It's a bit unfair to compare Arizona Wildcats defensive end Brooks Reed to the NFL's most dominant defensive player.

But on NFL draft day, Reed is happy to have Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews in his life.

"I have the right size and speed, and a guy like Clay helps me get that kind of a look leading up to the draft," Reed said. "And the hair. Especially the hair. That helps."

OK, some comparisons are unavoidable. But Matthews and the Sabino High School grad have more in common than their long, blond locks.

Both players were underrated as Pac-10 players. Both put up freakish numbers at the annual draft combine.

And by the end of this week, both will be well-paid NFL players.

Most draft experts believe Reed will be a taken in either today's first round or early Friday.

If taken in the first, Reed could be the third Tucsonan to go that high since the AFL-NFL merger. The Cardinals selected defensive tackle Mike Dawson in 1976 and the Bills took offensive tackle John Fina in 1992.

ESPN's Todd McShay has Reed going to the Chiefs with the No. 21 overall pick in his latest mock draft. Others have linked Reed to the Falcons, Cardinals, Redskins, Bills, Ravens, Packers and Jaguars.

Reed says he has no idea when - or where - he'll be taken.

"You get an idea of the teams that are semi-interested, but they don't really give you feedback on anything," he said. "Everything to them has got to be a big secret."

Reed's selection will almost surely come with a position change. His size and speed makes him best suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme.

He can thank Matthews, who has helped redefine the linebacker role during his two seasons in the NFL. Playing a modified version of the "Elephant" position that made him a standout at USC, Matthews lines up on each side of the field and, depending on the scheme, blitzes or drops into coverage. Matthews made the Pro Bowl in each of his pro seasons. In February, he led the Packers to a Super Bowl title.

Matthews' success has created a demand in a copycat league.

Two of the UA's other draft-eligible players, Ricky Elmore and D'Aundre Reed, worked out at both defensive end and linebacker this off-season. Both are expected to be taken in the later rounds.

"I talked to a lot of (NFL) coaches and scouts about that," D'Aundre Reed said. "I think a lot of them like to take defensive ends and turn them into outside linebackers. They want someone who can rush."

The Packers traded up to take Matthews with the 26th overall pick in 2009. Brooks Reed's agent, Kenny Zuckerman, said that means there are 25 teams that still regret passing on him two years ago.

Reed amassed 17 sacks and five forced fumbles at Arizona, and, Zuckerman said, certainly fits the Matthews mold.

"If Clay Matthews was in this draft, where would he go? No. 2?" Zuckerman said. "If Clay Matthews is a No. 2 pick, Brooks Reed isn't that far below that. If you told me right now that Brooks Reed would be even 70 percent, 80 percent the player Clay Matthews is, he'd be a first-rounder still. … Even if he didn't have long blond locks, he's still going to get the comparisons."

And that's before, Zuckerman said, Reed's physical advantages are considered. The UA senior stands 6 feet 3 inches tall, like Matthews, and weighs 263 pounds - 23 more than the Packers star weighed coming out of college. Though Matthews is faster over short distances, both players are similarly relentless on the field and in their desire to improve.

"Brooks is a freak, and he's going to be a great pro," Zuckerman said. "If he stays healthy, he's going to be a Pro Bowler."

It's a long way from the UA practice squad, which is where Reed spent his freshman season after signing with the UA out of Sabino.

Coaches moved him from H-Back to defensive end a year later with hopes that he could solidify a position of need. He started his first game as a sophomore in 2008, and registered 37 tackles and eight sacks that year. Reed played through injuries most of his junior year, and posted solid numbers - 47 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss and 6 1/2 sacks - as a senior. He earned all-conference honors.

Now, the 24-year-old Reed, who has a degree in geography from the UA, is a day or two from being drafted. The feeling, he said, has no comparison.

"It's been a blessing," Reed said. "I've worked extremely, extremely hard. I've been fully dedicated to this sport. I'm not looking to stop once I get drafted."


2011 nfl draft

• Today: First round, 5 p.m. (ESPN, NFL Network)

• Friday: Second and third rounds, 3 p.m. (ESPN, NFL Network) and 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

• Saturday: Fourth through seventh rounds, 9 a.m. (ESPN, NFL Network)

Arizona Wildcats in the NFL Draft

Position and name Height, weight Projected round

DE Brooks Reed 6-3, 263 First-second

DE Ricky Elmore 6-5, 255 Third-fifth

DE D'Aundre Reed 6-4, 261 Fourth-seventh

C Colin Baxter 6-3, 305 Fourth-seventh

OT Adam Grant 6-6, 323 Sixth-seventh

RB Nicolas Grigsby 6-0, 203 Sixth-seventh

P Keenyn Crier 6-0, 200 Seventh-undrafted free agent

OT Phil Garcia 6-7, 321 Seventh-undrafted free agent

OG Conan Amituanai 6-4, 335 Seventh-undrafted free agent

S Joe Perkins 6-2, 207 Seventh-undrafted free agent

DT Lolomana Mikaele 6-1, 302 Seventh-undrafted free agent

The next clay matthews?

Many NFL draft analysts believe Brooks Reed projects as the next Clay Matthews. Here's a look at how the UA standout and Green Bay Packers star performed at the NFL combine and on their respective pro days:

Category Clay Matthews (2009) Brooks Reed (2011)

Height 6-3 6-3

Weight 240 263

40-yard dash 4.62 seconds 4.68 seconds

Vertical leap 35 1/2 inches 30 1/2 inches

Broad jump 10 feet 1 inch 9 feet 11 inches

Bench press 23 reps of 225 30 reps of 225