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Darkhorse prospect to be Buffalo Bills first-round pick in 2017

He resembles a current NFL star with ties to Sean McDermott

From Mithell Trubisky to Deshaun Watson to Mike Williams to O.J. Howard to a slew of cornerbacks, a myriad of players have been mocked to the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

But what if the Bills go off the “mock draft” script?

How about Temple linebacker Haason Reddick? For many reasons, I think he’s the darkhorse to be a member of the Bills on April 27, 2017.

Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland are the projected starting off-ball linebackers in Sean McDermott’s defense. While the two very well could create a formidable duo at the second level, neither are necessarily “run-and-chase” or “sideline-to-sideline” linebackers.

Although not an off-ball linebacker by trade, Reddick can be just that type of defender in McDermott’s defense, and actually, he’s eerily similar to a star player McDermott coach with the Panthers... Thomas Davis.

Reddick came to Temple as a walk-on safety prospect who redshirted as a freshman in 2012. Davis played safety and linebacker at Georgia. As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Reddick paid his dues as a special teamer then earned playing time at strongside linebacker before moving down to defensive end.

In Temple’s defense, Reddick stuck as a pass-rusher on the edge, but took many snaps as an off-ball linebacker. After a five-sack, 13 tackle-for-loss 2015, he had 65 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and one interceptions as a senior.

Many of his best, most translatable-to-the-NFL moments last season came during those times when he was used as an outside linebacker. There, his immense physical gifts were on full display, as he chased down runners from the back side, avoided blockers head on to make tackles near the line of scrimmage, and covered fluidly in space.

Following a freshman season in 2002 that included 61 tackles and three sacks, Davis moved to safety... and flourished.

At his new secondary spot, he recorded 138 tackles. Though he battled injuries in his final season at Georgia, Davis had 81 tackles in 11 games as a hybrid safety - linebacker.

While their sparkling careers at multiple positions with varying responsibilities are comparable, check athletic profiles of Reddick and Davis:

Height - Reddick: 6’1”, Davis: 6’1”

Weight - Reddick: 237, Davis: 230

40-Yard Dash - Reddick: 4.52, Davis: 4.60

Vertical - Reddick: 36.5”, Davis: 36.5”

Broad Jump - Reddick: 11’1”, Davis: 9’7”

Three Cone - Reddick: 7.09, Davis: 7.10

Short Shuttle - Reddick: 4.37, Davis: 4.01

Strikingly similar.

They’re almost the same size with nearly identical explosiveness as athletes. Also, they’re proof that rangy linebackers don’t necessarily have to be sub-4.50 speedsters to earn a “sideline-to-sideline play-maker” label.

Times in the short shuttle and three-cone drills are typically much better indicators of a player’s twitchiness and change-of-direction capabilities.

The jumps help show burst and explosiveness.

Reddick’s vertical jump of 36.5” is in the 78th percentile among linebackers since 1999. His broad jump of 11’1” is in the 98th percentile... the guy is a dynamic athlete, as is Davis.

In Carolina under McDermott, the Panthers defensive philosophies centered around strong play from their defensive line and linebackers.

If the Bills draft him, Reddick can play an off-ball linebacker position on early downs, and fly from boundary to boundary... like Davis.

Temple LB Haason Reddick. Watch him close from backside (#7 RDE here)

A post shared by Daniel Jeremiah (@movethesticks) on

If need be, Reddick can kick down to the defensive end spot and rush the passer on third downs. At 6’1” and 237 pounds, his lack of size may be a hindrance as a pass-rusher at the NFL level. However, he does have vast experience rushing off the edge from a three-point stance against offensive linemen much larger than him.

Looking past Reddick’s ideal fit as a multi-faceted, front-seven player in McDermott’s defense, he seems to possess some of the personality traits as Davis.

Going from walk-on to team captain, Reddick undoubtedly earned the utmost respect from his teammates. Going into 2016, his number changed from 58 to 7. Why is that important? From the school’s football website, “Temple awards single digits to the toughest players on the team as voted on by the players.”

Davis battled back from three major knee injuries and played in Super Bowl 50 with a broken arm that he injured in the NFC championship game just two weeks before. It was in that season he earned his first All-Pro distinction.

Lastly, former Temple head coach Matt Rhule, who decided to keep Reddick on the team after his walk-on season in 2012, was previously with the Owl program in Philadelphia from 2006 to 2010, a five-year overlap with McDermott’s tenure with the Eagles.

It’s safe to assume McDermott is pretty well-connected on the football front in the Philadelphia-New Jersey area. There’s a great chance he’s already fully aware of Reddick’s story and the intricacies that sparked his illustrious career at Temple. At the very least, McDermott would likely be able to easily gather loads of crucial information about Reddick from trusted sources he’d come to know over the years — like Rhule — while coaching in the Philadelphia area.

Connecting McDermott to Reddick is quite logical.

Going a step further, Buffalo has met with two of Reddick’s Temple teammates, cornerback Nate Hairston and quarterback Phillip Walker. Both are projected to be late-round selections but could provide vital inside information about the program’s star prospect in this draft class.

Reddick is the darkhorse to be the Bills first-round pick in 2017.