Round 4: Kansas State CB D.J. Reed
5-9, 188 – 4.40 – Junior
Despite a rough second year in the NFL, the Buccaneers aren’t ready to give up on Vernon Hargreaves III, who was Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2016. Hargreaves played well moving inside to nickel cornerback at midseason, but you don’t spend the 11th overall draft selection on a nickel cornerback.
The Bucs would love to see a better, more confident version of Hargreaves lined up outside 35-year old cornerback Brent Grimes, whom the team is trying to re-sign for one more year. That would leave a vacancy at nickel cornerback where Javien Elliott returns, but the team is not sure whether or not to re-sign free agent Robert McClain, who played well in spurts.
Reed was a two-year starter at Kansas State as an All-Big 12 outside cornerback and All-American return specialist. In his first year with the Wildcats in 2016, Reed recorded 78 tackles, 16 pass breakups, three interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and two forced fumbles. Last year, Reed notched 47 tackles, nine pass breakups, 4.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
I know what some of you are thinking. Because I’m a K-State alum that this is a homer pick. It’s not. Reed’s skill set could be used in Tampa Bay on defense and special teams, and I would be singing his praises even if he went to KU.
Reed’s Kansas State Defensive Career Stats
2017: 47 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 9 PBUs, 4 INTs, 2 FR, 1 FF
2016: 78 tackles, 16 PBUs, 3 INTs, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD
Reed’s Kansas State Kick Return Career Stats
2017: 17 returns for 582 yards (34.2 avg.), 1 TD, long of 99
2016: 9 returns for 255 yards (28.3 avg.), long of 76
Reed’s Kansas State Punt Return Career Stats
2017: 17 returns for 253 yards (14.9 avg.), 1 TD, long of 62
Reed has the skills to play outside – and defensive coordinator Mike Smith seems to favor quick, undersized cornerbacks with fluid hips – but at 5-foot-9 and with plenty of speed, the Wildcats star might be better suited inside. A willing tackler in the run game, Reed is plenty tough to play against bigger competition due to his aggressive playing style and confidence.
“Probably the one ingredient that stood out as much as anything was his aggressive play that he could defend well against the run,” Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder said. “That hasn’t changed since he’s been here.”
Reed was a walk-on at Fresno State and redshirted during his freshman season. But the Bulldogs coaching staff said that he would only be a special teams player and wouldn’t see time on defense, so he transferred to Cerritos Community College for a year before receiving a scholarship offer from K-State.
“I feel like every time I get onto the field, I have a chip on my shoulder,” Reed said. “I think about all of the people who doubted me and I feel like I’ve got let people know how good I am every time I step onto the field.”
Where Reed brings extra value is on special teams as a really good punt and kick returner. Reed had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a close win over Kansas, and also a 96-yard kick return on his first attempt of the year against Central Missouri. His 34.2-yard average was second in the nation. Reed also had a 62-yard touchdown on a punt return against Central Missouri, in addition to having a 68-yard touchdown on a punt against Vanderbilt called back due to a penalty, as well as an 80-yard punt return TD negated for a penalty at Texas Tech.
With Tampa Bay having one of the most stagnant return games in the NFL over the past two years, Reed’s speed and explosiveness would be a welcomed change on special teams.