After three different teams traded up in the first round to snag potential franchise quarterbacks, the Arizona Cardinals were left in a position where a lengthy list of top-notch defensive players were still on the board when the team was on the clock in this year’s NFL Draft.
Instead of trading back to add more picks or moving up to find the quarterback the team is desperately searching for, Arizona held put at No. 13 and selected Temple linebacker Haason Reddick.
“We are elated with the addition of Haason Reddick,” Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim said. “Certainly a guy that we were focused on from the very beginning. One of the very best stories in this draft. When you talk about a guy who has overcome adversity and had a tremendous experience at Temple. When you look at a guy who has overcome becoming a walk-on, earning a scholarship and then dominating the way he did at Temple this past year. 10.5 sacks.”
As Keim mentioned, Reddick began his college career at Temple as a walk-on, starting out as a defensive back before growing into his 6-foot-1 frame, adding bulk, and moving up to edge rusher. Reddick played three seasons with the Owls as a walk-on, but finally earned a scholarship prior to a breakout senior campaign.
During the 2016 season, Reddick racked up 22.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks and earned All-American Athletic Conference honors for his play off the edge.
Reddick rose up draft boards this offseason after an impressive on-field performance at the NFL Combine where he posted a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, but he was one of the top players on the Cardinals’ board because of how he performed off the field. Keim said the team’s interview with Reddick at the Combine and his subsequent meeting with the Cardinals’ brass in Arizona convinced the organization that Reddick has the type of passion and energy needed to succeed in the NFL.
“Again, we are thrilled,” Keim said. “We spent a lot of time with him not only at the Combine, but we had him into Phoenix a few weeks ago for a pre-draft visit. You want to talk a guy who exudes not only confidence and passion for the game, this guy has got an eternal chip that sits on his shoulder and I have no doubt he’s going to be ready to go when he gets through baggage claim.”
Since Keim and head coach Bruce Arians assumed their respective roles with the organization in 2013, the duo has built Arizona’s defense with an emphasis on finding hybrid players who can fulfill multiple roles effectively.
The Cardinals use their nickel defensive package more frequently than their base 3-4 look, and Arians said Reddick has the type of versatility and schematic flexibility to fit into a variety of roles for Arizona.
“Two for one is a big thing in our world,” Arians said. “We love two for one players. We got a guy who can play two positions, equally great, that’s huge for us. Two for one, we’re looking at a few more two for ones. So it’s a big, he will have a huge impact at a lot of different positions. He gives us unbelievable flexibility in sub defense.”
Reddick played as an edge rusher at the college level, but prior to the draft, many NFL scouts touted Reddick as a potential 3-4 inside linebacker thanks to an impressive performance in that role at the Senior Bowl.
Keim said the fact Reddick can plug in and help the Cardinals at a handful of different spots is what made him such an intriguing prospect, and he brings the same type of mentality to the field that another versatile asset, and former first round draft pick, Deone Bucannon does.
“I’m not saying he’s the same type of player as Deone Bucannon, but that same type of mentality we saw with Deone,” Keim said. “You knew that this kid is going to run through a wall for you and I think that that’s the kind of player he is and again, the versatility that he gives us schematically is just a tremendous benefit.”
The Arizona Cardinals will officially introduce Reddick with a press conference on Friday at 1:30 p.m., and Keim indicated that fans and media will be able to experience the same presence from Reddick that impressed key members of the Cardinals’ organization early on in the draft process.
“I think you guys will see when he comes in for his press conference, out of the 60 players we interviewed at the Combine, literally within the first minute of him being in our room, you could feel this infectious personality that he had about him,” Keim said. “This smile, this kind of tough edge, yet at the same time, you could tell he had some presence to him.”