Welcome to "Better Know A Prospect", where we use the power of the Internet to get a closer look at players who have been connected to Green Bay in terms of the upcoming draft.
This entry, we focus on Arizona DE/LB Brooks Reed. Reed, a 6'3" 260 lb. hybrid defender, played primarily on the right side of the defensive line for the Wildcats. Over his four year college career, he amassed 107 tackles and 17 sacks.
Coming off a season where Packer defenders not named Matthews struggled to produce a pass rush, it's safe to assume that the team is looking to upgrade this area in the draft. Brooks Reed has gotten some decent publicity on this blog, as seen here, here, and here. But is he a realistic pick? And if so, how well will he fit with the team?
YouTube has it, and we can all enjoy it below.
At first glance, the comparisons start rolling in. Big, blonde, and brutal against blockers, he reminds me an awful lot of Clay Matthews. But that's just the image, what about the plays?
At 0:13, he simply runs around the LT and swallows up the QB for the sack. I don't know how this is a result of anything other than a terrible lunge by the lineman, but it shows how quickly Reed can accelerate around a corner to get into the pocket.
At 0:33, he runs through a half-hearted block by the RB to get another. Again, terrible blocking, but you have to have a high motor to power through another person like that. The motor shows up (as does the awful blitz pickup by the running back) again at 0:55.
At 1:17, we see what I value most in a pass-rushing linebacker: hand skills. Here, Reed disengages from the tackle by simply knocking his fists through the blocker's forearms, creating the separation he needs to get momentum into the sack.
At 1:41 and 1:50, you see his ability to diagnose plays and a) pursue the ball carrier laterally or b) see through the play action and get the QB anyway. This is an especially important part of Reed's game; if his football IQ was lower, he would not be as effective playing on the defense's right side.
At 2:05, Reed shows off his ability to get leverage by going low and ripping through the UCLA tackle. This is a go-to move for NFL pass rushers, especially against the towers that play LT in the pros. The forced fumble is icing on the cake, of course, but turnovers are as valuable a commodity on defense as anything.
Finally, at 2:53, we can see Reed's ability to simultaneously engage his blocker while watching another offensive player. Here, he's able to push off when he see's the QB step up in the pocket, and makes a beeline to tackle him before crossing the line of scrimmage. And once again, the forced fumble is gravy, whether it's recovered by the offense or not.
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Going through the film notes again, the Clay Matthews comparisons still seem appropriate. Reed is a tough, instinctive defender that has a knack for getting to the quarterback, which is exactly the kind of player the Green Bay defense could use opposite Claymaker.
There are a few questions, though, that need further examination. At 263 lbs, he's 20 pounds heavier than Matthews was coming out of college. Will he need to shed weight to gain speed to compete at the NFL? Or will losing any mass at all hurt his overall strength? Also, his college production isn't otherworldly, making it possible that he was able to rack up stats against bad blockers on struggling teams. An alternate explanation could be that he's simply a late-bloomer athletically (once again, just like Clay), and that he's starting to enter his physical prime right now.
But here's my biggest question: is he going to provide more than an average player at his position? Last season, the ROLB spot was manned by Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Eric Walden, and probably a few other guys during Injurypalooza 2010. Between the three of them, they managed to put up slightly below average sack totals, and were adequate against the run and in coverage. Is it worth using your first pick on a player who will simply combine three-plus persons' worth of production into one roster spot? Or do you want him to eventually do more?
With the right coaching, I actually think Reed has a shot at being a good pass rusher. He won't ever lead the league in sacks, but he'll have a few double-digit years. Lucky for Green Bay, there are few OLB coaches better than Kevin Greene. This circumstance makes Reed a safe pick in my book, and he projects to develop into a solid bookend for Clay Matthews.
That said, my fear is that another team sees the same Clay Matthews similarities and takes Reed in the mid-20s, even though I doubt he'll develop as much in any other system (save perhaps Pittsburgh). Thompson will almost certainly not trade up again for a linebacker after doing it two years ago, as the other needs on the roster (DE and OT) are just as pressing. If his stock stays right where it's at, then the Packers can consider him with the 32nd overall pick. If he keeps rising, though, the team will have to make a serious choice regarding how seriously to target Reed.