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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Wide receiver

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Wide receiver

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

This series started on defense and you can see all those posts here. Last week it was the tight ends and today the focus turns to the wide receivers.

2016 final game starters: Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder

This year was as steady and consistent as the wide receiver group has been in quite some time. Crowder and Garçon both played in all 16 games and Jackson missed just one.

Departures: Garçon (UFA, 49ers), Jackson (UFA, Bucs)

I think that the Redskins went with the theory that it is better to let a player go a year too early than to do it a year too late. Garçon will turn 31 early in training camp and Jackson hits 31 on December 1. Neither was going to sign a one-year contract so the reasoning was that while they might have been better off having them around this year, their deals will start to look a lot worse in 2018 and 2019 as the receivers age.

Projected 2017 starters: Crowder, Josh Doctson, Terrelle Pryor

Doctson and Pryor don’t have the NFL resumes that Garçon and Jackson do but it’s not unreasonable to think that there won’t be a huge drop off at this position.

In his first full season as an NFL receiver after spending three years trying to get a foothold as a quarterback, Pryor caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. He did this although the Browns started three different quarterbacks and a total of five attempted 10 passes or more.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 8.0

Doctson was the team’s first-round pick in 2016 and his injury problems are well documented and he played in just two games. His ability to bounce back and live up to his potential is one of the make or break factors in this year’s Redskins offense.

Crowder led the team in touchdown receptions last year and he will be good for 60-70 receptions for 800 yards.

2017 reserves: Maurice Harris, Ryan Grant, Brian Quick

Grant has had his chances to get a foothold on the field in his three seasons but he just hasn’t been able to. In three seasons, he has played almost an thousand snaps and he has 39 receptions for 412 yards and two touchdowns. Grant stays around because he works hard and is willing to do the dirty work like run blocking.

MORE REDSKINS: Team announces preseason opponents

The team will be very interested in seeing what the 6-4 Harris can do. Last year he was in the crowd of undrafted free agents just trying to make the team. This year he will get some prime reps with the first-team offense in OTAs and in training camp.

Quick was a disappointment with the Rams, who took him in the second round in 2012. At 6-4 he fits right in with the Redskins' new look at receiver and perhaps he can keep the momentum going from last year, when he posted career highs in receptions with 41 and receiving yards with 564.  

Where can the wide receivers find improvement?

This year the Redskins became the first team in NFL history to lose two 1,000-yard receivers as free agents in the same offseason. In 2016, the wide receivers gained a combined 3,100 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Improvement will be hard to come by. If they can meet that level of production, or even come close to it, they will be happy.

Much will be expected of Doctson. His ability to use his height and high-point the ball to make impossible catches made him a first-round pick. If he can get 50-60 receptions for 700 yards or so in what essentially will be his rookie season the team should be happy.

Harris should be able to take the next step and get 40-50 targets as the fourth receiver. That would translate into 25-30 receptions, more than they got from him and Grant combined last year.

With 10 draft picks there is a good chance that one of them will be a wide receiver. It seems likely that any receiver taken will be a more of a late-round project so don’t look for immediate impact from the draft.

Locks and bubble players

Pryor, Crowder, and Doctson are locks. Harris land Quick probably are, too. That will leave Grant on the bubble, possibly competing with a draft pick for the final roster spot. 

(Note: An earlier version of this post omitted Quick.)

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

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