The all-star games, the NFL Combine, the pro days are all in the rearview mirror and the countdown to the Draft can be measured in hours instead of days.
With little information still to gather and even less to change my mind, I’m ready to make my official prediction for the Green Bay Packers’ first round draft pick, assuming they stay put at No. 26 overall: LSU junior safety Eric Reid.
To be sure, my prediction could change on Thursday as the draft unfolds and I actually have the opportunity to see who’s still on the board when the Packers are on the clock.
But as it stands right now and who I believe will be available, Reid is the metaphorical “leader in the clubhouse.” If I were general manager Ted Thompson, I’d take guys like Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien ahead of Reid, but I’m thinking they’ll be gone.
By taking Reid, the Packers would be getting a safety with ideal (elite and prototypical are also suitable adjectives) size and athleticism.
Standing 6-1 and 213 lbs., he has the height necessary to stack up with today’s new breed of NFL tight ends that are fast, mobile and able to stretch the field.
Arguably, Reid’s most memorable play as a collegian came in LSU’s 2011 regular-season game at Alabama, a matchup of two previously undefeated teams popularly dubbed the “Game of the Century” and a precursor to the BCS national championship.
With the game tied 6-6 in the fourth quarter, Reid contested a ball thrown high to 6-6 tight end Michael Williams. The LSU safety leaped and ripped the ball away from Williams at the goal line, preventing Alabama from scoring as the Tigers went on to win in overtime.
Reid’s raw talent was on display in the measured drills at the NFL Combine as his 40 time of 4.53 seconds ranked among the top five safeties, but even more impressive were the disciplines designed to measure explosiveness.
In the broad jump, Reid leaped 134 inches, the longest by a safety (tied with North Carolina State’s Earl Wolff) at the Combine since at least 2006 (according to NFL.com). Additionally, his vertical jump of 40.5 inches was the highest by safety (tied with Syracuse’s Shamarko Thomas) in the past three seasons.
Athleticism runs in Reid family. Eric’s father (Eric, Sr.) was an NCAA champion and still school-record holder in the 110-meter high hurdles at LSU, set in 1987.
Reid looks like your classic, tall, back-end safety but probably does an even better job being a physical presence in the box. He shows terrific range in getting from the hashes to the sideline as well as from the deep middle of the field to the line of scrimmage.
Without hesitation, Reid isn’t afraid to fly up, break down and make a hard hit on a running back. But it’s also that same aggressiveness that sometimes gets Reid in trouble. At times, he’ll play too fast for his own good.
On occasion, Reid has been prone to taking poor angles to the football, which isn’t a good thing for a position known as the last line of defense. One misstep in the NFL can result in a running back cruising down the sideline or a receiver streaking by for a deep touchdown pass.
For a secondary that has had its share of communication problems and finger pointing in Green Bay the past two seasons, it doesn’t appear as if Reid would automatically fix those kinds of issues, at least right away.
As they say, though, it’s better to make mistakes going 110 percent rather than hesitating. Reid is definitely the kind of player that’s going to leave it all on the field, even if he makes a mistake from time to time.
You’d also like to see a higher level of production from Reid than the picture his statistics painted in 2012 when he made 91 tackles but only one for a loss, two interceptions, seven passes broken up and zero forced fumbles.
After a promising freshmen season, Reid took a major step forward as a sophomore in 2011 with 76 tackles, two for a loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. On a relative scale, he appears to have stagnated as a junior before declaring early for the NFL Draft with one year of eligibility still remaining.
Still, the ceiling his high. Reid would seem to fit in perfectly with other high-round safeties the Packers have taken over the years like LeRoy Butler, Darren Sharper and Nick Collins, each of whom took a few seasons to really put it all together.
With the proper coaching, there’s reason to think Reid could be a Pro Bowl caliber safety in the NFL.
The recent history of LSU placing talented defensive backs in the NFL is a good one with the likes of Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals, Morris Claiborne of the Dallas Cowboys and LaRon Landry of the Indianapolis Colts, among others.
Certainly, the argument can be made for any number of other players for the Packers to take late in the first round. Each brings his own set of positives and negatives. There’s no player without flaws.
But when you consider the tools Reid possesses along with safety being a position of perceived need in Green Bay, Reid makes a lot of sense.
Brian Carriveau is the author of “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.