Listen to any coach or general manager talk about roster additions, draft prospects or roster construction and a frequent buzz word you will hear is “versatility”. The more roles a player can fill and different ways they are capable of executing makes them all the more valuable to the franchise. With NFL rosters set at 53 men and only 46 of them able to dress and contribute on Sunday, there’s no doubt about the value of versatility.
A big reason why I’m such a big fan of Virginia wide receiver Joe Reed is because of the multiple ways he can impact a football game and bring value to his team.
The Media’s favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division this year, Virginia was tasked with replacing Olamide Zaccheaus who enjoyed a record-breaking career for the Cavs and now plays for the Atlanta Falcons. The passing game was funneled through Zaccheaus and he was a big loss for the program.
While Reed was expected to play a bigger role in the offense in 2019, prior to this season he was mostly known for his ability to win as a kick returner while sprinkling in the occasional big play on offense.
Through the first four games of the season, Reed is proving to be more of a complete receiver while still providing big plays in the return game. Reed is currently the team leader in receptions (23), receiving yards (215) and receiving touchdowns (3) for the 18th ranked Cavaliers.
Virginia’s all-time leader in kick returns, Reed has averaged 28.4 yards per return on 90 attempts while scoring four touchdowns. When commenting on Reed’s ability as a kick returner, Cavalier’s head coach Bronco Mendenhall had glowing remarks.
“Joe is the best kick returner that I’ve had a chance to coach. He’s got amazing speed and just has a knack and great vision and is very dynamic.
Earlier this season, Reed became the fourth player in Virginia history to return a kick 100 yards and is the only player in program history to return a kick for a touchdown in three separate seasons. You’ll need both hands to count the number of pursuit angles Reed broke on his record-breaking return touchdown against William & Mary.
NFL playmakers like Cordarrelle Patterson, Ty Montgomery and Breshaud Perriman have claimed roles as multifaceted weapons for their respective teams and I believe Reed can do the same at the next level.
I’ll get to his receiving skills momentarily, but the same vision and burst that makes him a dynamic return guy opens up a world of opportunity to hand him the ball out of the backfield. Trailing Florida State earlier this year late in the fourth quarter, Reed lined up as a running back and ripped off a 22-yard gain that sparked Virginia’s go-ahead score. Look at how natural he is finding space in tight quarters, accelerating and picking up some yardage post-contact. Delayed hand offs, jet sweeps and reverses should be part of his regular usage in the NFL.
In this next play, Reed is lined up as an h-back. And while you are probably thinking that when matched up with a linebacker that he should make this type of play, there’s more to it than that. First, we have evidence of him being able to execute from that alignment and run the route with proper tempo for the coverage to rotate and clear the space needed for the score. Second, look at those over the shoulder ball tracking skills and how he adjusts to the outside throw when it appears he is expecting the ball to arrive at his inside shoulder.
This next rep is a trademark play for Reed and staple of the Virginia offense over the past two seasons. While the action around it can vary, the objective is for the Cavs to have Reed run a quick flat route and set up a one-on-one opportunity in space for him to make one guy miss and rip off a big gain. He took this one to the house against Old Dominion last week, just like he did to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in 2018.
So far, I’ve illustrated examples of Reed’s skill set with the ball in his hands and the variety of alignments he can find success from within the offense. This last clip highlights my favorite reps of his down the field as a vertical threat where his speed, ball skills, body control and hands all impress.
Reed will have to evolve as a route-runner to be considered a future No. 1 or No. 2 option in an NFL passing offense, but he’s still developing as a senior and claiming a major role for the Cavs who desperately needed that to happen for Virginia to meet expectations this season. With that said, Reed absolutely brings a valuable skill set to the table that can be deployed in a variety of ways at the next level for him to serve as a multifaceted playmaker.