Explosiveness - Burst shows up more so as a stand-up wide rusher or interior blitzer as opposed to when his hands are in the dirt. Does not gain great ground with his first step and often false steps or steps into tackle as a read player, not so much looking to win the outside arc. That said, has clear natural explosiveness despite often popping upright out of his stance. Can win half-man relationship on outside rush track and varies tempo accordingly to maximize burst and win the outside shoulder.
Bend - Ability to flatten to the QB is outstanding. Doesn't have great natural flexibility in the hips and is naturally upright, but flexibility through ankles to dip shoulder underneath punch and retain velocity up the arc is shocking at times. Upper and lower half are clearly divorced and freedom of motion is impressive when taking on contact on outside rush track or as an interior blitzer.
Hand Usage - Unrefined and to his detriment. Regularly tries to throw moves like inside spin, outside spin, and stab bull-rush that he simply does not have in his arsenal because of a lack of timing and coordination in his step depth and landmarks. Does little if anything to draw out OT's punch and will not strike hands to soften rush angle -- again, upright style of play hurts here.
Quickness - Supremely quick when working a two-way go as a rusher. Wins occasionally with an inside spin and often with a simple inside/euro step style rush -- has great body control to whip through tight areas when working pass rush counters and blitzing from the interior. As a stand-up defender in short zones, upright stance limits his ability to transition quickly -- coverage technique saps on-field quickness to a concerning low.
Physicality - Weirdly hit or miss. Not in the slightest afraid of contact, but seems to trust his ability to play around contact far more than he trusts his ability to play through contact. When engaged in the trenches, has functional power throughout to hold up his gap, though size disadvantage betrays him. When climbers/pullers come his way, looks to wrong-arm/side-step far more than he steps down or fills, which may be a diagnostic issue, but seems more likely a self-reflective indictment on his play strength at his size. Not fearful, but knowingly ineffective.
Run Defense - Lack of ideal size causes problems even as a stand-up EDGE defender when he has play side responsibilities. Fails to drop his hips to anchor against zone flow; must knife between blocks and penetrate to fulfill role as force player. Tries to wiggle around contact as an EDGE and off-ball linebacker and doesn't often activate his hands despite displaying some good upper body strength when he does. As a pursuit player, brings a hot motor and a headhunter's disposition -- explosive and quick coming from the backside.
Mental Processing - Suffers from lack of true position. Triangle reads as an off-ball linebacker are untrustworthy; can be exposed as a read key defender as the EMLOS and does not feel pressure keys quickly from any alignment. Best film here regards adjusting rush plan to QB drops, which is more prevalent as an interior blitzer. Would benefit from a primary, stable position as a 3-4 OLB.
Tackling - Lacking in ideal size and radius to be a consistent tackler, but makes do with what he's got. More of a drag-down tackler than a stick-and-drive tackler for what you'd like for a potential trench player -- could improve ability to bring his feet with him through contact. Will strike when he's the second man to arrive and often hunts the ball.
Functional Athleticism - Mixed bag. Lack of true position at Nevada and odd frame muddy pro projection from an ideal size/athleticism perspective. Notably quick and explosive when closing downhill; has good strength through frame; lacks length and true EDGE weight; explosiveness and quickness more effective as an EDGE as compared to an off-ball linebacker. Must be viewed as a chess piece blitzer from the interior to be protected from chess play -- that's not an easy fit.
BEST TRAIT - Bend
WORST TRAIT - Hand Usage
RED FLAGS - None
PRO COMPARISON - Marquis Haynes
Nevada EDGE Malik Reed has every secondary box checked. He's a workout warrior, a team captain, an unselfish player who jumped position, an all-conference academic. According to people close to Reed and the program, he's as quality of a leader as you can find.
The primary boxes are the issue. Reed does not have the frame to hold up as a 4-3 DE, and must play 3-4 OLB -- but if he's short of 240 pounds and has poor length, it's tough to imagine him holding up that well against the run, which is already an issue on film. The fact that the Wolfpack rushed Reed from so many gaps/alignments illustrates that he shouldn't be used as an every-down EDGE rusher, but rather a move piece who can rush effectively from anywhere.
But to do so, Reed must become more comfortable dropping into coverage, as he's currently a stiff and unaware defender in need of polishing (only one year at "linebacker" for Nevada).
You know Reed will fill out a special-teams role, and you know that even situational rushers are valuable. Teams that run hybrid fronts and love to zone blitz should value Reed more highly than most, but any team with stand-up 9-technique rushers should look to take Reed late as a special-teams maven and high-upside depth piece.
ROUND GRADE: 5th