During the first week of free agency, the Jets signed former Seattle Seahawks cornerback DJ Reed to a three-year deal in free agency. Today we break him down in detail.
The 25-year old Reed is listed at 5’9” and 188 pounds and was a fifth round pick out of Kansas State in 2018. He spent two years as a reserve with the 49ers in Robert Saleh’s defense, but then moved to Seattle where he established himself as a solid starter. He has 194 tackles, four interceptions and four fumble recoveries in his career.
Reed didn’t get a single scholarship offer after his high school career ended and ended up going to Fresno State where he redshirted his first season, but then decided to transfer to Cerritos Community College where he racked up 42 tackles and two interceptions in 11 games.
He was then able to transfer to Kansas State and finally got an opportunity as a full-time starting cornerback and kick returner. In two years with the Wildcats, he was a two-time all-Big 12 selection and then declared early for the 2018 draft.
Reed racked up 75 tackles, 16 passes defensed and three interceptions, including a pick six in his first year with Kansas State, then registered 49 tackles and four interceptions in his second season.
He was also named as a second-team all-American as a kick returner, as he returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown.
Reed wasn’t 100 percent at the combine, but posted a good pro day workout and was selected by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2018 draft.
In two years with the 49ers, Reed was a valuable reserve, contributing in a variety of roles. He only started two games but recorded 54 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and two pass breakups. He also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery and contributed well on returns.
In his third training camp, Reed was injured and the 49ers decided to waive him ahead of the 2020 season. The Seahawks claimed him and he moved into their lineup midway through the season, establishing himself as a starter.
He recorded 62 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups in 2020 and then racked up 78 tackles, two interceptions and 10 passes defensed in 2021.
The Jets signed Reed to a deal worth a reported $11 million per year in the first week of free agency.
Now let’s take a look at what Reed brings to the table, divided into categories.
Reed is undersized, although he has adequate length and big hands. Ahead of the draft, it was suggested he would probably best project to a slot role but he plays bigger than he is and has been able to hold his own on the outside.
At the combine, Reed had to cut his workout short after posting an underwhelming 4.51 in the 40-yard dash and 11 bench press reps. He did post a solid 36.5-inch vertical though.
Reed impressed at his pro day with a solid broad jump and good numbers in the agility drills, though.
Reed played on the outside in college but initially contributed as a free safety and slot cornerback with the 49ers, although he did play briefly as an outside corner in 2019.
With Seattle, he played two games as a slot corner but then moved to the outside due to injuries and held his own in that role to establish himself as the full-time starter for 2021.
In Seattle, he tended to stick to one side or other other rather than shadowing a specific match-up. He primarily played on the right in 2021 but has also played on the left.
Reed primarily played in zone coverage with Seattle, although he showcases some ability to mirror his man’s route.
He moves well and is tenacious and competitive with good recovery speed. His long speed is also good, so he doesn’t get beaten deep very often.
Reed’s coverage numbers in 2021 were impressive as he allowed a completion percentage of just 47.7 when targeted.
One issue he has is that he can give his man too much of a cushion, relying on his recovery speed too much to jump routes.
He can also overreact when anticipating the initial break, which could make him susceptible to double moves.
Reed has had good on-ball production at every level, although the Jets would like to see him intercept more passes to justify his salary because he just has four in four seasons right now.
His closing speed and timing is outstanding and he displays good disruptiveness at the catch-point.
On this play, he makes a good read in zone coverage, but has to make an athletic play on the ball.
Reed is an impressive tackler, showing excellent technique in terms of how he breaks down and displaying good range and closing speed.
Despite often being smaller than the player he has to tackle, Reed is feisty and does a good job of getting his man on the ground. However, he can be dragged for extra yards at the end of a run and will miss a tackle from time to time.
He has been called for a face mask penalty once in his professional career so far.
Reed makes up for his lack of size by being physical whether contesting at the catch-point, disrupting downfield or slowing down a man with the jam in press coverage.
However, there are times where his lack of size can be exploited by bigger receivers.
Reed can get grabby from time to time, especially close to the end zone. In his career so far, he has been called five times for pass interference, three for defensive holding and once for illegal contact.
Reed contributed well against the run when he was with the 49ers, although he hasn’t had as many chances to contribute in run support since moving to the outside.
He displays good discipline, does a good job of diagnosing the run and can fight off blocks on the outside.
Reed didn’t blitz much in college or with Seattle, since he’d been playing outside, but he showed that he was adept at generating pressure when blitzing from the slot with the 49ers. He has one career sack, on this play.
Reed has had some outstanding success as a return man in college and in the pros, although he only returned one kick last year due to his importance on defense and the Jets are unlikely to need him to contribute unless Braxton Berrios gets hurt.
He averaged 7.8 yards per punt return at the pro level with a longest return of 15 yards. However, he’s averaged a solid 28.7 yards per kickoff return, with one touchdown that was called back due to a late hold.
Other than his return duties, Reed has seen some action as a gunner and a vice. He had eight special teams tackles in his first two seasons but also has six special teams penalties, including five for holding.
Reed’s instincts are impressive and he’s displayed good versatility in terms of his ability to play a variety of roles.
In zone coverage he hasn’t been involved in many blown coverages and is comfortable coming off his assignment to jump a route.
He’s particularly adept at blowing up plays in the flat, reacting early so he can get out in front of the blockers. On one play he read the jumbo tight end leaking out and blew up the play with a good hit near the goal line.
Reed has said he plays with a chip on his shoulder having not received any offers out of high school. He’s extremely confident in his own abilities and talks a lot of trash. He was called for one taunting penalty last season.
He has an excellent work ethic and command of the playbook and was a team captain in college.
The worst injury of Reed’s career so far was the torn pectoral that caused him to be released by San Francisco and to miss the first six games of the 2020 season. He also had to have surgery to repair a torn labrum after his rookie season and had a hip injury during his combine workout.
Reed’s ability to play in multiple roles should equip him well for the Jets’ system and he is, of course, familiar with the scheme having spent two seasons with Saleh as his defensive coordinator, even though he didn’t play outside much at that time.
As noted, he played a lot of zone coverage in Seattle, but they started to introduce more man concepts and he handled these well.
With the Jets, he will presumably line up on the right while Bryce Hall plays on the left, unless the Jets bring in another starter in the draft.
He has been a teammate of current Jets Austin Walter, Tevin Coleman and Laken Tomlinson while with the 49ers.
Reed was a rare bright spot in a Seahawks secondary that was one of the league’s worst but the Jets will be hoping he can continue to contribute well as he did in 2021.
Prior to this move, the Jets had resisted the temptation to spend major assets on the cornerback position, but Saleh is obviously confident in Reed’s ability to handle this role and provide the Jets with an upgrade at a position of weakness.
As noted, Reed himself will also be confident in his ability to achieve this and he has the talent and determination to make that happen.