How the Senior Bowl made Cardinals LB Haason Reddick a 1st-round draft pick
TEMPE, Ariz. – Zero college offers out of high school. Walk-on. Scholarship not earned until after his junior season.
None of the above screams future pro talent.
Yet, there linebacker Haason Reddick stood in the auditorium of the Arizona Cardinals’ training facility on Friday, introduced as the team’s first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
So, how did it happen? How did Reddick go from hardly known to well-known?
Well, for starters, he had an incredible senior season highlighted by 22.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and an interception. As a defensive end.
All those accomplishments, though, had him pegged as a mid-to-late round prospect.
How did Reddick improve his draft stock to the point where the commissioner was announcing his name as the Cardinals selection with the 13th overall pick?
Easy. The Senior Bowl.
“Before I went into the Senior Bowl I felt I was still a little under the radar,” he said, adding about the position switch to linebacker made in front of NFL personnel, “I think playing off-ball backer a lot of people opened their eyes and were like ‘Who is this kid? A kid who played defensive end underweight in college and now he comes to the Senior Bowl and plays off-ball backer and he looks natural at it.’ I think it made a lot of people go back and watch my senior season and that’s when they understood that OK this is a kid who is very versatile, athletic, can play off-ball backer and rush. So after the Senior Bowl I think my stock rose and it went from there.”
It sure did. A lot.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock named Reddick the “player who made the most money” during the week of practice.
Reddick, according to Mayock, showed scouts that after playing with his hand in the dirt for most of his four years at Temple, he could stand up, play two different linebacker positions and, more importantly, still be effective, and often disruptive.
That’s what caught the eye of Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
“(Reddick) plays off the ball like he’s been playing, maybe that position his whole college career,” he said, after attending Reddick’s introductory press conference. “We went as far as to look specifically at his individual tape from the Senior Bowl, where they’re just doing individual off-the-ball linebacker drills and he moves like a guy that’s been playing the position for awhile not a guy that just went in and started doing it for the Senior Bowl.”
Playing for the North, Reddick recorded a game-high-tying nine tackles, three of them solo. And of the nine tackles, five were made in coverage, including a pair in which Reddick was one-on-one with the running back or tight end.
“There’s one particular snap from the Senior Bowl that sticks in my mind,” Bettcher said. “The back stems out of the backfield. (Reddick) closes. His technique is not great, but his stop-and-start ability—he makes up (the distance) and covers him and breaks on the ball and breaks (the pass) up. Right then and there, you can tell he has the explosion in the hips to cover guys. Just from a technique standpoint, those are things—that’s our job to help him get better at.”
Reddick also excelled at the NFL Scouting Combine, further solidifying his status among the top draft-eligible prospects. The Cardinals had the 6-foot-1, 234-pound Reddick ranked in their top-5 of best available players.
And it can all be traced back, in large part, to a week spent in Mobile, Alabama.
“Each day I just try to get better and better and that’s what happened (at the Senior Bowl),” Reddick said. “By the time I left I felt good. I felt like I gave it my all and the best came out of it.”
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