I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.
Every game this season, Alabama opponents decided to call run plays an average of 31 times. The average yield from that commitment was a comical total of just 75 yards per game or 2.4 yards per carry. It led the country with ease and was the best mark of any college defense in the last 5 years - since Alabama 2011 did even better with 72.1 yards against per game (beating Alabama 2012). In other words, the 3 best seasons that have been put up against college football in the last 5 years are Alabama, Alabama, and Alabama. Nick Saban and company seem to have a pretty strong grasp about stopping the run.
Reed was right in the middle of it. He is a wonderful run-stuffer who stands his ground at that 1-technique and clogs up at any attempt at interior runs. He has elite talent all around him and they are all very good at stopping runs, but Reed, in particular, sticks out at building a wall at the line of scrimmage and regardless of your double-team, seems to factor in on any and all plays that surround him. The former junior college prospect stepped right in and joined A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen with Reggie Ragland behind them as a force that seldom budged an inch.
Then came the national title game. There were 2 moments that demonstrated in the game against Clemson what they were all about. The first was when Robinson and Reed were lined up as lead blockers at 310+ each providing 620+ pounds of lead fullbacks on a goal-line run play. The second was when DeShaun Watson broke to the sideline on a 2-point conversion and appeared to have a path to the end zone. Reed - all 313 of him - rumbled down the line and cut Watson off at the pass right inside the sideline. The next several minutes featured the football world marveling at how a defensive tackle could be that athletic. It was a rare feat for a man his size. Then, he was one of the main stories of the Senior Bowl. I used LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, and Clemson for the study.
What I liked:There is no question what he does well. He gets his hands up on his lineman with great speed at the snap and then controls the man in front of him by extending the arms and waiting for the play to come to him. He seldom gets pushed back and stands his ground, often holding up any OL progress and still getting an arm on the tackle. He moves up and down the Alabama line, sometimes out at DE, but interchanging between the 3-tech and the 1-tech (primarily) a fair amount based on matchups. In the open field, he has surprising wheels and when he wishes can run down a QB or a running play by using an appropriate angle to get to the action. He has an acceptable motor and appears to certainly have good hustle. He can be quick to get in the gap as his "get off" is solid for a man his size. He might be the best run-stuffing lineman in this class.
What I did not like:There are some disconcerting elements to taking a guy like this too high. First, his production is not exceptional behind the line of scrimmage. In fact, in 2 years at Alabama and in 29 games, he accumulated just 11 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. While his position is not a place to look for massive numbers, this ratio of less than 1 every 2 games is going to stick out. Second, because of that lack of production behind the line, he doesn't seem to be a third-down/nickel defense option in the NFL. That means on average, his type will only play about 30-35 of the 65 plays against in a given game. Still valuable, but part-time players have less value on draft day unless a team is so loaded they don't care.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys: There is no question he has some unreal athletic traits and despite no gaudy sack or TFL numbers, when opponents could not run the ball at all, he was part of the reason. But, he is not bringing his teammates or coaching staff with him to your team. Part of the reason Alabama is so great is because they have an ensemble of elite talent at every spot in their front 7. We need to be careful to evaluate each particular play and not the net result of the group.
I like Jarran Reed quite a bit. The question is what price is too much to pay for a fantastic run stopper who could really lock down the Cowboys 1-technique spot and make that defensive line a real force to be reckoned with inside? I am sure he would be very high on their list with that third pick in Round 2. They have not had anything too special at that spot since their scheme change and to fit a blue-chipper there might be what the doctor ordered. But, if he gets into Round 2, it sounds like most draft people would be pretty surprised. People tend to bet on big and strong interior players from Alabama and most of the time they are pretty pleased with the results. Expect Reed to go in the back half of round 1.