Princeton's Caraun Reid is a really intriguing NFL draft prospect, if only because the esteemed Ivy League University is not exactly known for churning out pro-caliber prospects.
I have already done a few scouting reports on some big names (Johnny Manziel, Eric Ebron, Shayne Skov), but now I'm going to switch gears a little bit and do a series on a few small-school players who have a chance to surprise some people and be good NFL players.
Because most of these prospects will be virtually unknowns, these breakdowns will be just as much about the player and his background as it will be about actually analyzing his film.
Reid is a dynamic interior defensive lineman who has been really impressing some people at the Senior Bowl this week.
Let's take a look and find out what makes him such a good prospect.
This article goes into further detail about Reid's personal history, but I'll try to summarize some of the key points that encompass his interesting background. Reid was born in the Bronx to a pastor father and minister mother.
He did not begin playing football until high school, when he began as a freshman at Mount St. Michael Academy. By his senior year, there were several Ivy League schools inquiring about his services.
Reid chose Princeton and has really immersed himself in a variety of school activities. He's part of an a cappella group on campus (and has an incredible voice) and is also on the executive board of the school's Christian Faith in Action group.
When he pulled out of school for a semester to preserve his eligibility, Reid took a job as a student aide at Princeton Day School's Lower School. Clearly, he's an interesting, intelligent, and well-rounded person.
But on top of all that, Reid is a football player. And a pretty darn good one.
Good enough that, despite playing against relatively weak competition at one of the world's most rigorous academic institutions, he became the second Princeton player ever to be invited to the Senior Bowl and is considered a potential mid-round pick in May's draft.
Why is Reid being considered an NFL prospect? Let's take a look at what makes this defensive tackle so special on the field.
One of the big perks of playing in the Senior Bowl is the weigh-in and measurement process. Even though this happens again at the combine, the Senior Bowl events can give players some time to adjust themselves and try to cover their weaknesses while using their strengths that show up on the scale and/or ruler.
Just a few days ago, we got a look at how big Reid actually is. He measured in at 6'2 1/8", 301 pounds and apparently looked really stout and well-built for a 300-plus pound guy.
He also had 32 5/8" long arms, which is more than adequate, especially for a guy who is only about 6'2".
This is exactly the kind of frame that teams would have been hoping to see, and while it doesn't sway his draft stock dramatically, it certainly gave him another check mark on scouts' reports.
Reid utilizes this frame to be destructive in defending both the pass and run.
Reid is a force up the middle. He isn't big enough and does not play like a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, but relies a little more on finesse, hand technique and sheer determination.
There's a lot of promise in Reid's ability to stuff the run despite him not being an enormous, immovable hole-filler like many NFL defensive tackles are.
Reid consistently shows the ability to diagnose a play and figure out his best point of attack. From that point, he uses great leverage and violent hands to win position and make the stop.
One flaw is that he at times can be slow off the snap and therefore doesn't get any push into the backfield. This is a correctable issue, however, and is not prevalent enough to be an extreme concern.
Reid's ability to stuff the middle is particularly impressive because of his lack of bulk.
On this play, he drives the guard into the middle of the field, keeping his eyes in the backfield, and then sheds the blocker right as he meets the running back.
Reid is strong enough to be able to absorb that contact and then hold his ground to help make the tackle, which isn't surprising given the impressive physique he showed at the Senior Bowl weigh-in.
He isn't overly consistent against the run, however, and we have to keep in mind that these offensive linemen he's facing are a lot smaller (and just not as good) as the guys in the NFL. But he still seems to have a lot of the fundamentals and abilities that teams look for in a defensive tackle.
So while he isn't perfect against the run, he's certainly adequate. But Reid's biggest asset is really his ability to rush the quarterback.
Reid thrives when he's given the green light to get into the backfield and disrupt the passer. He's an absolute terror who utilizes a number of different moves to beat his blockers.
This talent has helped him be a three-time All-Ivy League selection and rack up 20.5 sacks over his collegiate career. There are a number of ways Reid makes an impact in the passing game.
On some plays, Reid is able to just get a great jump off the snap, use his strong lower body and bull rush. This works especially well when he lines up against a tackle.
While he does have the capability to use a traditional bull rush, where he gets underneath his blocker, stays low and churns his legs to drive the blocker backwards, Reid is also explosive enough to use a unique type of punch that helps him create separation.
On this play, Reid literally just shoves the tackle backwards and then showcases his athleticism (more on that later) to get after the quarterback.
His tenacity, along with his natural physical ability, is impressive. He also seems to have good awareness and knows when to employ certain moves and how to be as disruptive as possible.
His most effective move might be a type of rip to the inside, when he turns his outside shoulder in and bends through the inside of the offensive lineman.
These two plays show this move, one that Reid should try to develop and use even more in the NFL.
When he executes it correctly, he has the quickness, hands and strength to get in and take a direct route to the quarterback. It's especially effective when he sees a hole and can catch the offensive lineman a bit off balance, which happens in that first play.
There are other plays, like this one below, that showcase Reid's explosiveness out of his stance, as well as his determination to get to the quarterback.
Reid gets going in a hurry, literally just bounces the running back off him and then closes in on the quarterback before the poor guy even knows what happened.
It's plays like these that will make NFL teams really intrigued. That's the type of quickness and athleticism that cannot be taught.
I don't think Reid gets enough credit for his ability to simply make plays. He isn't huge, doesn't have elite quickness or strength yet is able to sniff out opportunities and make the most of them.
Some of that ability comes from good awareness and an even better motor. Plays like this show Reid's relentless pursuit of the ball.
Reid starts off in pass-rush mode, diagnoses the screen, changes direction, sheds a blocker and then makes a great tackle on the running back.
This combination of awareness, perseverance and quickness is on display throughout the game. This play is similar to the previous pass-rushing snap in which he gets a big push on the ball, but this one is even more impressive.
Not only does he drive the blocker (a guard this time) backwards with one big push, but then in the same motion gets his legs churning at the right angle to pursue the quarterback.
While it's not a necessarily useful statistic on its own, seven blocked kicks shows Reid's explosiveness and ability to penetrate. More than just being a high number, it shows that Reid has some raw strength and the ability to use leverage to get near the holder quickly and get his hands up to block the kick.
Watch both of these two kicks (on successive plays) and marvel at Reid's sheer determination and power.
While Reid's tape is impressive overall, perhaps no three consecutive plays encompasses his upside as a prospect as thoroughly as these three do.
In this game against Brown in 2012, Reid was an absolute animal and wreaked havoc on the offense all game. These three plays show three different facets of Reid's game and offer a good synopsis of what he can do.
On the first play, Reid uses flat-out quickness to get around the left tackle and hurry the quarterback.
On the second play, Reid uses a variation of that punch, bull-rush move I mentioned earlier and then turns it up a gear and pursues the quarterback to make the play.
On the final one, Reid hurries the quarterback again, this time using great hand technique and then maintaining leverage while driving the lineman backwards into his own quarterback.
Reid is undoubtedly a fine prospect, but where will he end up? That's a difficult question to answer, and the next few months will better determine teams who might be interested in him.
Reid is versatile enough to play either defensive end in a 3-4 or as a defensive tackle in a 4-3. I think he's better suited as a 3-4 DE, however, and that's where he did most of his damage in college.
NFL teams will be enamored by Reid's pedigree. His Princeton degree and well-rounded, humble background will make him a hit at interviews. But it won't necessarily boost his stock as much as it will just prevent him from falling, which can happen to players with off-the-field issues.
Teams will also like his physique, and he has apparently played well at the Senior Bowl. He will also have to be impressive at the combine, because although "tape don't lie," people will definitely question the competition Reid faced in the Ivy League.
In the end, I think there's definitely a little risk in taking Reid because of his lack of experience against top college players. But he seems like the kind of person and player who will work hard and do whatever it takes to develop into an NFL defensive lineman.
Reid will never be an elite difference-maker, but if a team is patient with him he could become a regular starter. Unless he has a really bad combine (which I don't anticipate), I think he'll be a fringe top-100 prospect and deserves a fourth-round grade.