WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: Newly drafted Washington Redskin Montez Sweat at his introductory press conference held on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)
Sports Columnist

After winning the draft, can the Redskins’ rookies help win games this fall?

First-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins and edge rusher Montez Sweat should be opening-day starters, while third-round wide receiver Terry McLaurin and fourth-round guard Wes Martin might be, too. That’s four rookies who fill immediate needs as the best player available. (Funny how that occurs.)

When Haskins starts will be the team’s most hotly debated topic. Washington opens with four 2018 playoff teams in the first five games so it looks like a 1-4 start no matter who’s quarterbacking. So why not let the rookie gain some experience rather than wait until the season’s lost?

It’s not like the Giants’ quandary over replacing two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning with rookie Daniel Jones. Colt McCoy is the Redskins’ only returning passer, and three surgeries on his leg leave his future uncertain. Washington traded for Case Keenum as insurance, and he should be the backup.


COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 17: Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin (83) turns upfield for a second quarter touchdown reception against Maryland at Maryland Stadium. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Haskins excels at what coach Jay Gruden likes most: accurate mid-range passes. The rookie needs some coaching up, but the future might as well start now if Washington hopes to become a 2020 playoff contender. Besides, Washington’s offense will rely heavily on the running game to take pressure off Haskins.

Sweat was a steal with the 26th pick after a misdiagnosed heart condition caused him to fall from the top 10, where he was originally projected. Playing opposite linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, Sweat is a potential 10-sack player on a front seven that might rank among the NFL’s elite. He’s the Redskins’ next breakout defensive player.

McLaurin should line up outside along with Paul Richardson, with Trey Quinn inside on three-receiver sets. Maybe McLaurin isn’t quite ready to be an NFL starter, but he’s a familiar face for Haskins after the two played together at Ohio State. Certainly, Haskins will need that comfort zone. McLaurin is a disciplined route-runner who could be the red zone target that 2016 first-rounder Josh Doctson has never become.

Washington desperately needs a left guard. Veteran Ereck Flowers will get the first chance at the starting job entering training camp, but he’s a short-term starter at best. The Redskins should develop Martin now rather than waste time. “Big Wes” is country strong after growing up on a dairy farm and can maul nose tackles on stunts.

To have four rookies playing prominent roles is asking a bit much, especially when one is a quarterback. But the Redskins are rebuilding rather than reloading. To break a three-year run of mediocrity, they need fresh talent. At least eight of 10 draft picks should make the team, with others adding depth and special teams help.

By playing the newcomers, Washington could see future success much sooner.