The Washington Redskins added seven new players to the roster with their 2016 draft picks, taking three offensive players and four on defense.
Those players will receive their introduction to Washington’s system next week during the rookie minicamp. In the weeks and months that will follow, they will work to carve out roles for themselves.
Here’s a look at how Redskins officials and coaches envision using these rookies, according to Coach Jay Gruden’s initial assessments:
First-round pick Josh Doctson, wide receiver, Texas Christian – At 6 feet 2 and 202 pounds, Doctson becomes the team’s biggest wideout, helping with a deficiency that has plagued the team for years as Pierre Garcon and Ryan Grant (both 6 feet) previously had been the biggest wide receivers.
“He’s got height. He’s got the mad leaping skills, which are very appealing, especially in a red zone obviously,” Gruden said. “He’s another guy that is going to bring great athleticism to this offense. We’re excited to have him.”
Gruden said Doctson will have to “earn his stripes,” but it shouldn’t take long for the rookie to work his way up the depth chart. His arrival could signal the end for Andre Roberts, who already slipped down the depth chart following Jamison Crowder’s emergence last season.
Second-round pick Su’a Cravens, linebacker/safety, Southern California – Coaches love the versatility and playmaking ability that Cravens brings. At 6-1, 226, he’s a big safety. He loves to hit, and has good coverage skills. He’ll play a unique role on the defense as a “dime linebacker,” meaning he’ll be on the field a lot, covering slot receivers, tight ends and running backs. He’ll also provide support against the run.
“He’s a playmaker,” Gruden said. “When you’re talking about defensive football nowadays, you want to get people who can do multiple things and be versatile in what they do and figure out ways to get the ball back for your offense. He’s one of the top guys at his position. He’s got position flex. He’s a ball hawk. He’s a turnover machine and he’s a great player. He’d be effective on special teams obviously. He can play in the box at linebacker, there’s a thought he might be able to play some safety. Once we get him in the building, we will figure out a way to get him on the field.”
Cravens likely will cut into the playing time of inside linebacker Mason Foster, as well three defensive backs who aimed to compete for the starting strong safety job, Duke Ihenacho, Will Blackmon and David Bruton Jr.
Third-round pick Kendall Fuller, cornerback, Virginia Tech – Initially viewed by experts as a first-round talent, Fuller fell in the draft after missing the bulk of last season because of knee injury. He’s close to reaching a full recovery and is expected to receive clearance either later this spring, or at the very latest by training camp.
Coaches love his versatility, attitude and football pedigree as the youngest of four brothers who have now all reached the NFL.
“It’s exciting to know that he has been growing up in football,” Gruden said. “He has got older brothers that have showed him the ropes. He has gone to Virginia Tech and started a lot of football games there and played for a great coach in Coach Beamer. And I’ll tell you what, he’s a great kid and if he’s the best Fuller like they say he is, man, we’ve got a heck of a football player. Even if he’s not, man, that’s a great family football tradition and we are happy to be part of it.”
He’ll compete with Blackmon, Quinton Dunbar and Deshazor Everett for the role of nickelback, joining starters Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland on the field against three-receiver sets. Fuller’s arrival is insurance for Washington’s coaches, who still don’t know how well Chris Culliver will recover from anterior cruciate ligament repair surgery. Culliver might not remain on the roster because of his $8 million 2016 salary.
Fifth-round pick Matt Ioannidis, defensive tackle, Temple – The Redskins finally addressed their defensive line in the fifth round, taking Ioannidis, who has played both nose tackle and end. He says he feels comfortable at either position, but Gruden indicated that coaches plan to groom the 6-foot-3, 299-pounder as a nose tackle. But, in their nickel packages, Ioannidis would likely slide over to play tackle in those four-man fronts.
“He’s played the one, three, and the five [technique],” Gruden said, referring to positions along the defensive line. “I think he can gain 15 pounds and be a very good nose guard. He’s played the three-technique. I’ve seen him rush the passer very well. He was very good at the combine, very athletic. Times the snap extremely well. He’s a nuisance. He gets in the backfield and makes a lot of plays, and he hustles. What he doesn’t have maybe physically trait-wise with speed and all that stuff, he makes up for with his tenacity. That’s half the battle in pro football. The guy that plays that hard until the whistle blows, that’s what Matt’s going to give you, and we’re excited to have him.”
Ioannidis will initially play behind veteran nose tackles such as Kedric Golston, but could quickly work his way up the ranks. Washington was originally expected to take a defensive lineman higher in the draft, but team officials are encouraged by the progress that Trent Murphy is making as he transitions from linebacker to end, and they like the prospects they have in Stephen Paea and free agent additions Kendall Reyes Ziggy Hood, who will all compete with Ricky Jean Francois for the starting job opposite left end Chris Baker.
Sixth-round pick Nate Sudfeld, quarterback, Indiana – The Redskins wanted a quarterback to develop for the future, and they think Sudfeld could be that guy. At 6-6, 234, he has great size to go with what Gruden describes a diverse skillset and good feel for the game.
“I’m excited about him, man,” Gruden said. “He’s a tall quarterback, obviously … He’s very accurate with the football. He’s made all the throws. I really like the fact that he has great anticipation in the pocket. He anticipates throws, gets it out his hands. He can speed up his delivery when he has to. And he buys time. He’s very functional in the pocket for a big man as far as buying time in the pocket. I think he has a great upside and we’re excited to have him.”
Sudfeld will have the luxury of learning behind veterans Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy this year, and then the Redskins will assess the situation next year to see if he’s ready to move up to No. 2 on the depth chart or not.
Seventh-round pick Steven Daniels, inside linebacker, Boston College – Gruden said the Redskins were excited to get Daniels, and were surprised that he was still available in the seventh round. The 5-foot-11, 243-pounder will initially work to carve out a role on special teams while also learning behind Will Compton and Mason Foster. Next year, he could contend for a starting job, analysts believe.
Said Gruden, “He’s a physical football player. He’s a middle linebacker on a Boston College defense that was ranked No. 1 in the nation. He was the quarterback back there, he led the show. He’s tough. He can stop the run. He didn’t run a great 40 time but he’s very good in pass coverage, man. He knows where to go, he’s great with his eyes, and when he thumps you, he thumps you. I think he’s going to be a good special teams player, and he’s going to compete. We’re excited to get Steven. I think he’s an excellent linebacker, and he can do some good things.”
Seventh-round pick Keith Marshall, running back, Georgia – The Redskins wanted a back to complement Matt Jones, and they feel like they found the right guy in Marshall, who has great speed, and clocked the fastest 40-yard dash time for a running back at this year’s combine at 4.31 seconds.
He dealt with injuries in his career at Georgia, but is healthy and ready to compete with Chris Thompson for carries behind Jones.
“He brings an element that not many people can bring at the running back position,” Gruden said. “We’ll take a good look at him at the rookie minicamp and then go from there. But he’s played at a great program at the University of Georgia and unfortunately had some injuries, played with some great backs, man. They have got backs coming out the woodwork. I think it’s a great chance to take with a guy in the seventh round, a guy that can run like that and was highly touted out of high school going to Georgia. I think he was ranked ahead of [Todd] Gurley going to Georgia, so he’s got the makeup to be a great back and hopefully he stays healthy and learns this thing and can be a force for us.”
Asked about the possibility of using Marshall as a third-down back, Gruden said, “We’ll see on that. We’ll wait and see. Mainly we got him to be a runner. Pass blocking and all that stuff, that takes time for young guys. But we’ll see. We’ll see how he picks it up. I know he’s a bright kid and eager to learn. That’s half the battle right there. We’ll get him taught up. We’ve got a lot of time before our first game against Pittsburgh. He’s got a lot of work to do. But what I hear and what I know about this kid, he’ll be one that will put the work in. So we’ll decide that later.”
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