The Washington Redskins’ offseason needs were blatantly clear during the team’s regular-season finale, as a sea of green-and-white clad Philadelphia Eagles fans took over FedEx Field to watch the visitors claim a 24-0 victory. The only way to have made it more obvious would have been Coach Jay Gruden holding a sign on the sideline that read, “Send offensive help.”
The unknown future of Alex Smith leaves a hole at quarterback, and Washington will have the option of drafting a passer, trading for the Cardinals’ Josh Rosen, or head into the 2019 season with the combination of veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. But regardless of who’s under center, there’s a need for a starter at guard and a playmaking receiver.
Former Giants first-round tackle Ereck Flowers was signed in free agency and will have the opportunity to be the left guard opposite Brandon Scherff, but the soon-to-be 25-year-old has struggled in his first four seasons, and that was before attempting to switch positions. The Redskins had some of the worst production from their wide receivers in the entire league last season, and now starting slot receiver Jamison Crowder is gone to the Jets via free agency.
Assuming the Redskins don’t draft a quarterback with the 15th overall pick, where else could they look for offensive help? In the second part in our series of draft debates, we take a look at Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams and Mississippi receiver D.K. Metcalf.
The case for Williams
It’s no secret that Washington has an affinity for Alabama players, and Williams would be the team’s third first-round pick from the Crimson Tide in as many years. The three-year starter played right tackle as a freshman and moved to the left for his final two years, being named an AP all-American as a junior. But some draft experts have argued that the 6-foot-4, 302 pounder could move inside to guard in the pros, due to his relatively short arms (33 5/8 inches).
“I think there’s a chance he could hold up at tackle and be a functional starting tackle,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I think he’s got a chance to be special inside. To me, that’s where he fits best. Some of these length issues . . . [showed] up in the Clemson game this year, showed up in the Clemson game last year, where guys kind of get into his chest and he struggles a little bit on the edge.
“He is a dominating run blocker,” Jeremiah continued. “Played a lot of football there at Alabama. I know some teams actually like him at center. . . . I think he’s got a chance to be a perennial Pro Bowl guard with the way that he plays. I love the nasty that he has.”
Redskins coaches and scouts have been taking a close look at tackles during at the pre-draft process at the Senior Bowl and scouting combine, so Williams’s versatility could be seen as a plus. The team lost Ty Nsekhe, who served as a swing tackle but also played guard for the Redskins, to the Bills in free agency.
The case for Metcalf
The 6-3, 228-pound deep threat is considered the No. 1 wide receiver prospect, and pictures of his bulked-up went viral when he more closely resembled a heavyweight boxer than a receiver. His 27 bench-press reps at the combine tied N’Keal Harry for the most by any receiver, and his 4.33-second 40-yard dash was the fourth-fastest of any player at the combine.
Few doubt that Metcalf is a big, fast playmaker, but his slow times in agility testing and a lengthy injury history — including a serious neck injury that ended his 2018 season — have contributed to questions about whether he can be a well-rounded NFL receiver. He caught 65 passes for 1,215 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 combined games his last two seasons.
“It’s very obvious what he does best: He runs the 9 route and goes up and makes plays on the ball vertically as well as anyone in this class,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “When you’re basically 6-3 1/2, 228 pounds, there’s going to be a little bit of tightness. . . . [The agility-drill struggles] are issues. . . . I do think that aspect of his game will have to improve in order for him to become a more complete receiver in the NFL.
“I understand he was kind of a one-trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick,” McShay continued. “When you can get down the field at 228 and when you can go up and compete for the ball the way he does, track the deep ball, adjust and make the plays that he did — get off of press, which he did. . . . He’s got that already. . . . He’s got to continue to develop as a short and intermediate route-runner in order to get the most out of his potential.”
But would the Redskins be able to maximize Metcalf’s ability? They already have a 50-50 ball type of receiver in Doctson, and Paul Richardson is in place as a speedy deep threat. McShay noted that Metcalf is more dangerous with a strong-armed quarterback, and Washington remains unsettled at the position.
The final decision, if both remain on the board, could come down to philosophy. The Redskins could have one of the best offensive lines in the league if the left guard situation is settled and the group can stay healthy. For a team with quarterback issues that hopes to rely upon the running game and a strong defense, an upper-echelon offensive line is more of a need than a luxury. That same offense also need playmakers catching the ball, however, especially with Crowder gone.
Former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly, who is now an NFL Network analyst, said he would choose Williams over Metcalf.
“Jonah Williams is a better prospect,” Casserly said. “I’d take the higher guy. If the Redskins take him I’d just put him at guard from Day 1 and he just goes. The thing about him, if I needed a tackle, I’d line him up there at left tackle and I’d make him prove that he can’t play the position. Because I think he might be able to, but I know he can play guard.”
McShay, who ranks Williams the No. 14 overall prospect in this class, and Metcalf at No. 16, said there’s less risk with Williams.
“Wide receiver is, I believe, a little bigger need,” McShay said. “But you know what you’re getting with Jonah. I would go with Jonah. D.K. [has had] injuries two of the last three years [and] he’s not a polished route-runner, I know he’s a physical freak, but there’s more potential of not getting value there . . . I think the risk factor of busting, and I’m big on that with first rounders, is a lot less with Jonah.”
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