INDIANAPOLIS - Next month, the NFL draft will be held in Philadelphia, just a stone's throw from Camden, where Haason Reddick grew up, and a hop, skip and jump from Temple, where he played the last four years.
After an impressive performance Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine, which followed an equally impressive performance in January at the Senior Bowl, Reddick appears to have solidified his case to hear his name called in the first round of the draft.
The 6-1, 237-pound Reddick, who played defensive end for the Owls last season, is being projected as either a WILL linebacker for a 4-3 team or an inside 'backer for a 3-4 team. He aced his combine workout, running a 4.52-second 40, broad jumping 133 inches, posting a 361/2-inch vertical jump and doing 24 reps in the 225-pound bench press.
His 40 time was the second-fastest among the 87 defensive linemen and linebackers at the combine, eclipsed only by a 4.46 by Michigan's Jabrill Peppers. His broad jump topped the charts of the two position groups and his vertical jump was the sixth best.
Reddick was projected as a third- or fourth-round pick a few months back after recording 101/2 sacks and 221/2 tackles for losses and helping the Owls win the American Athletic Conference title. But his performance at the Senior Bowl and combine has shot him up the charts.
"The job he did covering running backs at the Senior Bowl, he's gone from maybe a third- or fourth-round guy to probably a second-round player," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said on Saturday. "If he runs a 4.55 on Sunday, he's going to be in the first-round conversation."
NFL teams have told Reddick the same thing. But he's going to wait until the draft to do any celebrating.
"It's great to hear those things," he said. "It's great to see some people think I'm worthy of being a first-round draft pick. Hopefully, come draft time, that's what will happen. Until then, though, I'm going to continue to work hard and approach every day with a dominant attitude."
It's been quite a journey to this point for Reddick. His football career looked like it was dead in the water five years ago after a knee injury washed out most of his senior season at Haddon Heights High School, after a broken femur cost him his junior season.
Nobody offered him a scholarship. Temple finally agreed to let him walk on as a defensive back. But after redshirting his first year there, he was informed by then coach Steve Addazio that he didn't fit into their plans.
Then Addazio left for Boston College and was replaced by Matt Rhule. Francis Brown, a graduate assistant under Addazio, was promoted to defensive backs coach. Brown, also a Camden native, had watched Reddick play youth football and urged Rhule to give the kid a chance.
Reddick was moved to linebacker and eventually to defensive end. He worked hard and kept getting better and better. The rest, as they say, is history.
"A lot of people think because I'm here now, the work is over," Reddick said. "But the 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 regardless of where I get drafted.
"As far as the overall journey, I'm living in the dream and I don't have to wake up. I'm extremely grateful and appreciative of this opportunity, and I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in."
Who will take Mixon?
Joe Mixon wasn't invited to the combine, but he'll get an opportunity to work out for NFL coaches and scouts Tuesday at Oklahoma's Pro Day.
Mayock has a first-round grade on the 6-1, 226-pound running back, who rushed for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Sooners last season.
But of course, Mixon isn't going to be taken in the first round next month because of an incident nearly three years ago before in his freshman year at Oklahoma when he punched a woman in a restaurant. He was charged with a misdemeanor and received a one-year deferred sentence in a plea agreement.
The woman suffered fractures of her jaw, cheekbone, sinus and orbital bone and has sued Mixon. The incident drew national attention in November when a video of the punch was released.
Mixon obviously is going to slide in the draft because of the incident. The question is how far.
Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who had pleaded guilty to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend, in the fifth round. Hill pleaded guilty to domestic abuse and received three years' probation.
"It's going to be an owner conversation," Mayock said. "Some teams already have taken him off the board. That's a fact. The rest of the teams are going to have to vet him and make a determination.
"I had a lot of conversations with teams about Hill. That's kind of the benchmark. That was last year. He turned into an All-Pro. Mixon is a first-round talent. At what point can you take him?
"It's a lot like anything (else) nonfootball. It's a lot like medical issues, (and) other character issues. All of that stuff gets vetted, and some teams say he's off the board and other might say - and I'm not talking about Mixon right now; I'm just talking about issues - other teams might say, 'I can live with that medical or character issue. Just grade the player.'
"And a lot of other teams will say it's a sliding scale. (They'll say), 'I'm not willing to put a one on him, but if he was sitting there at five (fifth round), I'll take him. Because I can mitigate my financial loss that way.' "
The Eagles need help at running back, but my guess is they've already taken him off their draft board.
Yes, in 2009, at the urging of his coach, Andy Reid, owner Jeff Lurie ignored public sentiment and signed quarterback Michael Vick after he was released from prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.
But Reid felt strongly about giving Vick a second chance mainly because of the troubles his own sons had been in, and Lurie acquiesced.
I can't see Lurie being willing to deal with another public firestorm just for the sake of getting a first-round running back on the cheap.
Some other team, though, probably will be.
This and that
For a guy who is expected to be a first-round pick in next month's draft, tight end O.J. Howard didn't catch a lot of passes at Alabama. Over the last two years, he had just 83 receptions for 1,197 yards and five touchdowns. And that includes his nine catches for 314 yards and three TDs in 'Bama's two national-title clashes with Clemson. Did he ever get frustrated? "Frustrated? Never," he said. "Disappointed, yeah. I got disappointed I didn't get the opportunities I thought I should have gotten. But I never got frustrated, because I was a team player. I was excited to see us win. You can't go wrong with winning."
Even if the Eagles trade for a wide receiver or sign one in free agency, Mayock still thinks there's a good chance they'll draft one in the first round. But he said the type of veteran receiver they might add probably would affect which wideout they might take in the first round. "If they get a vertical threat like (Brandin) Cooks, they'd probably lean toward a bigger wideout like Mike Williams at 14," he said. "On the other hand, if they sign somebody like, say, Alshon Jeffery, then maybe John Ross comes into play. They have to pair what they get in free agency with what they do in the draft."