How often have you heard, “he was the best guy we had on our draft board?”
Teams set up their boards differently throughout the league, but for this exercise, I’ve chosen more of a horizontal (i.e based on round/value grade) approach for the Washington Redskins. Here is how I would shape the Redskins’ draft board, taking into account the team’s needs at each position, key personnel’s draft history, team and scheme fit and the grade I’ve placed on each player.
Given that free agency hasn’t even begun, it’s important to note that a team’s draft board remains fluid until a few days before the draft.
There might be some popular names that you don’t see on this list. They weren’t forgotten. It’s just that some guys won’t be around when the Redskins make their selections. Some won’t be a good fit for the particular offensive/defensive schemes the Redskins run. Some just aren’t the right height, weight or position either. Taking everything into account, here’s my 2016 Washington Redskins Draft Board, version 1.0:
What a year it was for Kirk Cousins, the Redskins’ 2012 fourth round selection. He passed for 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and led the Redskins to the NFC East title. He’ll never bring back the picks the Redskins surrendered for the right to draft Robert Griffin III, but he did eliminate the drama that surrounded the organization the past few years. All they need to do now is re-sign Cousins, which may be more difficult than it sounds.
RGIII? He’ll find a new home and get a new start with a new team, but the Redskins have a capable backup in Colt McCoy, assuming he is re-signed. Don’t expect the Redskins to look at quarterback until the middle or end of Day 3, given the Cousins/McCoy tandem.
First round — None
Second — None
Third — None
Fourth — None
Fifth — Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky (6 feet 3, 216 pounds); Kevin Hogan, Stanford (6-4, 225)
Sixth — Jake Coker, Alabama (6-5, 232)
Seventh — Brandon Allen, Arkansas (6-2, 210)
Draft outlook: With two veterans entrenched, the Redskins can take a calculated risk on a quarterback in the later rounds. Hogan, who is from McLean and played at D.C.’s Gonzaga High, might be worth a long look as a developmental prospect behind both Cousins and McCoy.
In 2012, the Redskins backfield of Griffin and running back Alfred Morris appeared to be set in stone for the next five to seven seasons. Yet, heading into 2016, there’s a high probability that neither will be with the team. Morris ran for 751 yards, averaged less than 3.8 yards per carry and is an unrestricted free agent. His production has fallen each of his four years in the league.
Matt Jones is a bruising back with no finesse and, predictably, he averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry. In fact, Cousins ran for more rushing touchdowns than all the running backs combined. Chris Thompson is a prototype third-down back and fits that role well. If Morris doesn’t re-sign, the Redskins running back priority moves up the list a notch or two.
First — None
Second — Devontae Booker, Utah (5-11, 205); Jordan Howard, Indiana (6-1, 230)
Third — Kenneth Dixon, Lousiana Tech (5-10, 215); Alex Collins, Arkansas (5-11, 215); Jonathan Williams, Arkansas (5-11, 219)
Fourth — Paul Perkins, UCLA (5-11, 210)
Fifth — Peyton Barber, Auburn (5-11, 225)
Sixth — Keith Marshall, Georgia (5-11, 212)
Seventh — None
Draft outlook: If a team doesn’t need a running back in 2016 and can wait until 2017, there are at least eight top-50 players at running back projected in that draft. Depending on what happens with Morris, this board will remain fluid throughout free agency. If Morris is brought back, then there’s no immediate need at the position. However, if the team values further production, there are solid options that don’t have a ton of tread off the tires. Perkins would be a gem if still available in the fourth round.
Wide receivers/Tight ends
DeSean Jackson only played in nine games, catching a career-low 30 passes. Pierre Garcon caught 72 passes, but he averaged less than 11 yards per catch. Fortunately, tight end Jordan Reed had a strong season; he should’ve gone to the Pro Bowl after catching 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Rookie Jamison Crowder locked down the slot/inside receiver position, as he registered 59 catches for 604 yards.
Reed and Crowder seem to be set, but Jackson is the key. If general manager Scot McCloughan and coach Jay Gruden feel Jackson can rebound with a 70-catch season, then wide receiver shouldn’t be a high-round priority in this draft. That said, McCloughan has a history drafting pass catchers.
First round — None
Second — None
Third — None
Fourth — De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State (6-5, 215); Kenny Lawler, Cal (6-3, 195)
Fifth — Charone Peake, Clemson (6-2, 208); Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri State (6-3, 197)
Sixth — Quinshad Davis, North Carolina (6-4, 210)
Seventh — None
Draft outlook: Given the downfield speed of Jackson, the slot quickness of Crowder and the versatility of Reed, the Redskins are best suited to find some bigger targets who can win 50/50, contested throws in numerous areas on the field. Wilson was Dak Prescott’s top target and has a significantly-sized catch radius. He’s being overshadowed by others in this draft class.
McRoberts is a former basketball player with glue sticks for hands. Lawler often just needs one hand. Davis was more possession receiver in 2015 than he’d been in prior years, but he could develop as a big target for Cousins in due time.
The addition of offensive line coach Bill Callahan was key for a group that needed guidance. Yet, the Redskins were 20th in the NFL, averaging under 100 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry. McCloughan added guard Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft and he’ll be a building block for a decade or more in Washington. Trent Williams isn’t getting any younger, but he’s still the team’s rock at left tackle. Same goes for 2014 third round selection Morgan Moses, who had an outstanding season at right tackle.
But the line still needs help on the interior, in particular at center. Kory Lichtensteiger isn’t the long-term answer, nor is Josh LeRibeus. The good news for the Redskins is that this is a center-heavy draft class and that’s good news for a team that needs one.
First — G Cody Whitehair, Kansas State (6-4, 300)
Second — C Ryan Kelly, Alabama (6-3, 299)
Third — G Landon Turner, North Carolina (6-3, 325); C/G Nick Martin, Notre Dame (6-4, 296); C/G Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State (6-3, 305)
Fourth — G Rees Odhiambo, Boise State (6-4, 305); C Evan Boehm, Missouri (6-2, 309); G Spencer Drango, Baylor (6-6, 320)
Fifth — C/G Graham Glasgow, Michigan (6-6, 301)
Sixth — None
Seventh — C Kyle Friend, Temple (6-2, 304)
Draft outlook: Whitehair in the first round is a bit of stretch for me, but if the Redskins write Whitehair’s name on the card, it’s not a huge upset. Kelly tops out at 300 pounds, but he plays with heavy hands, intelligence and the ability to get up to the second level on zone runs. He would fill a major need in the middle of the Redskins’ offensive line.
Drango, in the fourth, is intriguing even though most assume Baylor threw the ball all over Waco; it actually thrived in the run game, due in large part to Drango. Seumalo is a versatile chess piece to watch. He started at every offensive-line position, other than left guard, in his three years.
The Redskins’ difference in yards per carry and yards allowed per carry was the largest gap for any of the 12 playoff teams. They averaged 3.7 gained and 4.8 allowed, a difference of more than a yard in those key metrics. As such, the defensive line needs assistance, and that’s actually good news heading into late April. This is the deepest, most athletic and disruptive group of defensive linemen in quite some time.
Both Redskins nose tackles, Terrance Knighton and Kedric Golston, are unrestricted free agents. Neither defensive end is an impact player in odd fronts, although Chris Baker did have six sacks last season. Quite frankly, this is an area that the Redskins should attack in both free agency and the draft.
First — DE Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (6-3, 300); DE A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama (6-3, 325); DE Jarran Reed (6-3, 315); DE Sheldon Rankins, Louisville (6-2, 304)
Second — NT Austin Johnson, Penn State (6-4, 323); DE Jon Bullard, Florida (6-3, 285); NT/DE Vernon Butler, Lousiana Tech (6-3, 325)
Third — DE Chris Jones, Mississippi State (6-5, 308)
Fourth — DE Jihad Ward, Illinois (6-6, 295); DE Matt Ioannidis, Temple (6-4, 303)
Fifth — DE Dean Lowry, Northwestern (6-6, 290); DE Hassan Ridgeway, Texas (6-3, 314)
Sixth — DE Aziz Shittu, Stanford (6-3, 284)
Seventh — DE Lawrence Thomas, Michigan State (6-4, 281)
Draft outlook: In my first mock draft, I had the Redskins selecting Nkemdiche, even though the off-the-field issues are plentiful. On the field, he still needs some work and must crank up his motor to full throttle more consistently. That said, this guy is an athletic freak. Blocking Reed is like trying to move a tree stump and Robinson is similar, although he offers little in the way of rushing the passer. Johnson is one to watch, as he can probably play every single position of an odd front, including nose tackle, where the Redskins have definite uncertainty on the depth chart.
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is a top-100 NFL player and the most dynamic pass rusher on the squad. He had 9.5 sacks to lead the team, while rookie Preston Smith had eight. The Redskins signed outside linebacker Junior Galette after off-the-field issues drove him out of New Orleans, but he was injured and missed the entire season. He’s an unrestricted free agent and McCloughan must decide whether to sign him this offseason and for how much.
Inside linebacker Will Compton led all linebackers in tackles, but has only started 15 games in two years. Furthermore, getting nine games out of Perry Riley Jr. was hugely disappointing. Not to mention, Keenan Robinson is a free agent this year and Riley is slated to be next year. Linebacker will need to be addressed at some point in the near future.
First — None
Second — ILB Scooby Wright, Arizona (6-1, 234)
Third — ILB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri (6-1, 249)
Fourth — ILB Jared Norris, Utah (6-2, 237); OLB Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech (6-3, 235); OLB Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt (6-5, 250)
Fifth — None
Sixth — ILB Joshua Perry, Ohio State (6-4, 252)
Seventh — ILB Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn (6-3, 249)
Draft outlook: Two-star Scoob, as he’s known by many, didn’t play much in 2015 because of injuries, but returned to play his final game in the 2015 New Mexico Bowl. All he did that day was rack up 15 tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses. What separates him from other inside players is that he can rush from the edge when asked. What he lacks as an athlete, he makes up for with play recognition, football IQ and desire.
Brothers bulked up in the offseason, adding ten pounds, to show he can withstand the pounding inside at 249 pounds. Nicolas is a former defensive end who will need some time to adapt to being an outside linebacker, but the explosive traits are present. That’s something the Redskins lack on the edges and it’s possible that Nicolas could be the 2016 fourth-round version of Bruce Irvin, who the Seahawks selected in the first round in 2012 when McCloughan was with Seattle.
This is a strangely composed secondary, to be honest. DeAngelo Hall at safety? Dashon Goldson resurrected as the team’s leading tackler at the other safety? Will Blackmon and Chris Culliver opposite Bashaud Breeland at cornerback? The team’s pass rush was outstanding the last three or four weeks of the season but in the wild-card loss to the Packers, Aaron Rodgers bought time with his scrambles and threw two key touchdown passes against that secondary. None of the pieces seem to fit in the back and McCloughan’s focus should be on addressing that ill-fitting unit in the draft.
First — CB
, Clemson (5-10, 190); CB Eli Apple, Ohio State (6-1, 198)
Second — CB Will Jackson, Houston (6-1, 185); CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech (6-0, 197); S Vonn Bell, Ohio State (5-11, 200)
Third — CB Harlan Miller, Southeast Louisana (6-0, 182); CB/Nickel/S Jalen Mills, Louisiana State (6-0, 194); CB/Nickel Will Redmond, Mississippi State (6-0, 184); S Darian Thompson, Boise State (6-2, 208)
Fourth — CB Maurice Canady, Virginia (6-1, 191); CB Deiondre’ Hall, Northern Iowa (6-2, 192)
Fifth — CB/Nickel Tavon Young, Temple (5-10, 181); CB/Nickel Cre’Von LeBlanc, Florida Atlantic (5-10, 180)
Sixth — CB/Nickel KeiVerae Russell, Notre Dame (5-11, 196)
Seventh — CB Juston Burris, North Carolina State (6-0, 213)
Draft outlook: At No. 20, in my opinion, there’s little chance Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is on the board and 50/50 on Alexander. Apple is a young player who needs time, but has size and speed traits for certain. Alexander isn’t built like the long, rangy corners that were a huge part of Seattle’s success, but Apple, Jackson and others are. Miller impressed at the Senior Bowl in January.
Mills was inconsistent at times at LSU, but he can play three positions and was outstanding at the Senior Bowl. Hall is a guy who many throughout the league have coveted for a while. Don’t snicker at the inclusion of FAU’s LeBlanc; this guy could’ve started for plenty of teams in Power 5 conferences.
John Harris contributes to the Washington Post’s NFL draft coverage. He is the sideline reporter and football analyst for the Houston Texans and owner of footballtakeover.com.
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