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Too Early to Judge the Draft

Too Early to Judge the Draft

To start out with, I have to state that it’s been my firm belief ever since I knew what an NFL draft was that it takes at least three years, probably four, to judge a draft. You have to see how the players who were selected actually play on the field for an extended period of time before you can say if the player’s performance justified the pick.

Even in the days where the analysts weren’t so plentiful and so instant, everyone ink-stained wretch out there still had to come up with an immediate judgment on what had just been concluded. These days, with so many out there calling themselves draft experts and with an ability to offer an opinion for all the world to see within seconds of a pick being made, it’s gotten truly out of hand.

That being said, there is a legitimate case that can be made for analyzing what a team was thinking about when it made a given pick, what they might do with a particular player drafted and what effect it might have on the players currently on the team. Those aspects are in the here and now.

In this draft, the Redskins shattered two myths about the team, although this will certainly not make the mainstream media change their template they have used for the past five years in their coverage of the team. First, they did not go for the big splash or the flashy player. Certainly, a move up to nab Braylon Edwards would have been a headline-maker. They passed on that move. Mike Williams would have been the sexier pick at #9, but they weren’t swayed from their convictions and took Carlos Rogers. The cornerback didn’t have as much spectacular footage as did Williams, but isn’t the whole idea of being a great cover corner to stay out of highlight films?

Second, despite what was said in this space a few days ago, they are not necessarily gunning to win now at the expense of the future. Jason Campbell may or may not become a stud NFL quarterback, but if he does it will likely be after Joe Gibbs is back in NASCAR. He made what he thought was the best choice for the future of the franchise.

There is only one legitimate argument against the selection of Rogers and that’s the presence of Williams on the board. The former USC receiver would have been a good compliment to the team’s current corps of receivers, which lacks a red-zone go-to move-the-chains kind of receiver. Apparently, Gibbs (who to repeat is the decision-maker here) believed that the hole at corner was more critical than the lack of a big receiver.

There’s a lot more room for discussion about the selection of Campbell. After a few hours of trying to digest it, I just can’t figure it out. Ramsey is a good QB prospect, perhaps a very good one, they type of signal caller that Gibbs has built into Super Bowl quarterbacks. The Skins spent a first-round pick on him three years ago. Why not make him your main guy and then take your project QB later in the draft?

It’s hard to see how Gibbs is going to spin this to Ramsey, who he says is his starter at QB. It wasn’t as though they were just sitting there at #25, minding their own business when Campbell, who they had rated as the best QB in the draft, just fell into their laps. It’s obvious that the Skins wanted Campbell enough to make the deal with Denver to get a pick where he’d almost certainly be available. And certainly you can say that it takes a quarterback a couple of years before he will be ready to start in the NFL, but that would put Campbell as being ready right in the middle of what should be Ramsey’s prime. Sure, you need two QB’s in today’s NFL, but two first-rounders?

To his credit, Ramsey came out a couple of days ago and said that it didn’t matter to him if the Skins drafted a quarterback, that he just wanted the team to do what it thought was best. In retrospect, all but the most thick-headed among us (including yours truly) probably took this as a signal that the Redskins were indeed going to take Campbell as they probably wouldn’t have let Ramsey say something like this unless it was pretty certain that this would happen.

Big Media didn’t have a very good handle on this in the past few days. Many, including the Washington Post, drank the Braylon Edwards Kool-Aid, in fact they gulped it down with great glee. Such a move would not leave them with the means to take Campbell so all but ESPN, who seemed to be circling the wagons around its writer Len Pasquerelli since he broke the story that Gibbs had visited Campbell last week, had abandoned that line for the most part.

This space had a good take on the #9, saying that Rogers would be the pick albeit with some serious qualifiers about the possibility of taking Williams if he was on the board or trading down. Again, Campbell at #25 was not on the radar screen here at all, thinking that it was either a smoke screen or just the prudent exploration of very outside possibilities.

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How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

The Redskins ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories in 2016, and the first and second round selections in the 2017 Draft should help to address that.

A huge part of the Washington defensive problems stemmed from an inability to get off the field on third downs, and Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should immediately provide a pass rush boost. In 2016, the duo combined for 18.5 sacks, 8.5 coming from Anderson and another 10 from Allen, two huge pieces for the excellent Alabama defense.

On the pro level, Anderson may actually be in position for more sacks as he's likely to play outside linebacker in the Redskins 3-4 scheme. Allen will be more of an interior presence, a natural fit for the 'Skins defensive end spot in the 3-4.

That doesn't mean the two won't compete to hit quarterbacks. 

Asked Saturday if there would be a bet between the two college teammates about who gets more sacks their rookie season, Anderson quickly responded, "definitely."

Though he was surprised by the bet, Allen wasn't going to back down from the challenge. (Full video above)

"I guess there is now, I didn't know about it 'til now," Allen said. 

As for the stakes of the bet, Allen said the pair of rookies will figure that out behind closed doors. 

"His bank account is a little longer than mine so we will have to figure something else out," Anderson said.

What's clear from hanging out with both players is their familiarity with one another will help both players transition to the NFL. Allen and Anderson said they had an emotional response when they learned they would continue to play together in Washington. 

"There's very few players that have better film or resume than this guy right here," Allen said of Anderson. 

Anderson, as the Redskins press group has quickly learned, has a certain way with words. Honest and funny, but to the point.

"I'm excited to have one of my dogs with me here," he said of Allen. 

The Redskins ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks in 2016, but will lose Trent Murphy for four games to start the year. Sacks are just one metric to measure defensive success, though an easily quantifiable and fun metric for fans.

Where Washington has to improve is on 3rd downs. In 2016, they allowed a confounding 97 third down conversions, good for 31st in the league. There's only 32 teams. What's worse? The 'Skins gave nine fourth down conversions too.

Regardless of sack totals, Allen and Anderson were brought to Washington to help this defense get off the field. Coming from the Crimson Tide, the two rookies seem up for the challenge. 

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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?