and the tools to execute his floor becomes higher. The greatest concern fans have with hyper-athletic players who are undersized is that the Saints coaching staff won’t know what to do with them, but with an ideal role already in existence that’s much less of a concern. Reddick won’t be the perfect player, and there are physical and technical flaws that need to be worked on, but even just as he is now he could walk in the door and be a major asset to a Saints defense that sorely needs them.