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Need to Know: The Redskins' draft could hinge on their middle round picks

Need to Know: The Redskins' draft could hinge on their middle round picks

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 2, 25 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 15
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 40
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 52
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 104
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 152

Looking for impact in the middle rounds

As of now, the Redskins have two picks in the fourth round and one in the fifth. If they don’t make any trades, those picks will represent 30 percent of the 2017 draft class (they have a total of 10 picks). Hitting on those picks could make or break this draft.

Nothing about the draft is easy, but the chances of getting reasonably productive players in the first three rounds are pretty good. It’s not guaranteed by any stretch but picks in the top 100 should be money.

On the other end of the draft, it’s not that sixth- and seventh-round picks are worthless but you must be very fortunate to get more than a backup or special teams player out of players picked there. Of the 237 players picked in the sixth and seventh rounds in the last three drafts, only 52 have started three games or more and just 20 have started at least 10 games.  Even the best talent evaluators are hard pressed to come up with a highly productive player after the first 175 have come off the board.

That means that the real work in the draft gets done in the middle rounds, the fourth and fifth rounds

Who are the best players the Redskins have taken in those middle rounds (4-5) recently? Looking at their performances with the Redskins only, here are the top five taken since the 2000 draft (you can see all of them here):

*Currently on the Redskins roster

QB Kirk Cousins* (Round 4-2012)—A fourth-round pick who becomes a quality starting quarterback for two years is going to top the list of mid-round picks every time.

ILB Perry Riley (4-2010)—Not a high impact player but Riley did a good job from when he took over as the starter midway through the 2011 season until he was released after the 2015 season.

DL Anthony Montgomery (5-2006)—For a while it looked like he was going to be a real draft steal but he didn’t keep it going. Kedric Golston, drafted in the sixth round the same season, lasted seven seasons longer.

CB Bashaud Breeland* (4-2013)—This is another position of value so he’s on the list after intercepting seven passes in three seasons.

Jamison Crowder* (4-2002)—Crowder and Cousins have contributed to each other’s success. In two seasons Crowder has 126 receptions and nine touchdowns

Among other mid-round players, the Redskins got some production from are RB Roy Helu (4-2011), TE Robert Royal (5-2002), RB Chris Thompson* (5-2013), and TE Niles Paul* (5-2011).

The Redskins currently have nine players who they drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds on their roster. In addition to those listed above they have G Arie Kouandjio (4-2015), WR Ryan Grant (5-2014), DL Matt Ioannidis (5-2016), and ILB Martrell Spaight (5-2015).

The Redskins would be very happy if they can end up with a fourth- or fifth-round player who is as immediately productive as Crowder was as a rookie (at any position), a guy like Breeland, who can hold down a job while still learning, someone like Paul, who can contribute right away on special teams, and perhaps a Spaight, who can do a spot start here and there.

That’s the best-case scenario. The reality is that one or two of their mid-round picks won’t contribute much of anything but the team hopes to acquire some impact early on Saturday afternoon.

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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Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

On Monday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that even though there have been a lot of changes to his team’s defense, there would be no grace period for them to gel and start playing effectively.

“We have a new defensive coordinator, new defensive line coach, new secondary coach,” said Gruden. “We have some new players on defense, some free agent acquisitions, some draft picks. They’re going to have to learn on the fly and learn to play together, which is going to be the biggest challenge for us.

“I don’t think patience is in the dictionary here in D.C. We have to be good now.”

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The defense had plenty of issues last year. They were 19th in points allowed but 28th in yards and 20th in opponents’ passer rating. The unit saved its worst for the most critical situations, finishing 26th in red zone defense and dead last in third-down conversion rate.   

The organization responded by promoting Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator, hiring the well-regarded Jim Tomsula to coach the defensive line, and by bringing in some more talent. Their top two draft pics, DE Jonathan Allen and OLB Ryan Anderson, should contribute to the defense right away. D.J. Swearinger was signed as a free agent to man the free safety spot while Su’a Cravens moves from linebacker to play strong safety. Free agents Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee should bolster the defensive line along with Allen.

Cornerback Josh Norman likes the changes and is confident that the team will do better.

“We will be [good]. Fixed points, will be,” he said. “We’ve got guys that’s capable of being that, of doing that. They will do that and we will be better. We’re definitely not going to have the product that we had last year, that’s for sure.

“We’ve got . . . edge rushers out here that’s pretty darn good. We got some guys in the draft that’s going to help us out. In the secondary as well, we brought guys in that’s going to fill that void for us.”

MORE REDSKINS: OTA practice observations 

In addition to drafting Anderson, the Redskins hope to have OLB Junior Galette healthy and contributing to the pass rush this year. He has missed the last two seasons after two Achilles injuries. The last two seasons that Galette played he had double-digit sacks each year and he was out participating in team drills yesterday, a good sign that he is on the road to good health.

“We’re going to be a whole lot better than we was last year,” said Norman. “The stuff they have us going, the scheme we’re going to be playing in is going to fit to what suits us, what we’re most capable of doing. I think it’s going to be a lot different result, the product on the field.”

A better defensive product on the field will almost certainly lead to a better overall Washington Redskins team. They will need to be better to keep up with what looks to be an improved and very competitive NFC East.

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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Redskins Trent Murphy trying to move on from 'gut-wrenching' suspension news

Redskins Trent Murphy trying to move on from 'gut-wrenching' suspension news

Trent Murphy enjoyed the best season of his NFL career in 2016, delivering nine sacks for the Redskins. The excitement took a blow in the offseason, however, as the NFL suspended the former Stanford star for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

Murphy will miss the first four games of the Redskins season, and the news devastated Murphy. 

"It was extremely disappointing to find out. It’s kind of like a gut-wrenching feeling," he said. "Took me by total surprise."

He spoke Wednesday for the first time since the suspension became official in April. With an early bye week for Washington, the four-game punishment will actually mean Murphy does not take the field for the Redskins until Week 6 against the 49ers.

A second-round pick in 2014, Murphy registered only six sacks his first two seasons in the NFL before last season's breakout performance. Six of his nine sacks came in the first seven weeks of 2016, and Murphy's production slid late in the year as he battled a serious foot injury. 

Without Murphy for the first month, the Redskins will lean heavily on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan. All three players logged more than 400 snaps last season in pass rushing situations, with Kerrigan going nearly 500 snaps. The team also added outside linebacker Ryan Anderson in the second round of the 2017 draft, he could push for playing time right away, especially with Murphy unable to suit up. If he remains healthy, Junior Galette could also be an option at edge pass rusher, though after missing the past two seasons, the Redskins would be smart to limit his offseason work.

For Murphy, the time off will hurt but he will remain focused on football.

"I kind of moved on the only way I could, which was just to get back to work," he said. "The people that are closest with you know your character, know where you come from, they’ll always be by your side. My team has rallied around me, they’ve been very supportive so I’m just going to do the best I can to recover from this."

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