Do you who I think is the most underrated player right now on the Rams roster? It is J.R. Reed. I wonder what percentage of Rams fans even know he's on the roster.
Lance Zierlein had Reed graded as a 4th round prospect last year. Mel Kiper suggested he was a possible 3rd round pick. Multiple mocks had him in the 4th to 5th round range. LZ gave Reed a 5.99 grade. Meanwhile, he gave Jordan Fuller only a 5.62 grade with a 7th round to UDFA projection. LZ had Reed graded as high or higher than Brandon Jones (3rd round pick), Tanner Muse (3rd round) and K'Von Wallace (4th round).
Reed was one of 3 finalists for the 2019 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. The other 2 finalists were Grant Delpit (the winner) and Jeff Okudah. He was also an AP All American in 2019. So, he's not a random, unheralded player who went unnoticed in college.
Draft experts thought Reed was an average athlete, but loved his football IQ. In many ways, he's a very similar player to Jordan Fuller. Reed's dad is former NFL receiver, Jake Reed. He's also the nephew of former NFL DB, Dale Carter. In interviews, Reed is very intelligent, mature and professional.
Reed was a 3 star high school recruit from Frisco, Texas. He played WR and DB, one of the few 2 way players for his team. His final season in HS, he was returning a punt in a playoff game when he got hit in the leg and tore his ACL. He grayshirted at Tulsa, then was a backup in 2015. He transferred to Georgia and sat out 2016.
In 2017, he had 79 tackles, 5 TFLs, 2 INTs and 5 PBU. The following season, he had 66 tackles and 2 more INTs. He got his degree in 2018. In 2019, he had 54 tackles, an INT, FF, FR for TD and 7 PBUs. He also was one of four team captains. A turf toe injury kept him out of the Sugar Bowl.
Reed is 25 years old, 2 years older than Fuller.
Reed: 6'1'' tall, 202 pounds (Rams list him at 194), 32.5'' arms, 76 3/8'' wingspan, 9 7/8'' hands
Fuller: 6'2'' tall, 203 pounds, 31'' arms, 76 1/8'' wingspan, 9'' hands
Reed: 4.54 sec (40 time), 1.57 sec (10 yard split), 34'' vert
Fuller: 4.67 sec (40 time), 1.64 sec (10 yard split), 35.5'' vert
Reed initially was an UDFA with the Jaguars, then was on the PS for the Rams. Elevated to the active roster later in the season, he didn't get any defensive snaps, but played on special teams in multiple regular season games, then in both playoff games against Seattle and the Packers.
It isn't too surprising that Reed didn't play on defense, because he wasn't with the Rams during the offseason and during training camp and Fuller was playing pretty well. He should be better situated to compete for a role heading into this season. John Johnson leaving in FA creates an opportunity for him to try to move up the depth chart and get playing time.
I don't know why Reed wasn't drafted. Maybe he'll be a trainwreck for the Rams. Regardless of how things turn out, he's an underrated addition the Rams made last year and a player who merits more attention from fans. He's a darkhorse player who is flying under the radar, but who could end up being a surprisingly key part of the defense this season.