Why Jarran Reed is the Steal of the 2016 NFL Draft

Welcome to Seattle, Mr. Reed. - Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The green room was all but empty. What was once a space full of 25 NFL hopefuls anticipating their names finally being called had become a wasteland; a personal waiting room for Jarran Reed. The mountainous defensive tackle out of Alabama was astonished to be the last one standing, as were many pundits. Nowhere had Reed’s name been mentioned when guesses were made at who would be the last to be called out of the green room.

When the 49th pick of the draft rolled around, John Schneider made an aggressive move to trade up seven spots, solidifying the interior of his defensive line with the 311-pounder.

Jarran Reed is a man of his word, so when he finally made his walk of triumph, he delivered on his promise of giving Commissioner Roger Goodell a bear hug. I trust him when he says his goal is to continue "stopping the run, being dominant physically and affecting the quarterback." Reed is a proven winner, playing in Nick Saban’s defense in Tuscaloosa and winning a national championship in the process.

Hailed as an elite physical prospect leading up to the draft, Reed was projected by most as a first round pick. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah believed Reed was the 13th best player overall in the draft, ahead of big names such as Sheldon Rankins and Andrew Billings. The only player at defensive tackle ranked ahead of Reed on Jeremiah’s big board was DeForest Buckner out of Oregon, the consensus top prospect at interior defensive line.

Observing Reed’s placement on various big boards and mock drafts and juxtapositioning that with his slide into the second round points to an obvious steal for the Seahawks. But the way that Reed fits into the dominant Seattle defense, along with the athleticism and versatility that he brings to the table, makes him arguably the biggest value out of any other pick in the draft.

Jarran Reed is a damn good football player.

Every so often there are players you look at that impress you with just about everything they do. Referred to by John Schneider as obviously the best run defender in the whole draft, Reed can hold up at the point of attack like no other. Watching game film, it is rare that you find this mountain of a man on the ground or even pushed backwards. Having tree trunks for limbs aids him in shedding blocks with ease. In the first play from scrimmage of Alabama’s 2015 matchup against Tennessee, Reed takes on two blockers, holds the pile of humans up to stop the running back dead in his tracks and finishes with a monstrous tackle.

Reed also has quite the knack for always being in the right place at the right time. His hand use and pure brute strength allow him to shed blocks in the run game with ease while sliding his feet to put him in position to shut plays down that would otherwise be medium-to-large gains. This play that occurred later in the first quarter of the Tennessee game really demonstrates this ability.

While Reed has the ability to be a game-wrecker in the backfield, he also allows his teammates to blow plays up by occupying blocks. The dominant defenses in the league have dominant interior presences (see Carolina, Los Angeles, Arizona) that can envelop offensive lineman like a crimson wildfire. It just so happens that the Crimson Tide had such a behemoth in Reed. In this first quarter play in the national championship against Clemson, watch as Reed occupies linemen while keeping a sturdy base.

The running back has nowhere to go as the lane never develops and he ends up being hit with a half yard loss. These sorts of plays are less than glamorous, but are vital to an elite defense.

While Reed isn’t thought of as a pass rusher, he can get up field when push comes to shove. Though he only totaled two sacks in his two years at Alabama, Reed affected plenty of passes without even needing to finish. Watch as Reed easily tosses aside a lineman attempting to block him against Tennessee.

Despite not getting a sack, Reed destroys the play and nearly causes a turnover. These are the types of impact plays that can turn a guy from an early down run stuffer into an every down brute force. As Reed continues to develop as a pass rusher, these types of plays must become more frequent, and I expect them to.

He also happens to be pretty freakishly athletic.

He also always seems to be around the ball.

I can faintly hear Pete Carroll giggling to himself like a kid in a candy factory. He’s joyously muttering "high motor" and "competing" to himself. Predictable.

Looking at Reed’s physical prowess and dominant play, it’s puzzling why he didn’t go in the first round. An elite run stuffer with pass rushing potential and the capability of becoming a three down defender sounds like a pretty damn good face value for John Schneider at 49, eh?

But what pushes Reed to be the biggest steal over any other player in the draft is how important his position is in Seattle’s defensive scheme and how he projects to fill that role.

Many are estimating Jarran Reed to fill the vacancy at nose tackle left by Brandon Mebane’s departure for that talented defense in San Diego. Nose tackle isn’t a very glamorous position, but all it takes is one injury to see just how vital a role it is. As Reed moves from one championship defense to another, he need only watch Seattle’s 2014 game against the Kansas City Chiefs to understand how pivotal a piece he will become to the Seahawks.

In the previous game against the New York Giants, Mebane had strained his hamstring significantly, resulting in placement on the Season Ending Injured Reserve. He had always been hailed as an important piece of the Seattle defense, but nobody had any clue just how important.

The following week, the pesky Chiefs proceeded to demolish Seattle’s run defense to the tune of 191 rushing yards with three touchdowns at a clip of over 6.8 yards per carry. Jamaal Charles had a field day running (as Steve Raible would say) up, over, around and right through the heart of the Legion of Boom. Watch as the defensive tackles are unable to disengage from the Kansas City blockers, letting Charles waltz untouched into paydirt.

Ready to be disgusted?

Yeah, it’s tough to watch. Pay attention to how easily the defensive tackles are pushed out of the way, clearing a lane for Charles to explode into the second level.

There are plenty of dynamic running backs in the NFL. Seattle’s NFC West competition alone houses three very solid ones in Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Carlos Hyde. Seattle is slated in 2016 to play against Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Doug Martin and many other forceful tail backs. Allowing these backs to reach the second level is not an option. Someone who can control the line of scrimmage and clog up running lanes is vital to Seattle’s defensive scheme. It’s no secret that Pete Carroll loves to send out the big uglies on base downs to try to cause third-and-longs so he can then deploy the NASCAR package to pin their ears back and hunt down the twenty million dollar men.

The unspoken but true key to Seattle’s defense that allows the vaunted secondary to feast on errant throws is putting offenses in these third-and-long situations.

It just so happens that the key to putting teams in third-and-long situations is having an elite run stuffer.

Jarran Reed is a plug-and-play starter from day one at defensive tackle. He openly talks about his versatility in being able to one-gap, two-gap and rush the passer. Having the 325 pound Ahtyba Rubin playing next to him at 3-technique doesn’t hurt. I don’t see Reed becoming Aaron Donald, as he is significantly leaner and plays a different style. But Kawann Short is not an unobtainable benchmark for Reed to reach. Short was also seriously under-drafted in the second round. Coincidence? I think not.

The Seattle Seahawks have had the best defense in the NFL for the past four seasons and the one major hole they had pre-draft was at interior defensive line. Interestingly enough, they filled that hole with a player that should have gone a full round earlier than he went.

Jarran Reed's immediate importance to the best defense in the league pushes him over the cusp into being the biggest steal of the 2016 NFL Draft. The sky is the limit for the brutish North Carolina native and I'm sure as hell excited to see what he can do in blue and green.