The Buffalo Bills’ defense has been inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they’ve transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. Some players throughout the front seven that were productive in Mike Pettine and Jim Schwartz’ defensive schemes that were based on 4-3 concepts haven’t been able to replicate that success in their new roles. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look at Clemson nose tackle, D.J. Reader.
D.J. Reader came to Clemson as a three-star recruit and a three-sport High School star as a football, basketball and baseball player. Standing 6’3” and weighing 340 pounds, Reader is an impressive athlete with great quickness for his massive frame.
He missed roughly half of the 2015 season after he left the team for personal reasons, but had a standout performance in the National Championship Game against Alabama that went overlooked due to the production from his linemates Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd.
Previous Prospect Breakdowns
D.J. Reader Run Defense
D.J. Reader has prototypical size for the nose tackle position and during his time at Clemson, he primarily aligned directly over the center as a two-gap defender. While he was routinely double-teamed, Reader still found ways to make plays, recording 73 tackles, nine tackles for loss and five sacks in his four years with the team.
In the following play against Alabama, Reader is aligned at the one-technique between the center and right guard.
He fires off the snap and gets his arms inside of the right guard before showing the strength to push him out of the way and is able to bring down Derrick Henry at the line of scrimmage.
Here, Reader’s sheer power and strength is put on display again. He’s aligned over the center with Alabama in a pistol formation in “11” personnel with the tight end flexed out to the slot. At the snap, Alabama blocks down to double Reader, but his lower body strength and leg drive allows him to move the blockers back off the line of scrimmage. He blows up the point of attack and his teammates swarm to the ball, resulting in a stop.
D.J. Reader is an impressive athlete for his size as the following play highlights. It’s third-and-long, so Reader is aligned at the three-technique between the right guard and right tackle. Alabama is in the pistol again and at the snap, Reader keeps a low pad level, using his 32 5/8” arms to control the center—a projected Top-60 pick in Ryan Kelly—as he works down the line of scrimmage. He overpowers the center, forcing him to the ground, before leaping to wrap up Derrick Henry for a gain of two.
He does this again against Oklahoma.
D.J. Reader’s ideal fit at the next level is as a traditional nose tackle, where he’ll be asked to sink his hips and anchor at the point of attack and allow the inside linebackers to make plays against the run. He shows the ability to do that in the following play against Oklahoma, as he stands up the center, allowing his teammates to attack the ball-carrier for a minimal gain.
Here, he’s part of a huge goalline stop in the National Championship Game.
D.J. Reader Pass Rush
D.J. Reader plays much faster than what you’d expect out of a 340-pound nose tackle and he’s capable of generating some pressure in the passing game. Reader saw most of his action in rushing situations, so there’s not much video available of him rushing the passer, but in the limited action he saw, he showed potential. Reader isn’t going to be a disruptive force on a routine basis, but he can push the pocket and use his hands to disengage from blockers.
In the following play against Oklahoma, Reader simply dominates the left tackle with an impressive display of strength and violent hands to throw him to the ground before bringing down quarterback Baker Mayfield for a sack.
Here, Reader shows that he’ll play through the whistle even when he isn’t close to the ball. He’s double teamed off the snap but fights through it, as quarterback Jacob Coker gets the pass off.
Potential Fit With Buffalo Bills
With Rex Ryan stating that he was going to be “all in” with his system in 2016, the Buffalo Bills will likely look to add a true nose tackle that would allow Marcell Dareus to play the three or a shaded five-technique role where he’d be able to get after the quarterback.
D.J. Reader definitely needs to improve in some areas of his game, as he has a tendency to lower his head and try to overpower offensive linemen with his raw strength. By doing this, he doesn’t consistently play with a square base and low pad level and he’ll often find himself on the ground. However, D.J. Reader definitely flashes the potential to be a dominant two-down nose tackle at the NFL level and will likely be a late Day Two or early Day Three selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.