The Washington Redskins paid dearly for not prioritizing their defense in the 2016 NFL draft, falling short of the playoffs after an 8-7-1 season in which opposing offenses rolled up 378 yards per game and defensive coordinator Joe Barry and two of his assistants were let go.
Speaking to reporters Monday, three days before the 2017 NFL draft gets underway in Philadelphia, Scott Campbell, the Redskins’ director of college scouting, didn’t commit to investing this year’s first-round pick (17th overall) in defense. But Campbell made clear that he believes that defense is the strength of this year’s draft class, all but ensuring the opportunity to improve on that side of the ball.
“I think it’s one of the strongest, deepest classes on the defensive ball that I have seen,” said Campbell, who has three decades’ experience scouting NFL prospects. “I told the guys [in the Redskins’ front office] that I’m excited because we’re going to get better. I know there are going to be guys sitting here at 17 — or if we want to move back. There’s enough thickness of the group in several positions. Sometimes it’s just maybe defensive line or outside backers or corners. [But] across the board on defense, I’m really excited about the class and the guys we’re going to bring that are going to help us.”
The Redskins defense ranked 28th last season — 25th against the pass and 24th against the run.
The Redskins have 10 picks in the draft, which gets underway Thursday in Philadelphia. Like Campbell, most draft analysts characterize the class of college prospects as notably deep on defense. On most first-round projections, defensive players occupy the top five spots, led by defensive end Myles Garrett and followed by some combination of LSU safety Jamal Adams, Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen, Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Campbell was tapped by the Redskins to field pre-draft questions because the team has no general manager, having firing Scot McCloughan on March 9, the opening day of free agency. Campbell said decisions made over the three-day, seven-round draft will be made by collaboration among team President Bruce Allen, Coach Jay Gruden and himself.
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