After making moves to upgrade their defense with their first two picks of the NFL draft on Thursday and Friday, the Washington Redskins made skill positions a common theme throughout the third and final day of the draft.
The Redskins took two running backs and two wide receivers with four of their nine day-three picks.
They spent the 105th overall pick (fourth round) on running back Roy Helu out of Nebraska and then used the 177th pick (sixth round) on Penn State running back and Westfield High School product Evan Royster.
The Redskins’ other picks were Nebraska safety DeJon Gomes (146th overall, fifth round), Boise State cornerback Brandyn Thompson (213th, seventh round), Florida guard Maurice Hurt (217th), Florida State outside linebacker Markus White (224th) and West Virginia nose tackle Chris Neild (253rd).
In all, the Redskins took 12 players over the course of the three days of the draft, marking the first time since 1985 that they have drafted that many players.
“I felt we got 12 quality players and improved the overall depth of our team,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “You’re not going to be able to address all of your needs, but we have a board and we stayed true to that and drafted some good players.”
After entering the draft with only eight picks (a first, a second, two fifth-rounders, a sixth-rounder and three seventh-rounders), the Redskins traded down a total of four times to add five more picks. Saturday morning they shipped a fourth- and two fifth-round selections to the Houston Texans to move up in the fourth so they could take Helu.
The Redskins didn’t meet all their needs in this year’s draft. They still don’t have a quarterback of the future after passing on the chance to take Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick and after missing out on Texas Christian’s Andy Dalton and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick in the second round. Washington also took only one offensive lineman despite the fact that right tackles Jammal Brown and Stephon Heyer both are free agents and despite a lack of depth at guard.
Under normal circumstances, the Redskins would be able to round out their roster by signing undrafted players as free agents, but because of the NFL lockout, they cannot make any transactions.
Washington appears to have set up an open competition at running back, where it will be without Clinton Portis for the first time in eight seasons. Washington cut Portis, who is the second-leading rusher in franchise history but was injured often the last three years.
Ryan Torain started the bulk of Washington’s games last year and led the team with 742 yards, but in three NFL seasons, he has yet to avoid injury and play a full 16 games. Keiland Williams (undrafted out of LSU last season) played in 15 games but served as more of a third-down back.
Now the Redskins have added two young backs who are coming off prolific careers. The 6-foot, 220-pound Helu was a four-year player at Nebraska and rushed for a total of 3,536 yards and 28 touchdowns, including a 2010 campaign that featured 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns. Royster (6 feet, 212 pounds) concluded his career as Penn State’s all-time leading rusher with 3,932 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Helu and Royster possess good speed, quickness and cutting ability, which is expected to suit Washington’s zone-blocking running scheme well.
“Coach Shanahan, he said to me when they drafted me that I remind him of Terrell Davis,” Royster said. “And that’s who I want to be.”
Helu played in a scheme similar to Washington’s the past two years at Nebraska and said he is eager to play under Shanahan, and described the coach’s track record with mid- to late-round running backs as “legendary.”
“I feel very good,” Shanahan said about his running back position. “With Helu we have something we haven’t had: speed, and he has great hands. And also now we have some good competition”
Meanwhile, Paul (6-1, 220) and Robinson (5-9, 180) were the second and third wide receivers taken by Washington in this year’s draft. The day after Washington added a big, physical receiver Miami’s Leonard Hankerson in the third round, they added two speedy wideouts who possess the ability to stretch the field and contribute on special teams.
Santana Moss led Washington in receiving last year, but he is a free agent. Anthony Armstrong had a breakout year, but Malcolm Kelly missed last season with a torn hamstring and Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin both are under 6 feet tall.
Paul and the safety, Gomes, all hail from Nebraska, and this year marked the first time since 1975 that Washington has taken three players from the same school.