A pair of first-round defensive linemen selected in consecutive drafts helped the Washington Redskins transform a maligned defense into one of the better units in the NFL during the first part of last season — before injuries took a toll.
The team, who own the 15th pick in the first round, will be at the mercy of the teams selecting in front of them, and it is difficult predicting which players will be available in the middle of the first round. But here are five prospects to keep an eye on:
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
6-foot-3, 231 pounds
Haskins seems like a no-brainer if he is available at No. 15. Considered the best pure passer in this year’s class, he threw for 4,831 yards, 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season, completing a Big Ten-high 70.0 percent of his passes. Haskins was named 2018 Big Ten offensive player of the year and led the NCAA in passing yards and passing touchdowns. The biggest criticisms are his lack of experience after starting just one season for the Buckeyes and mobility.
“I feel like [pocket presence is] very important for a quarterback because that is where the play starts, fundamentally wise,” Haskins said. “Of course it’s great to extend plays and know when to go when plays break down. But plays are schemed up for dropback and timing and things of that nature. So I feel like I do that at a very high level.”
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
6-4, 302 pounds
Williams was a three-year starter with the Crimson Tide, holding down the right tackle position as a freshman and moving to the left side for his final two years. He was named an Associated Press all-American as a junior, but some believe he’s better suited to play guard in the NFL, given his relatively short arms at 33 5/8 inches.
“Jonah has played a lot of ball at a very high level against elite players,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I believe he can kick inside. That’s personally where I think he’s going to end up. I think he’s going to be a very good player in there. … To me, he’s the high-floor guy. He doesn’t have that type of size or elite athleticism that I would put the ceiling really high, but I think he’s got a chance to be a real solid player, maybe could even be a Pro Bowl player on the inside.”
Brian Burns, edge rusher, Florida State
6-5, 249 pounds
Burns has elite athleticism and lived in opponents’ backfields during his collegiate career. He posted 23 sacks and 38.5 tackles for loss in three seasons with the Seminoles. His 10 sacks last season ranked second in the ACC. The concern is that Burns plays a little light and relies more on natural athletic ability than an array of pass-rush techniques.
“I pretty much do a lot of my moves off of speed,” Burns said at the NFL combine. “So I mean, I’ve got a lot of ways to win. I feel like I win inside, outside. I feel like I’ve got a lot of counters. And then I really want to work on my speed to power. That’s a big thing I’m working on.”
Clelin Ferrell, edge rusher, Clemson
6-4, 264 pounds
Ferrell’s isn’t the flashiest prospect at edge rusher but is steady, reliable and a winner. He racked up 27 sacks in his final three seasons, including a career-high 11.5 in 2018. Ferrell also had 50.5 tackles for loss and 165 total tackles in those three years. In 2018, he led the ACC in sacks and was chosen the defensive player of the year in the conference.
“Clelin’s just a really good football player,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “You look at his numbers, and he doesn’t have the elite explosiveness. But he got better every year. His production was outstanding. Did he benefit from having two other potential first rounders on the defensive line at Clemson? Sure. But he still had to produce, and he did week in and week out. The thing that stands out to me about Clelin is he learned how to use his hands and get off of blocks. … He’s going to be a steady, productive player.”
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
5-9, 166 pounds
Nicknamed “Hollywood,” Brown, the cousin of Raiders star wideout Antonio Brown, was one of the most explosive receivers in college football last season while catching balls from Heisman winner and presumed No. 1 pick Kyler Murray. He caught 75 passes for 1,318 yards with 10 touchdowns as a junior in 2018. Brown can work inside at the slot receiver position or on the outside, but a foot surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury kept him from the NFL combine and Oklahoma’s pro day, raising concerns among some teams. McShay compared him to Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and said he’s one of the fastest, most explosive players he has ever evaluated at the position.
“He would have been a [first-round pick]. Now he’s borderline,’ ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “He played like a first-round pick when he was healthy. I liked Marquise Brown all year. When he was 100 percent, if there no injury, he’d be one of the best 20 to 25 players in this draft. But you add the fact of the injury into it, it pushes him down just a bit.”
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