Quick Links

Is Buckeyes' WR Thomas the big receiver the Redskins need?

michael-thomas-head.png

Is Buckeyes' WR Thomas the big receiver the Redskins need?

The NFL draft is 70 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how he might fit in Washington.

Michael Thomas
Wide receiver
Ohio State

Height: 6-3
Weight: 210

What they’re saying
Thomas isn't the fastest or most explosive, but he is a good-sized athlete and detailed route-runner with little wasted movements to create spacing at the stem. Although he will need time to adapt to a NFL playbook, he projects as an ideal No. 2 wide receiver at the next level due to his savvy footwork, body control and ball-skills to be a reliable possession target.
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins could be in desperate need of receivers a year from now. Both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson are going to be 30-year-old free agents. Andre Roberts is unlikely to be on the roster past next month. Ryan Grant is fine for a fill in role but he’s not a front line receiver. Rashad Ross has speed but he has a lot to learn. Jamison Crowder is a fine slot receiver but you can’t build your attack around him.

If the Redskins are going to need a receiver next year the time to draft him is this year. Thomas seems to fill the bill in terms of what the Redskins have been seeking the last decade or longer—a big wide receiver. He is tall at 6-3 and he plays up to his size, showing an uncanny knack for being able to track the ball out of the quarterback’s hand and going up to get it at the high point.

Thomas would give the Redskins another red zone threat to compliment Jordan Reed, providing another option is Reed is out (and, let’s face it, he’ll probably miss a few games every year) and to force the defense to make tough choices when both of them are on the field.

Potential issues: Thomas does not have great speed and defensive backs will play tight and challenge him to beat them deep. It will be interesting to see what he runs in the 40-yard dash at the combine, although the numbers on the stop watch won’t influence Scot McCloughan much.

For a big receiver his run blocking leaves something to be desired as well. It’s not like he shies away from contact and he should be able to be coached up here.

Bottom line: The temptation to go for an immediate need in the first round, when the chances of getting a player who can start or at least contribute heavily right away are much better. Wide receiver is a big need for the near future but if everyone stays healthy—and that’s a big if—Thomas would be the fourth receiver. That might make Thomas a better option for the second round.

Will he still be there? With over two months to go until the draft gets underway it’s hard to tell. Right now it seems unlikely that he will last until the 53rd pick. But if he is still there you’d have to think that McCloughan would figure he’s the best player available and put him in burgundy and gold.

Previously in Combine Countdown:

Quick Links

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. 

Quick Links

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. 

<<<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!