3 draft needs for the Washington Redskins
Washington’s draft strategy is likely to be heavily influenced by how the team feels the situation with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins will work out. If the team think it can eventually tie him to Washington for the foreseeable future, then quarterback is not a major need in the 2017 draft. If, however, the front office expects Cousins to be playing somewhere else by the start of the 2018 season, then drafting a quarterback is very much on the cards. So, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the team target a signal-caller early, but without knowing how that situation will work out, this preview will focus on definite needs.
Need: Defensive line
The team has lost three of its top four contributors from a defensive line that struggled a little in 2016, including the unit’s top player in Chris Baker (82.2 overall grade), who is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. The additions of Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain will help offset the loss of bodies on the line, but neither is certain to step in and impress. McGee earned an 80.5 grade as a rotational player for the Raiders in 2016, but that is easily the best performance of his four-year career. Whether they add a 3-4 end or a nose tackle, this is still a position of need.
Early-round target: Malik McDowell, DI, Michigan State
A divisive prospect, McDowell has the length and pass-rushing skillset to be an absolute menace as an end in a 3-4, and could be an option with the 17th pick in the draft. McDowell earned a pass-rush grade of 85.7 in 2016, following on from an 86.2 mark in 2015. While his return of two sacks and 30 total pressures in 2016 doesn’t stand out, that came from just 218 pass rush snaps, his 11.7 pass-rushing productivity score (a measure of pressure on a per-snap basis) ranked fifth among this DI class.
Mid- or late-round target: Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DI, USC
With six Day 3 picks to play with, Washington could afford to use one of them on a pure nose tackle like Tu’ikolovatu. Tu’ikolovatu’s transfer to from Utah to USC for the 2016 season really paid off, he saw increased playing time and rewarded the Trojans with a terrific 91.1 run-defense grade. He will be a 26-year-old rookie, and offers little as a pass rusher, both factors that should limit him to being a day-three only selection, but he should contribute immediately as a run stuffer.
Washington could use a starting-caliber inside linebacker to pair with Mason Foster, particularly with Su’a Cravens moving to safety. Restricted free agent Will Compton may be the incumbent, but he has seen significant playing time over the past three seasons without making the position his own. It is 11 years since the team last used a pick from the top three rounds to address the position.
Early-round target: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
On talent alone, Foster should be off the board by the time Washington come on the board with the 17th overall selection, but a combination of off-the-field and injury concerns could see him slide a little. If he is there for Washington, then he would be the ideal solution to the team’s ILB issues. Foster was simply outstanding in 2016, earning a 93.9 overall grade ( highest among linebackers) and grading well in all three phases of defense.
Mid- or late-round target: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
If Foster isn’t available in the first round, then the team could consider using its third-round selection (81st overall) to address the position with McMillan. McMillan finished 2016 with an 85.2 overall grade and an 85.4 run-defense grade, both career-highs. Better in run defense than coverage, McMillan would begin his career as a two-down player.
Need: Running back
Offensive guard could easily be the third need, as Washington is effectively one good guard away from completing an impressive offensive line. However, as it is the team has one of the league’s better lines, and the biggest boost to the running game would come from the addition of a dynamic running back. The team currently has five running backs on the roster, but only of them has passed the 500-yard mark for a season, that was Robert Kelley, who rushed for 704 yards as a rookie in 2016. Kelley earned a solid 71.7 rushing grade, tied for 18th-best in the league.
Early-round target: Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
A likely second-round selection, Kamara is a shifty runner and talented receiver who would bring real dynamism to the Washington backfield. Kamara forced 49 missed tackles on 143 offensive touches, helping him to a 129.4 elusive rating, tied for second-best in this RB class. Kamara has never been a workhorse, but would dove-tail nicely with Kelley.
Mid- or late-round target: Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
Touted as a third- or fourth-round selection, Hunt would be an excellent mid-round pick up, and one capable of becoming a major contributor. Hunt shows the vision to hit the right hole, and the elusiveness to do real damage once he’s through it, he forced 98 missed tackles in 2016, second-most in the nation.