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Grading the Redskins' 2015 draft

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Grading the Redskins' 2015 draft

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

Strategy—B

McCloughan’s quest to increase his stockpile of draft picks from seven to at least 10 did not get off to a good start during the first round. They were on the clock with Leonard Williams, thought by some to be the best player in the draft, on the board. It seemed like they would have been able to move back a few spots, pick up a mid-round pick, and still get Brandon Scherff, the top player on their board. At the very least they could have waited for the clock to run down closer to 0:00 to exhaust all possibilities rather than turning in the card with about three minutes left on the clock.

Since they ended up keeping the fifth overall pick, you can also debate the wisdom of spending that on a player who is going to play right tackle or guard. A team can generally find players who can do a good job filling those low-impact positions later in the draft.

I’ll ding the grade a little bit for value but we really don’t know at this point. If Scherff turns out to be a very good right tackle who holds the job for the next eight years or so or a Pro Bowl-caliber guard, the value for the pick will be there. If his career turns out to be something less and if Williams lights things up with the Jets, the pick may go down as a mistake.

McCloughan got the deal that he was looking for during the third round on Friday. He traded back with the Seahawks, going all the way from the 69th overall pick to the 95th. Seattle shipped picks they had in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds in exchange for moving up. The deal was close to even on the traditional Jimmy Johnson draft trade chart and a steal for the Redskins on the Football Perspective chart, which uses the Approximate Value of players selected in those draft slots to value the picks.

After making a solid deal, however, it looks like they reached with the pick they got from Seattle. Running back Matt Jones may well have been available later in the draft, perhaps much later. Perhaps they could have taken massive guard Daryl Williams of Oklahoma or 6-2 safety James Sample with that third-round pick and then they could have grabbed Jones later on Saturday.

McCloughan pulled off one more deal before it was over, sending fifth-round pick they got in the Seahawks trade to the Saints, who gave up their sixth rounders in this draft and in the 2016 draft. Assuming they didn’t lose anyone they really wanted to have between that fifth-round pick and their first pick in the sixth, this is a decent if not highly significant deal.

Talent/Fit—A-

Most of the “needs” boxes were checked with the exception of a few. Although Jones can pass block and may have been underutilized as a pass catcher out of the backfield at Florida, he isn’t the model third-down back. They entered the draft without a succession plan at free safety behind Dashon Goldson, who turns 31 early in the season and they left it still lacking one. While we are waiting to see if Jordan Reed can stay healthy for a season, some tight end depth may have been helpful.

However, it is important to note that this was not a good draft at the safety and tight end positions. It’s better to bypass the position altogether than it is to take a player who isn’t a fit just to check off the box.

What was clear is that McCloughan went into the draft looking for a specific type of player—big and mean—and he found a bunch of them. In particular the top three picks, Scherff, edge defender Preston Smith, and Jones, are all large and they play with an edge.

The draft picks weren’t all behemoths. Notably they took 5-8 wide receiver Jamison Crowder and 5-10 safety Kysheon Jarrett. But those two players were taken with special teams in mind. Crowder is likely to return punts Week 1 and could bring back kickoffs as well and Jarrett will be expected to jump right in on coverage teams. The two could contribute little from scrimmage and still be very valuable additions.

Given the struggles that the Washington special teams have had over the last couple of years, the attention paid to them represented a solid positive.

Overall—B+

This was a very professional draft by McCloughan, who did what he was hired to do. They went in with a solid plan and, for the most part, they executed it.

The keys to this draft in the long run are Scherff, as noted above, Smith, and the later-round picks. They will be relying on Smith to do a lot of different things on defense. If he does them well, he could be a steal, the edge player that many expected them to take at the top of the draft. If he struggles, the pass rush will likely continue to be mediocre and a secondary that is still shaky will be exposed.

And as with any draft, it’s important to get contributions from the later rounds. If Jarrett and Evan Spencer become special teams aces, if Arie Kouandjio can be a solid backup and spot starter, and if someone picked on Saturday emerges as a solid starter, the draft could be a solid success.

One other factor that could make this draft better is subsequent drafts. Assuming that McCloughan is around for many more drafts to come, the Redskins will stick to the same draft principles. McCloughan has his philosophy that it’s a big man’s game and while smaller players won’t be excluded completely, the move to get bigger, tougher, and meaner won’t be tossed aside for the next draft. The quest for big guys won’t be a short-term fad; they won’t be looking for fast, athletic types in a year or two. Consistency is a key to building a team; the Redskins are likely to have that now, for a change.

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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!