Looking at the latest product from the North Carolina linebacker factory, Kevin Reddick, in preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Kevin Reddick #48, ILB, North Carolina
Weight: 249 lbs.
- Great speed for his size.
- Sufficient strength to stack and shed linemen.
- Can beat blockers with either power or agility, great footwork and natural bend to slip underneath a lineman’s punch.
- Good first step when pass rushing both from two and three point stances.
- Very adept at neutralizing the hands of blockers and getting away clean.
- Great instincts and a keen ability to diagnose protections, coverages, and run blocking schemes and weave his way through traffic.
- Liability in coverage.
- Clumsy back pedal and often turns his heaps (and head) from the quarterback when floating into his zone.
- Sometimes takes bad angles to the ball carrier.
- Not a good tackler.
- Sometimes overruns the play and tries to blow up a blocker rather than staying home, stacking, and shedding to make the tackle.
Kevin Reddick is both exciting and frustrating to watch on tape. He has the potential to be the next NaVarro Bowman, and at times he looks like an exact replica of the young 49er, but his inconsistency in some of the most fundamental portions of the game is maddening. Reddick’s number of missed tackles in the backfield (or any part of the field for that matter) is very concerning. Sometimes his misses are from bad angles, other times it’s bouncing off a tackle after going for a shoulder shot rather than wrapping up, and sometimes he does go for a wrapup and just flat out misses. There were a couple games where he had almost a 30% missed tackle rate (1:39, 1:51, 2:40, 6:07 in the VT video - 2:32, 5:09 vs. NC State - 2:52 vs Maryland).
To compound the tackling problem, Reddick has major issues in coverage. At times he doesn't back pedal into a mid-zone so much as he clumsily skips and bounces into it (Best examples at 1:29 and 3:12 vs NC State). North Carolina liked to regularly have Reddick show pressure on the edge before dropping into a hook zone to cover the hot. What ended up happening a lot of the time, however, was Reddick paying attention to the quarterback from start to finish and not securing the routes as they passed through his zone before turning his head to the backfield. With all of his focus over his shoulder as he ran to his zone, he wasn't able to get to his spot as fast as he needed to and was often not able to feel routes develop around him (5:56 vs VT). This practically invited receivers to cut underneath him while his back was turned, and he was taken advantage of quite often whenever he dropped. With the high-flying offenses in today's NFL, linebackers have to essentially be oversized safeties that can cover and reliably tackle. As of the time of this writing, Reddick has not shown me he can do either of those.
What gives me hope for Reddick, however, is that every other facet of his game is fantastic. His speed and athleticism are uncommon for someone his size, and he showed the ability to play almost every position along the front seven at a high level. While his hips are stiff and his play recognition is almost non-existent in coverage, you won’t find many linebackers that are as nimble, fluid, and instinctive against the run as Kevin Reddick. He has a keen ability to diagnose blocking schemes and literally weave his way through traffic to make contact with the ball carrier in the back field (1:17, 1:39 vs VT - 00:01, 00:46 7:10 vs NC State - 2:09, 2:32, 2:52, 3:17, 3:26 vs Maryland), although tackling said ball carrier is another story. He has the strength to stack and shed when he needs to, but his ability to side-step blockers when blitzing and closing on ball carriers is almost a mirror image of Brian Cushing. One thing I do think he could fix would be to develop a little bit more patience versus the run. At times he would try to blow up a pulling guard and plug the lane rather than stacking and shedding for a tackle, and more often than not this would get him pushed out of position to have an impact on the play (4:23 and 5:28 vs NC State). He certainly has the power to take on a pulling guard in the hole, but he needs to learn when and when not to recklessly throw your body at the line of scrimmage.
In addition to having great instincts, Reddick is also one of the best blitzers in this linebacking class. When pass rushing both from a two and three-point stance, he displays great natural bend on the edge and an explosive first step (00:18, 1:00, 1:21 vs NC State). His hands are also great for an interior linebacker, and rather than just trying to smash his way through the line like most blitzing linebackers do, he almost always works to control the wrists and momentum of his blockers through clubs, swims, and all manner of traditional pass rushing moves (1:51, 4:35, 3:16, 4:46 vs VT - 3:56, 7:10 vs N.C. State). It’s very intriguing to see someone who can be so violent against the run while being more of a finesse player when pass rushing. That skill set alone is a good foundation to build on for most NFL coaching staffs.
With coaching, I believe Reddick has the potential to be a top tier Mike backer in the NFL. He has the instincts, athleticism, and playmaking potential that you look for in a middle linebacker. He has a ton of work to do in coverage and tackling technique before I would feel comfortable handing him the keys to the defense. The third to fourth round would be a good time to start thinking about pulling the trigger on him, but if he shows improvement at the Senior Bowl and has a good Combine, I could see him being a huge riser throughout the draft process.