Masterful Combine Performance Solidifies Haason Reddick as NFL Draft's Top LB

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMarch 6, 2017

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 28: Temple Linebacker Haason Reddick #57 of the North Team during the 2017 Resse's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 28, 2017 in Mobile, Alabama. The South defeated the North 16-15. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

During Myles Garrett's anointing Sunday as this year's top draft prospect, Temple's Haason Reddick established himself as the premier linebacker in the class.

Every young man about to enter the NFL ranks beat the odds, but some come from much further behind than others who seemed destined for this opportunity.

The dichotomy between Garrett and Reddick couldn't be more pronounced, even though the two were the best athletes on the field during defensive line drills at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Garrett chose Texas A&M as a consensus top-three recruit. On the other end of the spectrum, Reddick experienced a slow ascent to elite status.

The New Jersey native didn't receive a single scholarship offer in high school. Instead, he walked on to Temple's football program.

The prep running back/safety redshirted as a freshman before converting to linebacker and eventually earning a start at defensive end before the 2013 campaign came to a close.

Even so, Reddick's father, Raymond Williams, told the Associated Press' Ralph D. Russo his son considered quitting multiple times so he wouldn't be a burden on his family.

Instead, as NFL Network's Colleen Wolfe relayed, his mother showed unwavering support for her son:

After becoming a scholarship player, Reddick terrorized opponents. Now a full-time defensive end, he registered a combined 35 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles during his final two seasons on campus. His 22.5 tackles for loss in 2016 tied for third-best at the FBS level.

However, his body type doesn't lend to being an every-down NFL edge defender. At the Reese's Senior Bowl, the Temple product transitioned back to linebacker and excelled.

As a former defensive back, no one should have been surprised when Reddick moved so well in space. Yet his change of direction in coverage, run fits and added physicality against backs made him look like a complete linebacker.

According to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, Reddick "clearly generated the most buzz in personnel circles following an outstanding week of a practice."

The edge-rusher dropped into space 14.2 percent of the time in 2016, per Pro Football Focus. Reddick displayed the instincts in his drop to quickly recognize the play as it unfolded in front of him and drive on the football. Draft Breakdown's Dan Dahlke provided an example from Temple's Oct. 6 contest against the Memphis Tigers:

What's even more impressive is the fact Reddick dropped into the hook zone, worked his way through a block and made the tackle for the least available yardage.

Reddick is a long and well-sculpted athlete, but Temple listed him at 230 pounds. He added seven pounds in time for the Senior Bowl and the combine.

NFL organizations aren't asking him to gain any more weight, per Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko:

In Indianapolis, the first team All-American Athletic Conference performer continued to work with defensive linemen, but his off-the-charts athleticism lends well to his upcoming transition.

Reddick finished among the top three at his position group in three events: the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump. A couple of those efforts placed him in rare company.

The Temple product's 11'1" broad jump is the longest ever recorded by a defensive lineman since the NFL started to post the numbers in 2003, per NFL Research:



While Garrett's 4.64-second 40-yard dash drew plenty of praise, Reddick's 4.52-second effort led all defensive line prospects.

In fact, his time was the fourth-best in the last 11 years, per College Football 24/7:

If not for Jabrill Peppers—another out-of-position prospect in Indianapolis—Reddick's run would have been the fastest among all of the linebackers too.

His physical skill set resembles those of Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers' starting duo serves as an important comparison because it shows Reddick can develop into a top-notch off-the-ball linebacker.

Combine performances: Haason Reddick v. Steelers LBs
Player40-yard dashBenchVerticalBroad3-coneShort shuttle
Reddick4.522436.5"11'1"7.014.37
Shazier4.38*2542"10'10"6.914.21
Timmons4.702535"10'3"6.894.32
NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com (*Pro Day)

Teams may draft Reddick in the first round with the intention to move him to inside linebacker or 4-3 outside linebacker.

His next coaching staff can still utilize Reddick's ability to rush the passer in defensive sub-packages, but his workout and previous performance at the Senior Bowl provide options.

The young man left Indianapolis with the knowledge he obliterated the process:

More importantly, the defender provided a near-flawless position workout.

Reddick moved lithely throughout the drills like an apex predator stalking its prey. Once a handful of defensive linemen were asked to participate in linebacker workouts, Reddick found himself in his element. His ability to open his hips and turn in coverage looked better than some defensive backs.

Prior to the offseason, Reddick was considered a potential Day 2 selection, though he continues to prove doubters wrong with each outstanding performance.

His ascent also comes on the heels of Reuben Foster's disastrous combine experience.

Throughout the draft process, the reigning Butkus Award winner was considered the top linebacker prospect and a top-10 talent. Recent events may change his standing, though.

Combine officials dismissed Foster from the event after he got into a heated discussion with a hospital worker. The process is long and tiresome, but each prospect is evaluated in everything he does.

Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster
Alabama linebacker Reuben FosterDavid Goldman/Associated Press/Associated Press

Even before the recent incident, concerns arose about Foster's long-term health. The linebacker wasn't going to participate in this weekend's workout due to a torn rotator cuff that required offseason surgery, per ESPN's Adam Caplan.

At just 229 pounds with shoulder concerns, can Foster hold up against the NFL's level of physicality over multiple seasons? It's a fair question for organizations to ask.

Instead, a more athletic and healthier option exists with added pass-rush skills in Reddick. As a result, the former walk-on is now in position to become a potential top-15 selection.

Garrett remains an elite talent, and it won't take long for his name to be called once the NFL draft begins April 27. The difference for Reddick is he won't have to wait much longer before he proves he belongs.

As Reddick said, per Russo: "I always knew that I had the talent, always knew I could get here, always thought the NFL was possible for me."

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.

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