The Detroit Lions are about to get even better at defensive tackle. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who are two of the most talented interior defenders in the sport, entering their primes is a big reason why. But the addition of Princeton product Caraun Reid in the fifth round of May’s draft could equip Detroit with one of the most lethal defensive tackle rotations in football.
After being tabbed a possible Day 2 pick by many pundits, Reid surprisingly didn’t hear his name called during the first 157 selections. Concerns about the sub-par competition he faced in the Ivy League undoubtedly scared some teams away, but Reid did what a coveted prospect is supposed to do versus inferior opponents: he dominated.
With 20.5 career sacks, Reid routinely abused offensive linemen with lightening quickness off the snap, an endless motor and sound hand placement. The tools, however raw, are present to develop into one of the NFL‘s most disruptive interior pass rushers.
Obviously, the small-school stigma wasn’t the only factor pushing Reid down draft boards. Khalil Mack, a supremely talented linebacker from little-known Buffalo, was made the fifth-overall pick by the Oakland Raiders, after all.
No, Reid isn’t nearly as polished as Mack or several other small-school rookies who came off the board much earlier. He was pushed around a little too frequently by large, powerful linemen and didn’t hold up against double teams as well as NFL scouts would have liked. A tendency to stand straight up at times after the snap instead of launching himself towards the ball carrier or quarterback also had to be concerning to scouts and executives.
But all of Reid’s flaws can be corrected. With tough coaching and added upper-body strength, Reid should become closer to textbook in his technique and more stout against the run. And when that happens, nothing will be standing in his way of solidifying himself as a true steal for the Lions.
Of course, playing time will be hard to come by, especially as a rookie. The aforementioned Suh and Fairley are monsters, capable of taking over a game in the trenches. And veteran C.J. Mosley, who finished No. 24 overall in Pro Football Focus’ defensive tackle rankings last season, is likely entrenched in the rotation as well. Thus, Reid may be relegated to a considerable amount of special teams work early on. Excelling in the third aspect of the game would be nothing new to Reid, who blocked seven kicks during his time at Princeton.
By proving he’s simply a difference-maker, whether on special teams or defense, Reid will find his niche in Detroit. Besides, both Suh and Fairley have uncertain futures with the franchise.
Suh has been mentioned in possible trade rumors this offseason and can become a free agent as early as next March. Meanwhile, the Lions recently declined the fifth-year option on Fairley’s contract, making 2014 potentially his final campaign in Detroit.
The Lions will likely have interest in retaining at least one of the two, but letting one walk is an outcome that isn’t all that unlikely. Reid emerging as a late-round gem would certainly give management more flexibility at the position.
Regardless if both Suh and Fairley are kept or not, Reid has the talent to become a significant contributor for the Lions. GMs around the league will be kicking themselves for letting him slip to the fifth round of the draft.
Cody Strahm is an NFL Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter.