Know one thing about Texas Longhorns defensive end Cedric Reed -- the 2014 season was about toughness and unselfishness.
Following a breakout junior season that saw Reed record 77 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks, he could have jumped to the NFL. Instead, he made an unselfish decision and returned.
On the surface, the first-team All-Big 12 selection from 2013 looked like a disappointment as a senior, as his numbers dropped across the board -- Reed had five sacks and nine tackles for loss. However, he was dominant against West Virginia with 13 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks.
And the raw numbers don't tell the full story, as Reed underwent meniscus surgery after the season to correct an injury he suffered during fall camp. Not only that, Reed also made the move from a pure 4-3 end able to rush the passer with impunity on many occasions to a four-technique defensive end tasked with holding up at the point of attack and keeping the linebackers clean all the times Texas used three down linemen.
Toughness and unselfishness.
Because Reed was not recovered from his surgery for the NFL Combine or the Texas Pro Timing Day, he was only able to do the bench press Indianapolis, putting up 22 reps of 225 pounds. He was able to hold a private workout last week for interested scouts, but the testing numbers aren't currently available publicly, leaving some questions as to his pure athleticism. During that workout, he participated in the shuttle and short-cone drills.
He measured in at 6'5 and 269 pounds, with 33 3/8-inch arms and 9 3/4-inch hands.
A former consensus four-star prospect, Reed was the No. 144 prospect, the No. 12 strongside defensive end, and the No. 20 player in Texas as a member of the 2011 class.
When Reed is at his best, he uses his size, length, and motor to get sacks with his long-arm move or crash down on the backside of running plays to create stops. With over 140 tackles combined in 2013 and 2014, it's hard to argue with his production, especially against the Mountaineers last fall:
He's also tough enough to play through his injury and was able to consistently hold the line of scrimmage when playing heads up against opposing offensive tackles, which means that he typically doesn't lose leverage despite his height and has strong enough hands to find success with his initial punch.
When Reed was healthy in 2013, he was able to convert opportunities because he generally understands and executes his assignments. Numerous opportunities were converted into big plays when Reed was able to effectively strip opposing quarterbacks of the football.
The big knock on Reed is that he came into college as a raw prospect and hasn't added a high level of technical ability to his game, as he doesn't have any counters to his preferred long-arm move. A lack of pure burst and quickness off the edge also hurt him, especially since there isn't a 40-yard dash time or a vertical jump for Reed to test his quick-twitch athleticism. At times, Reed can struggle to disengage from opponents against the run and the pass.
The evaluation from NFL.com seems a bit off:
Reed never developed into the type of defensive end that Texas expected when it recruited him. Despite having a viable NFL frame, Reed hasn't been able to show enough on tape to earn a plus grade for any of the critical or secondary traits teams are looking for from a defensive end. However, his improvement during his senior season could give teams enough hope to take a shot.
When Reed was healthy, he produced at a high level during his junior season, forcing five fumbles and hurrying the quarterback 12 more times to rank as one of the most disruptive front seven players in college football. Is it really fair to argue with that kind of production?
Sure, contextualize it, but don't act like it didn't happen.
What an NFL team will ultimately have to feel comfortable with is molding Reed's height, length, and ability to convert on his opportunities to create plays into a 3-4 defensive end who can hold up at the point of attack or a 4-3 defensive end who can occasionally create sacks while operating in a similar fashion against the run.
Some analysts don't feel that he can fit in a 3-4 system and a 4-3 team would want more technical pass-rushing acumen from Reed. In essence, that means that he's not easily projectable coming off his injury and the lack of perceived versatility will probably make him unappealing for 3-4 teams.
From the intangibles standpoint, however, Reed has plenty to offer after gamely playing through his meniscus issue and generally working hard and remaining a good teammate even though he dealt with the frustrations of his injury and being asked to play a different style of defensive end.
Draft projection -- Round 6 or 7
The late-round projection from NFL.com doesn't match the Round 5 projection from Draftsite.com by the Seattle Seahawks with the No. 167 pick. NFL.come, meanwhile, has Reed going undrafted. The four teams at his private workout last week were the Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, and Miami Dolphins. If Reed does go undrafted, those teams would seem like the strongest contenders to sign him to a contract and give him a shot to impress in offseason workouts.