Sunday, March 20, 2011

Should the Packers Take Brooks Reed at #32 Overall? Eh...

Brooks Reed is one of those prospects that's been getting a lot of hype in recent weeks in Packers circles, mostly because ESPN's Mel Kiper has the Green and Gold picking him at No. 32 in his most recent mock draft. The idea seems to have caught on among Packer fans, who might be seeing the Arizona defensive end as Clay Matthews 2.0. Reed certainly looks the part; physically, he's about as tall as Matthews and ten-ish pounds lighter, has the same flowing blond hair and displays some of Matthews' hyperaggressiveness in rushing the passer. For a variety of reasons, though, I'm not sold on Reed as our first-round pick just yet.

From the scouting reports and YouTube highlights (in a minute) that I've seen, Reed gives a ton of effort on every play, and possesses ungodly short-area quickness that helps him a great deal on the pass-rush. But that's about where his pass-rushing ends. He can bull-rush the devil out of a running back or a fullback, but he doesn't appear to have developed a lot of moves yet. Take a look at this highlight reel of his that I found:
When he slices around the corner, he looks hard to stop, but most of the tackles in the video never seem to get a hand on him. I'd be concerned about whether he can get past NFL tackles who have better feet and the ability to control his rushes. You can see in the video that a few of his sacks come when he's lined up against running backs, who simply don't block him, and then there's one against Iowa (black and gold) where the guard and the back both ignore him and let him through!

Here's another clip, this time rushing from a linebacker position:

You can see that the tackle takes a while to get his initial punch on him, and then there's nothing he could've done but hold him. The clip speaks to the explosiveness that Reed has in getting past tackles, but I think it also shows how much he relies on that explosiveness to make his pressures. He can bull-rush, that's certain, but that'll only take you so far against NFL tackles.

Obviously there's no measuring the impact that time and coaching could have on him, and one suspects that Kevin Greene and Co. could improve his game considerably. But right now, I don't think he'd be quite as impressive in a Packers uniform as he looks on tape.

There are a number of other things he has going for him--he's aggressive, competitive, goes to the whistle--and some things that aren't; the reports are that he tends to overrun the play and is a real straight-line guy. Watch this clip of him vs. Iowa. (I'm not cherry-picking clips here, by the way; these are the only three I could find on YouTube).
You can see on the very first play, he gets a free release off the line and has a straight shot at the QB. The QB turns and runs, Reed can't change direction and misses him, and then takes himself out of the play as the QB scrambles for a first down. There's a couple more like that, where Reed seems to have trouble changing direction in the backfield. Based on this, it's hard to figure him doing all that well in coverage as a LB.

Iowa was statistically one of his better games (five tackles, two sacks), but the sacks came against air or RBs. When the tackle gets his hands on him, Reed has a hard time getting off the block. He displays a decent spin move, however, and is able to bull-rush the tackle at times.

The biggest question is, will he be able to stand up and play as an outside linebacker? All the Clay Matthews comparisons tend to ignore the fact that Matthews played a hybrid LB/DE position at USC and thus had some experience that helped him in Capers' 3-4. Reed, on the other hand, was a DE for most of his college career. The Packers would have to assess whether Reed has the athleticism to play OLB. It's not necessarily a matter of what the coaches can teach him, so much as it's about what he can physically do.

Despite all of the above caveats, I do like Reed as a pass-rushing prospect and I think that with time and coaching, he could develop into a solid edge rusher, a bit like Aaron Kampman was in 2009. I'm not sure, however, that he's worth the #32 overall pick. If Thompson traded back into the second round and maybe picked up an additional second- or third-rounder in the process, I wouldn't have any problem with the Packers selecting him there.

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