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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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Should the Redskins hit more in practice? Doug Williams explains the situation

Should the Redskins hit more in practice? Doug Williams explains the situation

The Redskins do not hold live tackling drills in training camp. In fact, they don't do it all season. Head coach Jay Gruden has been clear that he doesn't think his players need that additional contact in the middle of a grueling season that stretches from late July to the beginning of January.

Doug Williams, promoted to the Redskins head of personnel this offseason, played for the organization in the days when all teams did was live hitting and tackling. In the 1970s and 1980s practices were much tougher, and Williams was asked to compare that era when he played to the current era. 

The former Super Bowl MVP explained that there was no comparison between the eras, but also dispelled any notion that the Redskins run a soft camp. The franchise simply operates within the rules of the agreement between the NFL and the NFL Player's Association.

"I think we have got to be fair because the same rules apply to every team in this league. So, we can’t use that as an excuse and I’m certainly not going to compare it to the days when I played," Williams said last week in Richmond. 

His comments came in the days after the Redskins lost the physical battle to the Ravens in the preseason opener. The tenacity of camp was not the problem in that game, Williams said. 

"The excuse of not being able to do some of the things that we haven’t done, we can’t make that excuse as far as the rules are concerned because every team has to play up under the same rules. We just have got to be cognizant of it and train the guys, ‘Hey, this is what has to happen.’ We don’t get a chance to ‘hit hit’ and practice [tackling]. In a game time, your mindset should be, ‘tackle.’"

Could the Redskins hit more in practice? Yes. There is more room for hitting and tackling in the CBA than what the Redskins do. And yes, the 'Skins did miss a lot of tackles last season. Some of the worst offenders of missed tackles are gone now though, guys like Duke Ihenacho and David Bruton. 

By the time players make the NFL, they know how to tackle. Williams used Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger as his example. 

"I watch D.J. Swearinger, who I feel like has brought a lot of swag to this defense. There’s no doubt in my mind you don’t have to tell him that when the game starts that you have got to tackle, that this is tackle football. And I think once he gets out there, you’re going to get a lot of guys that are probably going to follow D.J. and I think that’s what we need and he’s here hopefully to lead us down that path."

Football practices have changed. That doesn't mean their soft. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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Redskins rookie report card: Who performed well in training camp

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Redskins rookie report card: Who performed well in training camp

Training camp presents an opportunity for a lot of players to make impressions on coaches, but none more so than rookies. For the Redskins first-year players, Richmond gave the opportunity to show they were ready for the NFL, or in some cases, they weren't quite there.

Starting with the drafted guys, and including some of the undrafted, here's a letter grade pertaining to performance through three weeks of training camp practices and the first preseason game. Starting at the top:

  • Jonathan Allen: A- The first round rookie from Alabama came on strong over the last week of practices in Richmond. Once the pads came on, Allen showed his strength and quickness as he slowly started to get time with the first string defense. In the Redskins preseason opening loss to Baltimore, Allen flashed his top-end talent in the second quarter, shedding blockers with force and technique while displaying a high motor that netted him a sack. Allen is the real deal, and any Redskins coach will tell you that.
  • Ryan Anderson: B The second round rookie from Alabama is very good at a few things. The top of that list is playing against the run. Anderson's stout toughness sets the edge with ferocity, and that skill immediately translates to the NFL game. Anderson's pass rush can use work, though his intensity will keep him in plays that others might give up on. Like many of the Redskins outside linebackers, coverage will be a problem, but that should be something coaches know and scheme around. 
  • Fabian Moreau: Incomplete The third rounder out of UCLA only practiced twice in team drills while working back from a torn pectoral muscle. Just not enough to make a judgement. 
  • Samae Perine: C Fans got excited quickly about the potential of the fourth round running back out of Oklahoma, and had this grade been given before the Ravens game, it would have been a letter grade higher. But Perine did not look ready for prime time in Baltimore, logging a fumble and dropping a pass while rushing 6 times for 15 yards. Perine has talent, but learning the intricacies of the NFL offense after spending four years in a spread offense in the Big 12 is a major jump. Perine is willing and able to block, but needs to know where blitzers are coming from. Most importantly, however, Perine needs to hit holes hard. He has the strength to be an excellent short yardage runner, but he cannot hesitate in the backfield.
  • Montae Nicholson: Incomplete Similar to Moreau, Nicholson only had two team practices as he came back from shoulder surgery. Not enough to make a judgement. 
  • Jeremy Sprinkle: C+ A fifth round tight end from Arkansas, Sprinkle came to the Redskins with a reputation as a tough blocker. That didn't seem to show up early in camp, though the second week Sprinkle started to use his big body much more effectively. Even better for Sprinkle, he showed late in Richmond that he can be more than a blocker, as some soft hands got on display. Sprinkle is the player that might force Jay Gruden to keep four tight ends. 
  • Chase Roullier: B It's odd to say, but the sixth round pick out of Wyoming is the most certain of roster locks of all the Redskins third-day draft picks. Gruden has openly talked about his desire to have a backup center he can trust, and in short order, Roullier must be that guy. If the coach wasn't comfortable with the rook, the team would have brought a veteran in to compete to backup Spencer Long. That Roullier can also play the guard spot if the team gets desperate helps. He's been fine in practice, and has gotten a few reps with the first team offense. 
  • Robert Davis: B- Fairly non-existent early in camp, the sixth round rookie WR Davis is raw. He does have serious size and speed, but this grade leans on a strong performance, er, one explosive play in Baltimore. Davis won't be relied on for much from the Redskins this season, if he makes the team, and he needs to make a big impact on special teams. Working as a gunner in drills during camp, Davis showed the fight needed to effectively play on the outside of punt coverage. That will help. This grade would probably be a C+ if not for the catch in Baltimore. 
  • Josh Harvey-Clemons: C A seventh round pick out of Louisville, Harvey-Clemons doesn't seem to have a natural fit on the roster. He's big, and maybe best suited for a dime linebacker role. Hard to imagine a roster spot for Harvey-Clemons with the team's depth at both safety and inside linebacker, but with his size and instincts, the Redskins would probably like the chance to get him to the practice squad. 
  • Josh Holsey: B For a seventh round rookie cornerback, Holsey has been impressive. A capable player in the SEC, health has been Holsey's trouble, not ability. He has a real chance at a roster spot, and the feisty attitude coaches love from small corners. Has to stay healthy, has to produce on specials. 
  • Nico Marley: B Outside of Jonathan Allen, no rookie has garnered more attention than the undrafted Marley. It started out as a bit of a gimmick, Marley is the grandson of music icon Bob Marley. He's also incredibly small for an NFL linebacker at 5-foot-8 and 200 lbs. Despite the size limitations, Marley just keeps making plays. Against the Ravens he registered a sack and was named to the Pro Football Focus Preseason Week 1 Team of the Week. Marley works as hard as anybody on the Redskins, and has earned the respect of his teammates. It's hard to imagine a roster spot for Marley; he's certainly behind Will Compton, Mason Foster, Zach Brown and Martrell Spaight at the inside linebacker spot. Would Washington love to get Marley onto their practice squad? Seems very likely. 
  • Fish Smithson: C+ An undrafted rookie safety out of Kansas, Smithson has made some plays in camp. Another practice squad candidate that needs to prove his ability on specials. 
  • Tevin Homer: C Great size for a corner, but needs to work on his technique. Many rookies have trouble turning their heads in coverave once they get to the NFL, and Homer is no different. 
  • Zach Pascal: C With Kendal Thompson off the Redskins, there is a spot on the practice squad for a wideout. Pascal has size and decent hands. 
  • Kyle Kalis, Tyler Catalina: C- Both of these guys have been getting beat in Richmond, often. I watched Kalis at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and didn't think he had the quickness needed to play guard in the NFL. That opinion hasn't changed. Catalina has the size but needs to stay lower in his stance. 
  • James Quick: C Undrafted wideout from Louisville, Quick's built to be a slot receiver in the NFL. Needs to be quicker and work on route running.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!