NFL Combine: Former Temple star Haason Reddick ready to open eyes

NFL Combine: Former Temple star Haason Reddick ready to open eyes

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's a good chance on April 27 that Temple's Haason Reddick will become a first-round pick just across the river from his hometown and in the city where his football career was given new life. 

"It's like I'm living in a dream," Reddick said at the NFL combine Saturday, "and I don't have to wake up."

You'll surely forgive Reddick for getting slightly poetic. His story is one that certainly warrants it. 

Reddick, 22, is from Camden, New Jersey, and went to Haddon Heights High School where he was a really good player; a safety at that time. But injuries to his right knee in his junior and senior seasons kept him off the field and left him without any game tape or hope of playing college football. 

He applied to two schools: Rutgers and Temple. He got into just one. But even then, he didn't think he would be able to play on the Temple football team. It's not that he didn't think he was good enough … it's that he didn't know he would be allowed. 

"I didn't know that you could walk on," Reddick said, retelling the story at his combine media availability Saturday. "I thought my football career was over after high school."

Really, it was just beginning. 

At the time, Reddick's father was "poking around," trying to see if there was any way to get his son on the football team. Luckily a guy named Francis Brown, who was a graduate assistant for the Owls at the time, was a family friend. Brown, who is now the defensive backs coach for Baylor, helped Reddick become a preferred walk-on at Temple. From there, Reddick was buried on the depth chart until Matt Rhule took over the program in 2013. 

Reddick became a contributor and then a starting defensive end before finally earning a scholarship before his redshirt senior season in 2016.  

Within a few short years, Reddick has gone from thinking his football days were over after limping off a high school field to potentially being taken in the first round of the NFL draft. 

"Of course I've seen it," Reddick said of the first-round buzz. "I don't try to pay attention to it, just because you never know what can happen. People rise and fall every day depending on what a team needs or what a team thinks about somebody. It's great to see those things. It's great to see that some people think I'm worthy of being a first-round draft pick. 

"Hopefully come draft time, that's what it is. But until then, I’m going to continue to work hard and approach every day with a dominant approach." 

This is an important week for Reddick, as it is for the other 329 combine participants. Do well and watch the draft stock soar. Mess up and watch it plummet. But if the trend from the last couple of months continues, Reddick will keep climbing up draft boards. 

"I'm very much a Haason Reddick guy," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call earlier this week. "And if he tests well at the combine, I think he's going to come from nowhere to being, at worst, a second-round pick and perhaps a late first-round pick."

A big step for Reddick came at the Senior Bowl in January. It's there where Reddick was listed as a linebacker and got a chance to show he could play a new position against some of the best competition in the country. He was one of the best players on the field. 

The week in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl was an important one for Reddick in his transition to the NFL. While he's lumped with defensive linemen at the combine, he's clearly projected to be a linebacker in the NFL. Some teams view him as an outside linebacker and some an inside. And he likes things about both spots. Ideally, he said, he'll end up with a team that uses him at both. But if he doesn't, it won't be a big deal to him, he said. 

"This whole journey has been nothing but hard work for me," Reddick said. "A lot of people think that because I'm here now, the hard work is over. The hard work for me is not over. I'm going to continue to work hard. I’m going to continue to make sure I have a prosperous career in the NFL."

As of Saturday afternoon, Reddick wasn’t sure if he was going to take part in linebacker and defensive linemen drills Sunday but was more than up for it if he got the chance. 

Reddick is hoping to run a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and said he has another bigger goal in mind for himself but wanted to keep it hidden. He said if he reaches the goal everyone will know. 

After all Reddick has overcome, it wouldn't be smart to bet against him. 

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

The Eagles need cornerbacks. Plural. 

It's not a secret that the team's biggest weakness heading into next week's draft is at the cornerback position. So it would stand to reason that their best bet might be to simply take the best one off the board when they're on the clock at 14.

But NFL Network's Mike Mayock, on his annual pre-draft conference call marathon extravaganza Friday, said he thinks they should take a different approach. 

Looking at the top corners in the draft, Mayock is convinced Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore will be off the board well before the Eagles are on the clock at 14. His next rated corner is Gareon Conley. After that, Mayock has Marlon Humphrey but pointed out his major flaw of struggling to find the football in the air. 

So if Conley makes it to 14, the Eagles should pick him, right? 

Not so fast. 

"So I look at it this way, if Conley's on the board at 14, you have to compare him to the best playmaker on offense on your board," Mayock said. "Because I'm not convinced the Eagles should go defense, to be honest with you. 

"If Conley's not there, I think you want to go get your corner in the second or third round and I think they need two corners. But my perspective is, you drafted Carson Wentz. You better support him. You signed two wideouts in free agency (Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith) who are both effectively one-year contracts. Your slot receiver, (Jordan) Matthews is in the final year of his deal. (Brent) Celek, the tight end, is 32 years old. 

"So you might sit there and go, 'This year looks OK,' but get a running back. Get a (Christian) McCaffrey or a Dalvin Cook. Get a tight end, O.J. Howard. Get weapons. Get one of those wideouts you like. So I would be comparing Conley to the highest playmaker you have on the board offensively. And I might be leaning towards offense if it was me." 

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. 

When Zach Ertz looks at the recent history of great quarterback-tight end duos in the NFL, he can't help but notice one thing stands out. 

"Those guys have been together for a long time," Ertz said Thursday afternoon. 

Brady and Gronk have been together for seven seasons. Cam and Olsen have been together for six. And Brees and Graham were together for five. 

"And I think just having that, where you're on the same page regardless of the coverage," Ertz continued. "If they give you this coverage, you know exactly what you're going to do. If they give you that coverage, he knows exactly what I'm going to do. When to expect the ball vs. certain coverages, it might be a little earlier, it might be a little later. So it's just that constant camaraderie where we're able to know what the other person is thinking without thinking about it."

Ertz hopes that's the kind of relationship he can forge with Carson Wentz, who will enter his second NFL season in 2017. 

Ertz and Wentz spend a lot of time together in the facility and away from it. A group of Eagles went to Ertz's wedding earlier this offseason, and of course, Wentz was present. If it seems like Ertz is going to great lengths to build a rapport with his quarterback, he is. 

After going through Mike Vick and Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford, the Eagles' starting tight end finally has a quarterback that isn't going anywhere for a while.  

"It's going to be huge," Ertz said about playing with Wentz for a second straight year. "I think when Carson was drafted, from the receivers and tight ends, that was the one thing we were really excited about. That we knew for the next five, 10, 20 years, hopefully, in Philadelphia, we knew who our quarterback was going to be."

Since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft out of Stanford, Ertz has been an extremely productive player. But that has set up huge expectations as fans wait for a "breakout year." Zach Ertz might never be Rob Gronkowski, but the numbers are hard to argue. 

In the first four years of his career, Ertz has 247 catches for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. Since 2013, here's the list of tight ends who have more catches and yards than Ertz: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Delanie Walker, Antonio Gates. 

Ertz and Jeremy Maclin are the only two players in Eagles history to put up those numbers in their first four seasons. 

The argument often heard about Ertz's numbers is that they come in garbage time. Ertz has historically been an absolute beast in December. In the last few years, that hasn't meant much to a struggling Eagles franchise, but if they're in the playoff hunt in upcoming years, they'll probably want that trend to continue. 

The one statistic that doesn't seem to match the others: touchdowns. While Ertz has been among top tight ends in the league in receptions and yards, his 13 touchdowns rank 17th among tight ends since 2013. (It's not a stat, but for what it's worth, Ertz would likely be among the league leaders in touchdowns called back for penalties in the last few years.)

"I want to be the guy in the red zone, believe me," Ertz said. "For the first four years in my career, I think the most touchdowns I had in a year was four. So this year, we didn't have a lot of red zone touchdowns and that falls on us as players to get it down when we get down there, make plays when the ball's in the air. That's something I do pride myself on, making those tough and contested catches, whether it be in the red zone or third down. I want to be more of a go-to guy in the red zone, but I've got to earn that this spring and summer, earn that trust of the quarterback as well as Doug (Pederson). It's going to be a process, but when you look at the great tight ends in the league, the first thing that stands out is touchdowns."