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Feeling a Draft

Feeling a Draft

It used to be that the advent of April meant the spots talk around Washington focused almost exclusively on the release of the Redskins' schedule and the NFL draft. Now, with the Wizards in playoff contention and the Nationals about to take the field for the first time, the talk of the town is, you guessed it, are the Skins going to open at home or on the road and what they will do with the ninth pick.

OK, there is some love for the Wiz and certainly there is a loud and growing buzz about the Nats. But this hasn't detracted from Skins talk; it just means that there's more talk going on overall.

This draft is still a very fluid situation. By this time last year, the Skins were in the fifth spot and honed in on choosing one of two Miami Hurricanes, tight end Kellan Winslow and safety Sean Taylor.

This year, however, the choices aren't nearly that clear. To be sure, a large part of the difference is that the Redskins are drafting ninth instead of fifth. Still, this draft is much more unsettled than the last for a few reasons:

  • There isn't a consensus number one pick. Last year, it was Eli Manning; in fact, going back to Michael Vick in 2000, the top pick has been a quarterback for the past five years and seven of the last eight. From March on it's generally been a scenario where we knew who would go first, it was just a question of if the team in the top spot would deal the pick. Cal's Aaron Rodgers and Utah's Alex Smith just haven't been able to grab the bull by the horns and become The One. We have the unusual scenario of the top pick being dependent on who's using it.
  • There are a three running backs rated in the top ten players. Auburn's Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams and Texas' Cedric Benson, all currently projected to go in the top ten picks, may slide back. This would not be because of any perceived flaws by the two. It's just because teams may want to move up to take another player that it wants and the team trading out of the position might believe that it can get a running back later in the draft. Prize RB's aren't a dime a dozen, but you don't have to spend a high first-rounder to get a good one. The Skins could find one of the top rock toters fall into their lap at #9. They would then desperately seek to deal the pick, being locked into a deal with Clinton Portis.
  • The Skins don't have a glaring need. While the Skins might want to replace some of their recent losses by free agency and trade, it appears that they will be perfectly willing to go into the season with Walt Harris at corner, Santan Moss and David Patten at receiver and Lamar Marshall at middle linebacker. If the top two corners and top two receivers in the draft are gone by the time the nine hole rolls around, what do the Skins do--take the third-best at either position or take the best player available?
  • There is unlikely to be a player so good that the Skins would be fools to pass him up. Last year safety wasn't an area of great need--it rarely is on any team. But the consensus was that Taylor, a defensive back with linebacker size, was just too good a combination of skills and accomplishments to pass up. There won't be such a player at 9 this year.

Things will begin to gel as April 23 approaches, but there still is likely to be plenty of suspense at sunrise on draft day. Stay tuned.

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?

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Why Nate Sudfeld is one clear winner from Redskins 2017 NFL Draft

Why Nate Sudfeld is one clear winner from Redskins 2017 NFL Draft

For months Redskins fans debated if the organization would take a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. The question made little sense though, as Washington has three passers on the roster already.

Certainly Kirk Cousins unique contract situation brought some intrigue to the draft. Might the Redskins consider a draft day trade of their franchise quarterback, especially if the team knows a true long-term deal remains elusive? Even with a rumor floated about the Browns pursuit of Cousins, no trade materialized, as most plugged in Redskins reporters had been suggesting for some time. 

Still, at each Redskins pick national commentators wondered if Washington might look for another passer. Pittsburgh's Nathan Peterman was one name. He lasted until the fifth round when the Bills selected him, giving the 'Skins not one but two chances to draft Peterman in the fourth round. They chose Samaje Perine, a true value pick in the fourth, and Montae Nicholson, an upside play after an up and down career at Michigan State.

Later in the draft, when the 'Skins were flush with picks, the team continued to eschew from quarterbacks. Miami Hurricanes QB Brad Kaaya didn't get picked until the 215th pick. It's possible that the Burgundy and Gold draft board never popped with a QB when the team's pick came up, just simple bad timing. But one thing was certain during the NFL Draft in Philadelphia, teams will make aggressive moves to get QBs they believe in. Washington didn't. Even late in the draft, the 'Skins moved up to get a player they liked in Wyoming's Chase Roullier. The organization wasnt afraid to go get players they liked. 

What does all this mean? It likely means the Redskins believe in Nate Sudfeld.

Drafted in the sixth round in 2016, Sudfeld showed some promise during the preseason his rookie year. At 6-foot-6 and 235 lbs., the former Indiana Hoosier has ideal size for the position. Most important, former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was a big believer in Sudfeld's promise.

Washington showed again and again that McCloughan's input still mattered on their draft board. Early picks like Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson certainly seem like McCloughan picks - and the former GM scouted Anderson at the Senior Bowl in January. Samaje Perine, the strongest RB in the draft, fits McCloughan's physical football player mold.

Cousins is going nowhere in 2017, and maybe, just maybe, the team and their quarterback get a deal done before the July 15th deadline. Colt McCoy is locked in at backup QB, and the organization believes that he could step in for Cousins and the offense would not be particularly slowed.

And then there's Sudfeld.

Cousins is under contract for 2017, and Bruce Allen made clear the team has more options in 2018. It's entirely possible Cousins is the 'Skins QB for the next five years, a deal could get done, or the team could use the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins in 2018. Let the QB negotiate with other teams, and Washington can match or get compensated for his exit. 

By that time, Sudfeld would be two years in the Redskins system. It's likely he will get a lot of work again this preseason, and the team will be watching his development with a close eye. Should Cousins exit, it's still premature to suggest Sudfeld would emerge as the Redskins starter in 2018, as McCoy is under contract in 2018 also. 

What is clear, however, is the Redskins did not invest in another developmental quarterback in 2017's draft. They must like the development of the passer that's already in house. 

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