NFL Draft: With QBs gone, Cardinals choose versatile linebacker
TEMPE — The arrival of the heir apparent to Carson Palmer will have to wait.
With the three best quarterbacks gone, the Cardinals used the No. 13 pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night to choose versatile linebacker Haason Reddick, who rose from walk-on at Temple to one of the most coveted defensive players in the draft.
Not that the Cardinals would have chosen a quarterback anyway.
The Houston Texans sure seemed to think they would, though, making a last-minute trade with Cleveland for the No. 12 pick to get Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.
“They left the guy we wanted (Reddick) on the board,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. “He was one of our top five players in this whole draft.”
Keim and coach Bruce Arians see Reddick as an explosive, quick hybrid player who can play inside or outside.
“Two-for-one is a big thing in our room,” Arians said. “We love two-for-one players.”
Reddick said in a conference call that he expected the Cardinals to pick him if he was still available, based on his visit to Arizona a few weeks ago.
“When I had the visit out there, I felt nothing but genuine love, especial from B.A.,” Reddick said. “There was nothing but genuine love and I felt like I was really wanted out there.”
Reddick’s draft stock rose considerably with his play at this year’s Senior Bowl.
After playing defensive end, in a three-point stance, at Temple, Reddick impressed observers when he moved inside and had an outstanding game at linebacker in the Senior Bowl.
“I’ve never seen a guy who could take his hand off the ground and play stack linebacker with that kind of vision and instincts and play speed and cover ability like he did with very little experience,” Keim said.
Reddick said it was an easy switch.
“Just being a student of the game,” he said, “understanding football and just having a great mindset as well. Whatever position I ever played, I always tried to do my best at it. When they told me that would be playing inside linebacker, the first thing in my mind was, ‘Hey, there goes another position that I have to dominate.’”
Arians said Reddick reminds him of Von Miller, quite a comparison and the same name Reddick offered when asked what player he wants to emulate.
At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Reddick is considered undersized by NFL standards but not by Cardinals standards. Former first-round pick Deone Bucannon was shifted from safety to inside linebacker and has become one of Arizona’s best defensive players.
Arizona already has two fierce pass rushers in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden on the outside. The Cardinals signed veteran Karlos Dansby to play inside linebacker alongside Bucannon.
Things could get real crowded at inside linebacker if Daryl Washington returns after being suspended by the NFL for three years for violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. Washington was reinstated conditionally on Tuesday and the Cardinals have declined to comment on his possible return until after the draft. And it’s questionable how effective Washington could be after such a long time away from the game.
Keim and Arians said that with Reddick’s versatility, he should be able to play in the team’s nickel defense right away. Arizona likes to use three quick linebackers alongside a big defensive lineman to rush the passer in such situations.
Reddick was third in the nation in tackles for loss with 22 ½, including 10 ½ sacks.
Injuries limited him to just four games at Haddon Heights High School in Camden, New Jersey, and led to his walk-on status at Temple.
Reddick was a cornerback his first year at Temple. He was told by his coaches that he probably wouldn’t make the team the next season. But there was a coaching change and new head coach Matt Rhule moved Reddick to the defensive line.
He finished his Temple career with 150 tackles, 18 sacks, 46 tackles for loss, an interception, five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Reddick is the fourth Temple player selected in the first round. The only Owl to be drafted higher was John Rienstra (ninth in 1986).
Arians was head coach of the Owls in the mid-1980s.