The Arizona Cardinals Are a Perfect Fit for Haason Reddick
There’s arguably been no player who’s helped his case more in the pre-draft process than Temple’s Haason Reddick.
Before the Senior Bowl, he was valued somewhere in the top 50, but when he impressed at practice there with a move to linebacker, he started to get mentioned in the bottom of the first round. He then killed the Combine and meetings with teams, so he shot up even higher. Now, here he is, the 13th pick of the first round, and the first linebacker taken.
Most know Reddick’s story by now, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. He came to Temple as a walk-on defensive back before getting moved up to the defensive line. He eventually earned a scholarship and a single-digit number -- a sign of the team’s toughest players -- and was third in the NCAA with 22.5 tackles for loss during his senior season.
At 237 pounds, Reddick is just in the 18th percentile of edge rushers for weight, so he’s unlikely to fill that role full-time, but he makes up for it with freakish athleticism, ranking fourth among edge rushers invited to the combine in SPARQ.
He’s more likely to play as a linebacker who can rush on passing downs, and with his experience as a defensive back -- he also played safety in high school -- he has the ability to keep up in coverage. Picture him in a Jamie Collins-type role. That’s where he’s going to excel.
Reddick might be the most versatile defensive player in this draft and he's going to a team in the Arizona Cardinals that covets versatility more than any other team.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Reddick has a quick first step, allowing him to get to the quarterback when he’s on the line. Because of his size, he does need that athleticism to take on some offensive tackles, but he didn’t just luck into those 22.5 tackles for loss. It would be difficult to be a menace in the backfield while getting pushed around. Reddick wasn’t.
On the play below against Memphis, he blew past the right tackle -- and even disrupted the route of the wide receiver in motion -- to get a quick sack on first down.
Later in the same game, he showed off his athleticism and ability to make plays in the run game. Memphis tried to run a jet sweep away from Reddick, who was lined up as the right defensive end. The idea was nice, but the execution didn’t really matter. He fought his way through the line, crossed the field, and made the tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Reddick did have some experience as a linebacker before making the shift in Senior Bowl practices, though he was most often on the line of scrimmage for Temple.
However, when asked to drop back into coverage, there were some good results. Pro Football Focus had him charted with 8 receptions allowed on 22 passes (36.6 percent) for just 99 yards (4.5 yards per pass) in 2016. His former work as a defensive back is easy to see, like his interception against Navy in the AAC Championship Game.
The concern for Reddick is his size -- he was blocked out of some plays by bigger linemen, but if he’s playing more off the ball, that shouldn’t be as much of an issue. There’s some projection involved with his move to linebacker, but nothing he’s going to be asked to do will be too foreign to him.
Staying in Red
Arizona doesn't exactly need help on defense. They were sixth by Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points per play, ninth against the pass and sixth against the run. But they lost Kevin Minter in the middle of the defense during free agency, and their current inside linebacker, Karlos Dansby, is going to be 36 years old in November.
The Cardinals have one of the most creative defenses in the league and there might not be a team more equipped to take advantage of the different skills Reddick can bring to the field. Among the best fits so far in the first round, this is near the top.