The San Francisco 49ers have K’Waun Williams as their slot corner of the present, but the team might have found their slot corner of the future with fifth round pick D.J. Reed. The Kansas State product stands 5’10 and with some questions about his physicality, working inside seems the best option for him. That being said, John Lynch did say they could see him get some work at free safety and potentially outside as well. It is also worth noting he was a strong kick and punt returner in his final college season.
We took a few minutes to chat with Jon Morse, site editor of at SB Nation’s K-State blog, Bring on the Cats. He offered some thoughts on Reed’s role with the Wildcats, where he can improve his game, and what to make of him off the field. Thanks to Jon for taking some time to break it all down!
Can you tell us about the role(s) he filled at K-State?
Reed almost immediately stepped in as a starting cornerback and as the primary kick returner when he arrived from Cerritos College. That’s rare for even a JUCO transfer at K-State, so there were a lot of expectations. Reed usually drew the opponent’s best receiver, but K-State’s scheme tends more toward “worry about what you’re doing” than “worry about what they’re doing”. That didn’t seem to get in the way of Reed suddenly appearing out of nowhere to bail out an overmatched safety all the way across the field, though.
Reed also worked his way into the kick and punt returning jobs during his sophomore year, nudging aside both Dominique Heath and newly-signed Kansas City Chiefs receiver Byron Pringle. He earned it, and then lit off a bunch of fireworks.
What does he do particularly well on the football field?
Reed reads the field very well, and as noted has a good eye for dropping his coverage and moving to assist another zone. He’s got wheels, cuts well, and did a very good job breaking up passes. He doesn’t lose his man very often either.
What does he need to do to improve his game at the NFL level?
As a defensive back, he largely corrected his biggest flaw last year. As a sophomore, Reed had a tendency to try to jump routes too often, getting beaten in the process. Early in 2016, there was a lot of “Arrrrrgh, D.J.!” in our game threads. They were completely absent in 2017.
As a returner, he still sometimes suffers from bad decision-making, however. There have been times when he’s chosen to field a punt inside his five yard line, with poor results; in fact, if memory serves his only fumbles on kick returns occurred in situations where he should have just let the kick go. If he can be cleansed of this sin, he’s solidly electric as a returner.
What can you tell us about his personality and how he is off the field?
Reed has enough swagger for both of us, and I’m not altogether sure he knows what the word “humility” means. But he’s a good guy who never got into any trouble in Manhattan as far as we know, and he’s got quite a bit of leadership ability.
Anything else of note worth knowing about Reed?
Sometimes, you can get insight into a player by looking at their coursework. Most K-State players either take the usual football route academically, getting a degree in kinesiology or some other strange major, or get a high-end degree like engineering. Reed is a bit of a rarity -- he went after a liberal arts degree, majoring in history. Not sure how well he did, but it’s an interesting choice.