Brooks Reed: Not A Household Name…Yet
Every year around February or March, a player rises from virtual anonymity and works his way into the first round mix of the NFL Draft. It becomes clear that fans at home were sleeping on an NFL caliber talent early in the process. In 2009 it was Clay Matthews that started an ascension up the boards after the season, in 2010 it was California’s Tyson Alualu. Who in the 2011 class will shock fans and draftniks by going higher than projected? I introduce to you: Arizona defensive end/linebacker Brooks Reed.
In college, Reed functioned as defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He enjoyed success throughout his career at Arizona as a speed rusher off the right side; however, at 6’2 ½ 257, he lacks the size necessary to hold down a starting end spot at the next level. For many players, the size and speed jump in the NFL can mean the end of their football career. For Reed, it may allow him to finally blossom on the field. At the Senior Bowl last month, he worked with coaches on standing up and playing Linebacker. By all accounts, he was remarkably comfortable in space, displaying tremendous fluidity for his size. There is little doubt as to which position he will be making his money at in the pros. Since his outstanding week in Mobile, Reed’s been flying up boards all over the place and many seem to be noticing his tremendous upside as a rush-backer in a 3-4 front.
If you were under the impression that the Senior Bowl was the last pre-draft event for Reed to really shine and make a name for himself, then think again. Expect him to turn in some of the more remarkable numbers for a player of his size at the upcoming NFL Combine. His speed and burst are very evident on tape, leading me to believe he’ll run the 40 much faster than many expect. His athleticism should really stand out in the Defensive Linemen group in position drills as well as tests such as: the 3-cone drill, short shuttle, long shuttle, and broad jump. He also possesses excellent weight-room strength and should put up an impressive number in the bench press. At the end of the day I expect him to really stand out in Indianapolis and continue his meteoric rise up draft boards.
On the field, Brooks Reed is a relentless worker with a lot of energy. He plays to the whistle every down and shows stamina late in games. He works hard at the line of scrimmage to disengage from blocks and gives his all in pursuit. As a pass-rusher, he’s far from polished but he does have a variety of moves to get into the backfield. The one move that stands out on tape is his spin-move, which is extremely quick and proved to be very effective from his college end spot. When he can’t use his hands or inside moves to beat blockers, Reed can rely on sheer speed. His first-step is excellent and he possesses the speed to blow by slow-footed linemen. This ability to get after the Quarterback and his fluidity in space make him very appealing as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
To be a successful pro, Reed must learn the nuances of NFL coverage schemes. While this can take time for some college ends making the transition to linebacker, he has the raw ability to learn fast. His fluidity in his hips and hamstrings improved by leaps & bounds with the help of coaches at Arizona and he’s clearly a very coachable player. The responsibilities of his new position, however, will be largely similar to those that he’s used to. In a 3-4, outside linebackers must set the edge and get after the Quarterback. Luckily for Reed and the team that drafts him, he does both at a high level. Also of note, the team that invests a pick on him will be getting a great locker-room guy with high character. There is a small injury history in his career, as he missed three games in 2009 due to an ankle injury after struggling through some back issues prior to the season.
Ultimately, the sky could be the limit on draft day. Right now many are projecting him anywhere from the late second to fourth round, but I disagree. By April, I think Reed will have worked his way into the late first round mix. The teams that are likely to give him that kind of early consideration will run 3-4 defenses, with the intent being to play him at linebacker. He is sometimes compared to Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews due to his hair, but the comparison may go deeper. In just a couple years, like Matthews, Reed could be one of the more feared rush-backers in the game. You can expect the rest of the draft community to come around in the coming weeks as a big rise is in store for this intriguing prospect.