Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid is one of two players from lower-level competition taken by the Detroit Lions in the 2014 NFL draft, along with Larry Webster from Bloomsburg. The Lions selected the decorated Tiger in the fifth round, 158th overall.
Reid gets the nod for more intriguing because he's much more likely to make a contribution in 2015. While Webster is an extremely raw athletic prospect—much more of one than Chris Greenwood was coming out of Albion—destined for the practice squad for at least a year, Reid has viable NFL skills that will allow him to contribute right away.
The first thing you notice about Reid is his build. He's powerfully built with well-muscled arms and wide, broad shoulders. At the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Reid measured in at 6'2" and 302 pounds, per NFL.com. He wears the weight well, not sloppy like Nick Fairley's tubby midsection.
His quickness off the snap was his calling card at Princeton. Reid could win right away against Ivy League competition with a strong first step that consistently allowed him to seize leverage and dictate the action to the blockers.
Here's a play from the Cornell game that exemplifies his burst and ability to get to the quarterback.
Of course, he doesn't finish the play, but Reid disrupting the timing and spacing on the play creates a sack for a teammate. Note that he's lined up at left end here, where his quickness should be less of an attribute in facing a tackle instead of a guard.
Reid also flashes impressive athleticism for a 6'2", 302-pound man in this play, making a lunging interception off a batted ball:
His alertness here is a trait that pervades Reid's game tapes. He's very aware of the ball and the play going on around him.
Then again, he did go to Princeton. It should be no surprise that he's intelligent. Reid is also an accomplished singer and musician, as described in this nice feature from Zach Schonbrun of The New York Times.
After years of dealing with questionable characters, the Lions will not have to worry about Reid being pulled over for driving drunk or with weed in his car, or charged with assault and a DUI, or passed out in a suburban restaurant (h/t ESPN for those humiliating arrests of Nick Fairley, Aaron Berry and Charles Rogers, respectively).
Yet the Lions need more than just a solid citizen. They need a guy who can readily contribute to the defensive line rotation behind Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. It's also important that this player has legitimate upside to potentially start, because those two starters, as well as top reserve tackle C.J. Mosley, are all entering the final year of their contracts.
Reid has that upside...potentially. The Bleacher Report draft team certainly thinks so, as evidenced by this video:
Its portrayal is a best-case scenario. It's entirely possible that Reid emerges as a quality starter with positional versatility along the defensive line in a year or two.
That seems to be Mike Mayock's opinion as well. Here's his quip on Reid from NFL.com:
Think Brandon Mebane, the three-technique in Seattle. Princeton plays play a 3-4, so he's a bit out of position in the NFL. There is some quickness and speed in Reid; you draw up a three-technique and this is what it looks like. Give him some time and he can become an impact player.
Yet in watching some of his games at Draft Breakdown, there are less highlights than expected. Reid consistently demonstrates good awareness and superior athleticism to his FCS-level foes, but he's not physically manhandling them very often.
Even in the Cornell game that produced the highlights above, those are cherry-picked from what was otherwise a fairly humdrum outing. He faced many double-teams to be sure, but on most plays, he wound up getting off the blocker(s) a count later than necessary to make the play.
His talent is evident, but it's not eye-popping. Instead of having the upside of a Fairley or a Jurrell Casey (10.5 sacks for the Tennessee Titans in 2013), Reid's NFL fate appears more like a solid starter and 4-7-sacks-per-season tackle. Chris Jones of the New England Patriots is a good example from the video below.
As Matt Miller notes in the video, it's a big jump from the Ivy League to the NFL. Getting added exposure in postseason games was critical for the Bronx, New York, native.
During Shrine Game and Senior Bowl practices, which I attended, Reid occasionally flashed but wasn't dominant. Other than a nifty swim move and relentless energy, he didn't show much of a pass-rushing arsenal. His old Princeton teammate, Mike Catapano, a seventh-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, stood out more in St. Petersburg, Florida, during Shrine practices a year earlier.
Yet Reid has athletic tools that Catapano does not. His long arms and powerful build are paired with good quickness and agility, especially for a man of his size. Reid can jolt blockers backward with his initial surge, which portends well for playing inside the trenches.
He needs to be in attack mode to make that work, however. One of the things that are pretty easy to see from game tape and practice sessions is that while Reid has good drive going forward, he's not very adept at planting and holding his ground. He's no anchor, not even on the edge as a 5- or 6-technique end.
That's part of the reason why Reid fell to the fifth round. So is his Ivy League background a rare instance where those prestigious institutions are considered a career-path disadvantage?
Detroit will give him every chance to prove he should have been drafted higher. The body is there, and the mind is there. Give Reid some sound coaching, and there's no reason he cannot become a valuable member of the Lions defensive core going forward.