2023 NFL Draft

Interview: Michigan State WR Jayden Reed A Selfless Team Player Playing A Selfish Position

Jayden Reed is a wide receiver from Michigan State who made a name for himself at the 2023 Senior Bowl, playing well enough to be voted the National Team’s WR Practice Player-of-the-Week by the defensive backs who faced him down in Mobile.

Before he was tearing up Senior Bowl practice, Reed was pretty good in actual games throughout his collegiate career. Born in Aurora, Illinois, Reed began his college career at Western Michigan University, where he quickly established himself as a top receiver. As a freshman, he earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors after setting a school record with 797 receiving yards. After the season, Reed decided to rejoin his high school quarterback, Payton Thorne, at Michigan State.

His arrival at MSU was eagerly anticipated, and he quickly made an impact on the field, earning the honor of wearing the prestigious #1 jersey for the Spartans in 2021. This jersey number had been worn by some of the program’s most iconic figures such as Charles Rogers, Andre Rison, and Muhsin Muhammad, and had been out of rotation since 2002. Reed lived up to the high standards set by his predecessors, amassing over 1600 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns over his final two seasons in East Lansing. His outstanding performances have put him on the radar of NFL scouts, and he is poised to make a splash at the professional level.

While Reed likely gets his start in the slot, a position he excelled in at the Senior Bowl, I believe that he has the potential to become a full-time X receiver with time and experience at the professional level. According to Pro Football Focus, ony 18.9% of Reed’s passing snaps came from the slot over the course of his last two seasons in college. This statistic not only highlights his versatility but also indicates his understanding of the playbook, allowing him to move between positions seamlessly. Reed’s trajectory as an outside receiver is promising, as he possesses elite ball skills and refined route-running ability, allowing him to win one-on-one battles with corners on the boundary.

During a Senior Bowl practice, I observed him coaching up some of his teammates at the receiver position, a skill that comes naturally to him.

“I’m always focused on my peers as well,” Reed told us in an interview. “I want everybody to succeed. Even when I’m doing wrong, I want to be constructively criticized. So, anyway I can help the team be at a better level, higher level, that’s what I do.”

This selfless attitude and commitment to teamwork are essential qualities that make Reed not only a talented player but also a valuable asset to any team. This is especially refreshing to hear from a position like wide receiver, which is often associated with players who prioritize personal success over the team’s goals.

Jayden Reed’s selfless attitude is not just evident in his interviews, but also in his performance on the field. He takes real pride in his blocking and finds it fun to be physical, even when going up against bigger opponents.

“It’s all mental man. It’s all want-to. I always love blocking, being physical is part of the game. So even though I’m not the biggest person, it’s always fun going against bigger people. Even if they knock me down sometimes, I get a laugh out of it sometimes, even if I try to go against the linebacker or something and they knock me down. It’s just fun trying, you know what I’m saying?”

Reed’s love for blocking and smiling on the field is reminiscent of former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. While the comparison between Reed and Ward may end there, the mentality that has been largely lost in the Steelers’ wide receiver room in recent years, makes Reed’s commitment to blocking all the more valuable.

Jayden Reed’s work ethic and team-first mentality may have caught the eye of Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who Reed had the opportunity to interact with during one of the Senior Bowl practices.

“He was just kind of talking a little trash a little bit. We were going back and forth. It was good, positive energy though. It was just a really good interaction, you know laughing, cracking jokes, and stuff like that.”

Reed even expressed his hope of seeing Tomlin again soon.

The Steelers’ wide receiver room is currently anchored by Diontae Johnson and George Pickens on the outside, which means that they will likely be seeking a receiver that can play effectively in the slot. If they decide to pass on top slot receiver prospects like Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Jordan Addison in the early rounds, Jayden Reed could be an ideal fit to boost their receiving corps starting in round three. Not only is Reed capable of playing in the slot, but he also has the potential to become a full-time X receiver in the future, potentially filling the void left by Johnson if the team decides to part ways with him following the 2024 season.

You can read Jayden Reed’s full draft profile at the link below.

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