Power is no problem for A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed.
The pair played on an Alabama defensive line that overpowered college football last season, limiting all but three opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.
For Robinson and Reed to both come off the board in the top 20, the two Crimson Tide teammates probably have to prove they can convert that power to pass-rush production.
Both players have been repeatedly linked to the New Orleans Saints — Robinson in mock drafts, Reed in an official pre-draft visit — a team in need of a 3-technique tackle who can provide interior pressure.
But Robinson and Reed have rarely been asked to create that kind of havoc on a play-to-play basis.
“Well, at Alabama … we just don’t shoot upfield,” Robinson said. “Most of the time, we’re just gapping and pushing the pocket, but I feel like going to a team, I have the ability to actually penetrate the gap and show my athleticism, how I can get to the quarterback much more efficiently than I did at Alabama.”
Robinson, a 6-foot-4, 307-pounder, posted nine sacks in college, 5.5 of which he recorded as a freshman.
Reed, 6-3, 307, posted two sacks while playing mostly nose tackle in Alabama’s base 3-4.
Both players sometimes came off the field in passing situations to give way for teammate Jonathan Allen, a pure interior rusher who decided to stay in school another season.
Because of the profiles they played in Alabama’s defense, Robinson and Reed have spent the draft process trying to show teams they have the athleticism to get heat on NFL quarterbacks.
For both players, the key might be adapting to a different system than Alabama’s rigid, disciplined scheme.
“I’m probably a 3-tech guy if I’m in a 4-3; and if it’s a 3-4, an outside guy,” Robinson said. “I played it all at Alabama. I was able to move up and down the line. … It helps teams get insight into what I can do.”
Neither tackle displayed freakish explosion at the NFL scouting combine, but there have been moments in their past. Robinson famously hurdled the LSU line to block a field goal last fall, and Reed played linebacker in high school at Goldsboro High in North Carolina.
Reed had to use an entirely different skill set back then.
“The ability to get sideline-to-sideline, bring down quarterbacks, make plays outside the tackle box,” Reed said. “It definitely shows versatility and athleticism, and I try to really showcase that a lot.”
Pass rush potential aside, both Robinson and Reed can instantly upgrade a team’s run defense.
At Alabama, stopping the run is the No. 1 priority.
“We kind of mimic each other’s game,” Reed said. “I haven’t really looked at the differences from one another, because we both have great effort, we both play relentless, and we both play physical.”
Both players also play with impressive strength. Reed is capable of anchoring the middle and standing his ground against two offensive linemen, and Robinson’s got some of the most powerful hands of anybody in the draft.
“Our assistant coach, he tells us to (pretend) to choke someone. Anybody that ever made you mad, choke them, choke them to death,” Robinson said. “So I start squeezing, grabbing pads, just start squeezing, shaking, shaking the fillings out of them.”
That kind of power has a place in the NFL. Every team needs players who can control the line of scrimmage and create space for the linebackers to operate.
By the time the first round of the draft opens next week, teams have to decide if they think Robinson and Reed can do a little something more.