Dj. Reader: 2016 Cowboys NT Prospect

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Dj. Reader is the second prospect in our 2016 “The Guys No One Is Talking About” Series. Nose Tackle is by far the most under appreciated position on the defense, yet imperative to it’s success.

Dj. Reader

Cas started the series years ago while doing fan blogs at dallascowboys.com. Following a highly successful track record, it has become a cornerstone here at YDCFF and produced numerous NFL success stories. In this post I am profiling Clemson NT, Dj. Reader.

Will all of the players we profile in this series become Pro Bowl players or even solid starters in the NFL? Absolutely not. Some may become solid special teams guys, backups, or not make final cuts in training camp. Others may have to begin their careers in another league such as the CFL. One of our previous candidates who has become a star in the NFL, Andrew Sendejo, started his career in the UFL.

We are firm believers in the Landry three year rule. Some of the players from “The Guys No One Is Talking About” series will need some time to develop, so please reserve any negative opinions on them until they have had a chance to do so. However, for those of you who are familiar with the series, you know many have gone on to have solid careers in the NFL. This series is about getting these guys some recognition.

Dj. Reader
(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Dj. Reader, NT

Height|Weight: 6-3   327

Arms: 33 5/8″

College: Clemson

40 time: 5.33

Bench Reps: 30

Vertical Jump: 29.5″

Grade: 79.5

Round: 5-6

Dj. Reader played both ways in high school along the offensive and defensive lines, but was recruited by colleges as a guard. Upon arrival at Clemson, the coaches decided he was best suited to play defensive tackle and it proved to be a wise decision. He  had 40 tackles, three quarterback pressures and one pass breakup in 236 snaps over 13 games as a true Freshman: averaging one tackle every 5.9 snaps, one of the best figures on the team.

Dj. Reader lost his father in 2014 and it has been a rocky road for him. Just before the 2015 season began, Reader decided to leave the team for personal reasons.

“D.J. Reader has decided to step away from football for a while,” coach Dabo Swinney announced Aug. 25. “He has some personal issues he has to deal with at this time. We are not sure when he will return. We will support him any way we can.”

He returned in October, playing nine games on the year (13 tackles, 1.5 for loss). He looked like he had returned to his old self in the National Championship vs the Alabama Crimson Tide, but the damage had been done to his draft stock. However, if NFL scouts believe he is through that rough patch, they will have serious interest in his ability to eat space in the middle of the defensive line.

The Dallas Cowboys defense was at the bottom of the league when it came to getting off the field on 3rd and short. Reader was in the shadow of Lawson and Dodd at Clemson, but few fail to realize the attention he was drawing in the middle enabled them to make plays. The Cowboys front 7 will never be competitive until they have a big, powerful, space eater. Nick Hayden has been barely average and it shows on 3rd and 1, or on 3rd and long. Too many times opposing QBs have a nice clean pocket to step up in to and the time to convert on 3rd and long. They need someone who can stuff the run, collapse the pocket and create lanes for the linebackers…

Dj. Reader

Film Study:

  • Dj. Reader has a mammoth thick frame with impressive upper body strength… Looks the part of an NFL Nose Tackle… Very athletic for a big man and has excellent feet… Saw time at FB for Clemson… Good burst out of his stance… Above average power at the point and able to hold up against double teams… Played at both NT and the 3 technique…
  • It’s obvious he was recruited as a guard because of his initial quickness, balance, quick, active feet and ability to anchor… Has above average agility and it shows in traffic… More times than not he is the low man, understands leverage and uses it to expel blockers… Able to stack and shed, move well laterally and make plays all along the line… Has the power to split a double team… Powerful bull rush that collapses pockets… Flashes the ability to get up field as a pass rusher, but best suited as a run stuffer at this time… Simply overpowers centers at the collegiate level…
  • Dj. Reader was used in the rotation primarily as a run stuffer and lacks proper technique as a pass rusher… Despite his initial burst out of his stance, he needs to improve his snap anticipation… Slow response to the snap allows quick blockers to get their hands in to his chest… Lack of hand usage once blockers get hands placed, tries to power his way out rather than knocking them away… Lacks good closing speed when in pursuit… Has the tools to be an elite pass rusher, but hasn’t tapped in to his potential…  More than likely wasn’t coached up in that area because his role was as a run stuffer most of the time at Clemson…

Overall, Dj. Reader is extremely athletic for his size and was among the strongest DTs at the combine (30 reps). He had the best vertical leap among DTs that weighed over 310 lbs (29.5″) and it was better than many of the sub 300 lb guys. It is no easy task getting 327 lbs that far off of the ground… If the player he is, ever meets the player he can be, watch the hell out…

I put a mid round grade on him, but projected him in the 5th to 6th round because scouts will question his time off and his lack of hand usage/technique as a pass rusher. With proper coaching there is no reason why he can’t be a top NT at the NFL level…

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  • californy

    I agree with your assessment in the middle rds. No part time player should ever be taken before the first 4 rds of the draft. I like the fact he has good stamina, I like player who have offensive line stamina and are all down players.

  • californy

    I agree with your assessment in the middle rds. No part time player should ever be taken before the first 4 rds of the draft. I like the fact he has good stamina, I like player who have offensive line stamina and are all down players.

    • Al

      Towards the end there at Clemson he was an every down DT quite a bit

  • californy

    I would use a player with his girt and push on offense on goal line situation. Being a former Offensive line I am sure he understand the principles of leverage in moving the pile. In fact why not use him as depth on the Offensive line as a Offensive Guard, I assume the extra work would only help him get into better football shapes.

    • Al

      Clemson used him as a FB on the goal line.

  • californy

    I would use a player with his girt and push on offense on goal line situation. Being a former Offensive line I am sure he understand the principles of leverage in moving the pile. In fact why not use him as depth on the Offensive line as a Offensive Guard, I assume the extra work would only help him get into better football shapes.

  • californy

    I see this player as a DT in a 3-4 situation. I wont hesitates using him in the right situation in a 4-3 defense.

  • californy

    I see this player as a DT in a 3-4 situation. I wont hesitates using him in the right situation in a 4-3 defense.

  • californy

    One of my favorite player at DT is Atayba Rubin, he too was a former Offensive Guard. I thought he did well last year coming off the bench for Seattle. I would signed him cheap as a FA, under 1.5 Million a year so Reader can have a player he can mentor off of.

    • Al

      I like Rubin as well. My guess is he is getting up there in age. If the price is right, bring him in as a bridge player.

  • BigDIndiana

    at the combine drills he didn’t look stiff at all for a kid his size. probably a 3-4 guy but could be a good 2 down guy in a 4-3.

    • Al

      He has the athletic ability to be a 3 down DT in a 4-3, he just needs to develop his technique as a pass rusher. I would say sign an older vet as a bridge player on a 1 or 2 year deal and let this kid develop as a pass rusher. He is ready day 1 to be in the rotation and based on what I have seen, I believe he could be ready within a year to assume full time duties.

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