Every NFL team approaches the draft differently. Some are heavily guided by immediate need. Others, like the Washington Redskins under GM Scot McCloughan [GMSM], attempt to draft the best player available, hoping if they do that often enough they will be able to address their needs. [This latter method is also an acknowledgement that teams may know what their needs are now, but often do not know what their needs will be in six, twelve or eighteen months.]
A good insight into how the Skins approach the draft under McCloughan is that, according to several reliable reports, GMSM wanted Alabama center Ryan Kelly in the first round and would have picked him if he lasted to 21. [Kelly went to the Colts, several picks earlier.] If that is the correct then GMSM must have regarded the center position as one of great need, right? Well, except for the fact that, despite repeated opportunities to do so, the Skins never did draft a center in 2016. Nor did they sign one in free agency. In other words, drafting Kelly wasn’t so much about Washington’s need for a center, it was about Washington’s need for a certain type of football player.
GMSM constantly talks about acquiring and developing what he calls “football players.” That would seem to be obvious because McCloughan runs a football team. However, in GMSM’s mind, there are “football players” and there are “guys who play football.” The difference is that “football players are tough, a bit nasty, they play through the whistle, they practice hard, they listen to coaching and — most of all — they live and love the game of football. These are guys who would want to play football if no one was watching and the paychecks contained many fewer zeroes. McCloughan saw those qualities in Ryan Kelly and so he wanted to draft him. Not because Washington needs a center, but because Washington needs guys like Ryan Kelly. When McCloughan couldn’t get Kelly, he decided to get guys like Kelly. Not centers [remember, he never drafted one], but tough guys who will work hard, play hard and turn the Redskins into a winning franchise for years to come.
With all that in mind, let’s look at how Washington’s roster will be affected by the newest Redskins.
Round 1. WR Josh Doctson
Round 2. S/LB Su’a Cravens
Round 3. CB Kendall Fuller
Round 5. DL Matt Ioannidis
Round 6. QB Nate Sudfeld
Round 7. ILB Steven Daniels
Round 7. RB Keith Marshall
The addition of Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld puts a third quarterback on the roster with starter Kirk Cousins and backup Colt McCoy. Sudfeld won’t compete for the starter’s job or even the backu’s job this season and, most likely, not in 2017 either, but he’s a big guy with some real talent, but in need of coaching and seasoning. Head coach Jay Gruden has plenty of experience working with young quarterbacks and the team can patiently develop Sudfeld to find out how much he’s got. Reportedly, the Skins thought about going into the season with only two QB on the roster, but, unless Sudfeld completely bombs in training camp, that now seems unlikely. Positional Impact: Minimal
Keith Marshall fell to the seventh round because concerns about a torn ACL in a knee that caused him to miss major portions of 2013 and 2014 seasons. The injury led one of the most highly-touted high school football players in recent years to compile only 1,379 yards and 12 touchdowns in his college career. That’s one season for some good college backs. One might have thought Marshall put doubts to rest by running a 4.31 in the 40 at the Combine, the best of anyone all year. He also proved to be the strongest running back at the Combine in 2016. Marshall has the size and athleticism you want at the position and obviously his straight-line speed is elite. He doesn’t break a lot of tackles, but you have to get your hands on him first and he does have plenty of wiggle. However, it appears many teams took him off their draft boards entirely or he wouldn’t have lasted until Washington’s second pick in the seventh round.
The good news for Marshall is that this position is up in the air for the Skins so he has a chance to come in and contribute early. Matt Jones is the presumptive starter, but both he and third down scatback Chris Thompson are coming off injuries. Thompson has major durability questions of his own and Jones is more the starter by default than anything else. Marshall did not return kickoffs in college, but that might be something the team looks at, considering how quickly he moves down the field. He is an adept pass-catcher, so he could poach some of Thompson’s business on third downs, as well as spelling Jones on first and secon downs. The Skins could really use a veteran presence at this position and re-signing Pierre Thomas, who played well late last season, is a real possibility. Positional Impact: Minimal-to-moderate
None drafted. Positional Impact: None
None drafted. Positional Impact: None
Washington defied a lot of predictions and took a wideout in the first round, selecting Josh Doctson of TCU with the 22nd pick in the Draft. While the Skins already have two good veteran starting receivers in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, as well as a slot receiver, Jamison Crowder, who finished second among all NFL rookies in receptions last season, Doctson was too good to pass up. Doctson will see the field immediately and even if he isn’t a starter, expect him to play essentially a starter’s number of plays each week. The Skins will likely see the field every time Washington is in the red zone, since his height and leaping ability make him an inviting target around and inside the end zone. Positional Impact: Major
The Skins came into the Draft with a big need along the defensive line, but GMSM wisely stuck to his board and picked the best players available. That meant no defensive linemen were selected until Matt Ioannidis of Temple University in the fifth round. I had my eye on Ioannidis [get it?] before the Draft because I thought he’d be a good addition to Washington. He won’t provide a huge pass rush and he’s not a classic 3-4 nose tackle like Terrance Knighton was, but I believe the team is moving away from that position. Washington was only in its base 3-4 defense 20-25 percent of the time in 2015, meaning Knighton spent a lot of time on the sidelines. And in the playoff loss to Green Bay, the Skins could barely get Knighton on the field while the Packers were scoring on five straight possessions because Green Bay went to a hurry-up offense in a passing down formation. Ioannidis can play nose tackle in a nickel 3-4 defense and end in a regular 3-4 defense. He can also play interior when Washington is in a 4-3 defense. I think the Skins will try to replace Knighton with a variety of more versatile players who can stay on the field no matter what down it is and Ioannidis will be part of that rotation, along with Chris Baker, Stephen Paea and perhaps others. Positional Impact: Moderate
Steven Daniels out of Boston College isn’t the tallest inside linebacker around, but that never bothered London Fletcher. Daniels is a thumping hitter who thrives defending the run and really throwing his body around, particularly into running backs. With his wide hips and barbarian-like frame, Daniels is tough to move out of the way, though he’s not a great athlete and does not excel in coverage. Daniels has plenty of competition at his position — Perry Riley, Will Compton, Mason Foster, Martrell Spaight and Terrance Garvin. I’d be shocked if Andrew Heyward, older and coming off a bad knee injury, makes the team in 2016. However, Daniels is a smart player and quick learner who got into the playing rotation as a freshman in college. He’s got a good chance to make the team and if he does, help out on special teams. He could develop into a starter in a couple of years.
Su’a Cravens is listed as a safety, just as he was in college, but is likely to be used mostly as a nickel linebacker, just as he was in college. Expect defensive coordinator to use Barry the way Deone Buccanon is used in Arizona, covering tight ends and running backs, but also supporting the run in the box and occasionally blitzing the QB. Cravens isn’t a great athlete, but he’s fluid and plays with great anticipation. It won’t be long before he’s making splash plays for Washington’s defnese. Positional Impact: Minimal to Moderate
The addition of Bowl CB Josh Norman days before the NFL Draft left many thinking the Skins would not address the position. Those people don’t know enough about Washington GM Scot McCloughan, who grabbed S-OLB Su’a Cravens in the second round and CB Kendall Fuller in the third round. Cravens has been covered already, he is officially a safety, but will work with the secondary and linebackers and should be on the field in lots of passing situations, which is most of the time in the today’s NFL.
Fuller is coming off surgery that ruined his last year at Virginia Tech and he lacks the elite size and speed teams want in outside cover cornerbacks, but what he does have is great instincts and natural playmaking ability. Fuller got things done in college when he was healthy and he might have been a late first round pick had he finished his college career on the field instead of the trainer’s room. He’s a very good tackler and though he takes too many chances with the ball in the air, that’s the sort of problem you normally get with playmakers. Fuller is a natural in the sort of zone defenses the Skins like to use. If Fuller gets healthy in time for training camp and preseason, expect him to make a real contribution to the defense in 2016. When the Skins released Chris Culliver, opportunities presented themselves to players like Fuller and Quinton Dunbar. Positional Impact: Minimal to Moderate [depending on Fuller’s health].
Washington added some real special teams talent in the 2016 Draft. Backup wideouts are generally expected to play on special teams so Doctson could get a look there. However, it’s Su’a Cravens who should be the star special teamer of this group. With his ferocity, aggression, tackling and instincts, he’s a natural to become a leader in kick coverage. Fuller, if healthy, will also see plenty of time on special teams. Since backup linebackers are also expected to contribute on special teams, expect Daniels to be given a major role here. Positional Impact: Major