North Carolina has struggled with their on field performance and taking that next step as a football program, but they have been putting out talent to the draft for several years now, especially on defense. One member of this year’s crop entering the draft is linebacker Kevin Reddick who enjoyed an impressive senior season with 49 solo tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 6 passes broken up and 2 forced fumbles. The Tar Heel defense put him in a lot of situations to succeed and he took full advantage. While Reddick has a good build and ton of potential, living up to the kind of production he enjoyed at North Carolina, especially as a senior will be difficult, but he will have the opportunity to impress at the Senior Bowl in January. Based on the tape, Reddick profiles as a third or fourth round linebacker that starts out as depth with the potential to develop into a quality starter who can stop the run and blitz.
Physically, Reddick has prototypical size listed at 6’3” 240lbs and absolutely looks the part of an NFL linebacker. He looks like he is pretty well built in both the upper and lower body and demonstrates plenty of strength in his play. His straight line speed coming downhill is impressive, but his lateral agility and hips cause him problems and limit his range.
Reddick is a versatile player in North Carolina’s scheme, because while he plays primarily middle linebacker, he has experience on the outside in nickel situations and the Tar Heels were not afraid to use him as an end rusher either in certain situations as a senior. With the loss of players like Quinton Coples and a new defensive coordinator, North Carolina opted to use Reddick as an additional pass rusher, usually out of a 2-point track stance. The results were relatively impressive at end, but that probably will not happen in the NFL. However, the experience there will benefit him as a blitzer at the next level. It could also help him do a better job of taking on and defeating blocks in the NFL. Former Florida Gator linebacker Brandon Spikes and former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Don’ta Hightower, also played linebacker on run downs and then routinely moved to end as a pass rusher in an effort to always have the best eleven on the field in any given situation. With Spikes and Hightower, part of their playing as a pass rusher was because they were limited in coverage and that is the case with Reddick as well. While he was beneficial as a pass rusher, this move likely resulted from his struggles in pass coverage more than anything.
Reddick’s pass coverage skills are a work in progress. He is not giving a team much of anything in man coverage and his range in zone is pretty limited. He does not pick up receivers well around him, has poor lateral quickness, and opposing teams can victimize him in space whether it is receivers or running backs. The one thing that Reddick does do well in coverage is sniff out screens. He picks them up quickly and he can break them up or lay a nice hit on the intended receiver.
As a tackler, Reddick’s technique is inconsistent. When he has legs under him, fires his hips, and wraps up, he is not only a powerful tackler, but has a tendency to cause fumbles. If he does not cause a fumble on the initial hit, he will try to rip the ball out if the player is held up but not down yet. Unfortunately, there are also times when he will lunge with his shoulder and be very hit or miss when it comes to making the tackle. He has all the tools necessary to be a great tackler who can be a good player in the middle; he just has to do it on a consistent basis.
Run defense is where Reddick is at his best. He does a good job diagnosing and reacting to run plays. He comes downhill with bad intentions and can deliver the big hit. He can also knock the fullback back or at least stalemate him in the hole to help his teammates make the play. He will also flash the ability to get skinny and sift through blocks to get to the tackle. Occasionally, he will try to go around blockers he should not. Problems arise when he is trying to make the tackle flat footed. He loses power and his fundamentals break down too often resulting in broken tackles.
Reddick’s fit right now is as a 2-down run stopper, possibly as depth initially. However, because his issues are not physical and are more about being technically consistent, the light could go on at any time and he could end up contributing right away or down the road. Because of his versatility, Reddick could be a nice fit in the 4-3, where he is accustomed to playing. However, Reddick might be better suited in a 3-4 that likes to attack such as Pittsburgh, Arizona or Green Bay. Reddick’s downhill style, his ability to take on blocks, and his blitzing could make him very attractive to teams. Only having to play one gap could make a huge benefit to his game. He also has the size and strength to translate easily into that scheme.
Kevin Reddick’s game is similar to that of a guy like Green Bay Packer Desmond Bishop. He had to take some time to earn his playing time and sat behind some talented players for a little while. Bishop kept looking good in preseason and when he ultimately got his chance to take over the starting job, he has been a solid contributor as a run defender who can come in and get sacks for Dom Capers’ system in Green Bay. Reddick might not take as long to get on the field and contribute, but the impact could be similar.
The Senior Bowl will be a great opportunity for Kevin Reddick to show he is a better defender against the pass than he has been to this point and it could give him the platform to shine with versatility. It would not be surprising if he was asked to do drills as a pass rusher just to give them a look as a possible outside linebacker in the 3-4. He can do himself a favor by just being the great run player he can be as long as he is consistent with his technique. As long as he does that, he will keep his draft stock steady, but if he can do more than that and interviews well, he could move up in the process. North Carolina has a knack for performing well in the combine which could also help him improve his stock. But with the competitive field at linebacker, and the skillset he has, he appears to be a late second day, early third day prospect with the potential to start as an effective run stopper who can get after the quarterback.
Georgia Tech 2011
Virginia Tech 2012
N.C. State 2012
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