Allen Park — Standing next to him, it looks like a stiff breeze might knock Teo Redding over. By NFL standards, the Detroit Lions' undrafted rookie receiver is about as slender as they come, packing just 181 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame.
But he plays so much bigger.
While it’s months before the Lions will have to make roster decisions, Redding has put himself on the radar by making impressive catch after impressive catch during the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp this week.
A metro Detroit native who grew up a Lions fan, Redding was a three-star prospect for Michigan Collegiate high school in Warren. Despite some interest from Power Five programs, he landed at Bowling Green, where his modest overall production was punctuated by some highlight-reel catches.
A one-handed catch, which was ultimately overruled because he stepped out of bounds, was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s top 10. Another one-hander, a 5-yard score against Northern Illinois last season, was equally impressive.
During minicamp, Redding has emerged as a legitimate deep threat. Working mostly with the third-team offense, he’s made several catches down the field, often fully extending to make the grabs, showcasing superb body control and sticky hands.
“I think I’ve played good. I can always adjust, make better plays and learn my assignment more and do my job better,” Redding said after Thursday’s practice. “There’s always adjustments that can happen to get better every day.
“I think my strengths, right now, are attacking the ball in the air, making plays and be just out there helping my teammates, as well.”
Redding is an explosive athlete. He recorded a 38.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump at his pro day, both of which would have ranked among the best at his position had he been invited to the combine.
“I think for us to have a player like that come in when we got him, (there’s) certain skill sets we admired, one being his ability to catch the ball,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “You know, he’s long, he’s got some good range from that aspect of it, and has good catch radius and that was something initially that we saw right away.”
That catch radius is accentuated by Redding’s hands. Get this — he was targeted 72 times last season, catching 45 balls for 624 yards and eight touchdowns, and he did it without dropping a single catchable pass, according to Pro Football Focus. Only two receivers in college football had more receptions without a drop in college football.
“Yeah, that's true, but right now, we're at another level and I'm trying to focus on catching the ball here now, and making plays here now,” Redding said, deflecting talk about his past accomplishments.
As he talked with the local media for the first time, Redding held a helmet in each hand. One was his and the other belonged to Marvin Jones. That’s part of being a rookie, lugging veteran’s equipment back to the locker room, but it was also eye-catching because of the similarities in the players’ playing styles (even though Jones weighs about 20 pounds more than the rookie).
In Detroit, Jones has developed into one of the NFL’s premier deep threats. He shared the league lead in 2017 with 16 receptions 20 or more yards down the field, gaining more than half of his 1,101 yards on those catches.
Redding said Jones, as well as Detroit's other veteran receivers, has been eager to help him assimilate. The rookie is also drawing some inspiration from Kenny Golladay, who blazed a path from the MAC to the NFL for the Lions last season.
Redding is certainly off to a strong start and he’ll have another opportunity to make an impression next week, during the Lions’ final OTAs, before a lengthy break leading into training camp.
The Lions carried four receivers on the roster to start the past two seasons, but five wouldn’t be unusual. Redding will be competing for a job with other undrafted rookies, such as Deontez Alexander and Chris Lacy, as well as young veterans Jace Billingsley, Bradley Marquez and Andy Jones.
“I’m really not thinking about that right now,” Redding said. “I’m just focusing on what I have to do, make plays and control what I can control. I can’t control what the coaches and everybody else does.”