There’s something few people remember about Jarran Reed, a piece of himself he left behind in high school. Back then, before he became one of college football’s fiercest defensive lineman, Reed wasn’t known as a 307-pound brick wall.
No, he was a linebacker at Goldsboro (N.C.) High, where he had 118 tackles and four sacks his senior season. That was 40, 50 pounds ago. But in Reed’s mind, there’s been no change in his athleticism.
“Absolutely,” he said. “The ability to get sideline-to-sideline, bring down quarterbacks, make plays outside the tackle box. It definitely shows versatility and athleticism, from my standpoint, and I try to really showcase that a lot.”
But Reed ran 40 yards in 5.21 seconds at the recent NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
So maybe the speed waned as his body grew. Maybe, like rectangle-shaped pizza and passing notes when the teacher isn’t looking, Reed’s quick-twitch athleticism is something that will stay in high school.
It could explain why Reed didn’t do much as a pass rusher at Alabama. Although he combined to record 11 tackles for loss in his two seasons with the Crimson Tide, Reed had just two sacks in 28 games. Of course, he has another explanation for the lack of pass-rush productivity.
“It was the system we played in,” Reed said. “We played a run-first, then-convert-to-pass system, but I did apply pressure on the quarterback. I definitely hit the quarterback. I definitely got sacks, too.”
He sure did. Two of them. In 28 games. But there’s credibility to Reed’s scheme argument. At Alabama, Reed did not need to rush the passer for his team to win. His job was to consume blockers, allowing linebackers playing behind him to make plays.
Alabama’s defensive line was a primary reason it won the national championship last season. Reed and defensive end A’Shawn Robinson were pillars on college football’s best defensive line. Now, both are entering the NFL draft.
“We had each other’s back,” Robinson said at the combine. “If I was getting double-teamed, I knew he was going to make that play. If he was getting double-teamed, he knew I was going to make that play. So it was really just trust each other, having a good brotherhood, knowing we had each other’s back. “We put everything on us to make sure we did everything we were supposed to for the team. No matter if it was disciplining people, or just doing everything we’re supposed to off the field.”
Robinson earned more accolades in college and is regarded as a slightly better pro prospect, but he’s unlikely to be available when the Green Bay Packers select No. 27 overall in the first round. Reed has a better chance of lasting to the end of the first round, though it’s far from guaranteed he’ll remain on draft boards when the Packers pick.
With the NFL draft almost two months away, it’s too early for mock drafts to be accurate. But Reed has been a popular name for the Packers. They showed interest in Reed at the combine last week, using one of their 60 allotted formal interviews to meet him. Reed also said he spoke with defensive front assistant Jerry Montgomery informally.
Reed, standing 6-foot-3, has some versatility on the defensive line. He’s built to play three-technique defensive end, lined up across the guard. That was his most common position in Alabama’s 3-4 defense late last season, though he occasionally lined up across offensive tackles in a five-technique.
“It just depends on the type of personnel there would be,” Reed said. “The type of team we’ll be playing. I can play either a 3-4 end, play in a five-technique.”
Ideally, the Packers would like to find a five-technique defensive end who can rush the passer. That might not be Reed, but he’s talented enough as a run defender to provide value late in the first round.
The Packers need someone to fill in for defensive end Mike Pennel early in the season. Pennel, opposite Mike Daniels, was slotted to be the team’s starting defensive end before a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
While Pennel isn’t a dynamic pass rusher, he was stout against the run. So a defensive end like Reed could help soften the blow of Pennel’s suspension, while also developing into a long-term option.
Reed is probably best as an interior defensive lineman, a position where the Packers will be set if they re-sign B.J. Raji. If Raji signs elsewhere, the Packers suddenly would be in need of interior depth. Regardless, general manager Ted Thompson often uses his first-round pick on the best player available, and that certainly could be Reed if he’s there at No. 27.
“Jarran Reed, to me, checks all the boxes,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said, “and he could be sitting there. I doubt it, but he could be. He went to the Senior Bowl, played 15 games (last season). He just checked off every box. He’s smart, he’s tough. I really like what I’ve seen with him. I think his football IQ is very, very high.”