As the 2018 NFL Draft approaches, the Redskins look forward to bringing in some key additions to make the team amongst the top competitors in the League. Over the past two drafts, the Skins have proved that they’ve been able to be smart and patient when making their selections. Players like Josh Doctson, Matt Ioannidis, Johnathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson are quickly becoming fan favorites around the DMV area. Over the first few weeks of the regular season, it seemed as if the Skins were due to return amongst the top ranks in the NFL due to the young talent being the backbone of the team. This was the case early, but that quickly changed less than half way through the 2017 season as injuries riddled the Redskins roster.
There’s plenty of speculation on who the Redskins would choose with the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft. With it, they have the opportunity to bring in an impact player who can change the whole dynamic on either side of the ball. On offense, we were able to do that by drafting wide receiver Josh Doctson in 2016. After an injury-plagued rookie season, last season he finished with 35 receptions, 605 yards, and a team high six touchdowns. As far as defense, selecting tackle Johnathan Allen in with their first round pick in 2017 proved to be beneficial last season as well. Allen validated himself to be one of the more forceful defensive lineman in the NFL. In his first five games played, when Allen was on the field the Skins only gave up only a solid 3.94 yards per carry before injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. By the end of the season, that number grew to a less than impressive 4.55. Building a solid roster of not only potential starters but also legitimate rotational players can help the Skins from here going forward when injury and fatigue kicks in during the latter end of the season.
S Derwin James | Florida State University | McShay
In his first mock draft (of the offseason), NFL Draft guru, Todd McShay predicted the Redskins choosing Florida State safety, Derwin James with the 13th overall pick. The upside to James is the fact he can play free safety, strong safety, or even nickel. His versatility allowed him to put up stats that included 84 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, one sack, two interceptions (one pick six), along with 11 passes defended. Regarded as one of the most freakish athletes of the 2018 draft class, James’ ability to line up anywhere on the field made him a top prospect early on. With an already stacked safety core including DJ Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, along with Kendall Fuller at the Nickel (before being traded), the Skins secondary proved to be one of the more elite units on the team earlier on in the season. The potential addition of Su’a Cravens would only add more depth in the secondary. Considering the Skins defense finished last season only allowing 57.6% of their opponents passes to be completed (third in the NFL), the team should address more immediate needs with their first round pick.
As time went on, and Kirk Cousins’ status with the team was up in the air, draft expert, Mel Kiper had the Redskins selecting Heisman trophy winner, Baker Mayfield with their first round pick. Re-signing Cousins to another franchise tag would have made him the highest single season paid player of all time. This decision wouldn’t have been beneficial considering that the team wouldn’t have been able to allocate money at other positions in order to improve the players around him. Bringing in a rookie QB like Mayfield not only would have saved the Skins a lot of money, but also allowed them to build their offense around him over the next few years, adding talented free agents around him while he was on his inexpensive rookie deal. While this option was better than selecting a defensive back, that all changed once the Redskins traded for former first round pick Alex Smith, who is coming off his best season as a pro
ILB Roquan Smith | University of Georgia | Kiper
In his latest mock draft, McShay has the Redskins choosing Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round. Just like Derwin James, Smith is a highly talented player. But choosing him would again not best address the team’s needs considering the Skins already have a dynamic backer core. Anchored by former NFL’s leading tackler Zach Brown, he and Mason Foster combined for 158 tackles last year in a season hindered by injuries to both. If this forceful group stays healthy they have the ability to have one of the strongest cores in the league. Smith would be a good fit in the system but once again, the teams’ immediate needs are not a part of this group. Especially since the team has just resigned Mason Foster, and are looking to resign Zach Brown with the money saved from not resigning Cousins.
Defensive Line | Editors Pick
The most beneficial selection the Redskins could make in the first round would be a defensive lineman. Having a fresh, solid rotation of talented players across your line not only increases constant pressure on the opposing qb, but also allows for your players to remain fresh. This was the case for the Denver Broncos, who also ran the 3-4 scheme like the Redskins. They were able to finish out the season as the third overall defense in the NFL because of the hard-nose players they had on their defensive line. Last year the Broncos defense only gave up an impressive 200 passing yards per game because opposing quarterbacks had trouble staying patient. The longer a qb has to stand in the pocket, the more prone your secondary is to exposure. The Skins had injuries all across the board but the injuries on the defensive line proved to be the most devastating. This was very prevalent at the end of the season when they played the Vikings. In a game with both Allen and Ioannidis both out, qb Case Keenum threw for 304 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the same game, wide receiver Adam Thielen finished with 8 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. Not having a solid defensive line rotation also is the reason why the Skins had the worst rushing defense in the entire NFL, giving up 2,146 rushing yards all last season. In week 13 against the Cowboys, the Skins lack of physicality at the point of attack was the reason why former Redskins running back, Alfred Morris was able to rush for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. A team can never have enough defensive lineman. The Redskins rotation last year did not possess enough skill to carry the load after their starters went down. If they choose to bring in another lineman next year, they have the opportunity to not only fix their deficient run defense, but to also improve on their already top ranked secondary.