A Show of Hands for Redskins
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Washington Redskins succeeded in trading their first-round pick in yesterday's NFL draft -- sending the No. 21 overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons -- and then made a surprising move for a team that acknowledged it has needs in many areas, focusing exclusively on their receiving corps in drafting wide receivers Devin Thomas of Michigan State and Malcolm Kelly of Oklahoma and pass-catching tight end Fred Davis of Southern California with their top three picks.
Washington sent its picks in the first, third and fifth rounds (Nos. 21, 84 and 154 overall) to Atlanta to achieve its goal of trading down in the draft, receiving the Nos. 34 and 48 picks in the second round and a fourth-round pick, the 103rd overall. With the first pick they got from Atlanta, the Redskins selected Thomas (6 feet 2, 215 pounds).
After taking Thomas, the Redskins chose Davis at No. 48. Washington tight end Chris Cooley went to the Pro Bowl after last season, but the team is transitioning to new coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast offense and is expected to use multiple tight ends in formations.
And with the second-round pick they held before the trade, the 51st overall, the Redskins chose Kelly (6-4, 218).
Having failed to package their top pick for the veteran wide receiver they were seeking (Washington was rebuffed in attempts to acquire Chad Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals and Anquan Boldin of the Arizona Cardinals), the Redskins moved to add picks in the second round, believing many players remaining on the board could help them address their needs, primarily along the offensive and defensive lines, at wide receiver and safety. But owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, were determined to draft big wide receivers to provide bigger targets for developing quarterback Jason Campbell. "Our number one goal was to get a big receiver who can run," wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said.
Even Zorn, a former quarterback and an offensive-minded coach, conceded he could not have fathomed a first day of the draft such as this, bringing in three players whose primary attribute is pass-catching. "I wouldn't have predicted this scenario," Zorn said after the Redskins completed the first day of the two-day process.
Cerrato, who acknowledged the Redskins have needs at numerous positions, attributed the unusual draft to simply following Washington's draft board and selecting the best available player, regardless of already having two highly paid starting wide receivers -- Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.
"We were not going to jump down a round or two rounds to go get a need," Cerrato said. "We were going to take the best players. So, saying that, Fred Davis was the best player on our board at the time we took him. And after Fred went and a couple of guys went, Malcolm Kelly was the only guy with a first-round grade. He stuck out like a sore thumb. It was an obvious choice for us."
It would seem that getting all of these players, along with holdovers such as Cooley, on the field at the same time would be nearly impossible. But Zorn said he was pleased to amass so much personnel at wide receiver and tight end, with injuries to those positions common in the West Coast offense.
"The flexibility of personnel groups in the West Coast offense is critical," Zorn said.
Kelly, like Thomas, is a tall receiver, but he lacks Thomas's speed. Zorn and Cerrato said that Kelly's slow 40-yard dash time is superseded by his "explosiveness" off the line of scrimmage. Some teams were worried about Kelly's attitude and knees as well, but Cerrato said he is close friends with one of the strength coaches at Oklahoma and received favorable reports. "Everybody down there speaks very highly of him," Cerrato said.
Hixon said adding size to the receiving corps was imperative. "I'm very ecstatic," Hixon said. "It's like Christmas for me."