1. Who is this Ian Desmond guy? It certainly isn't the same player that I spent all offseason secretly wishing the Nationals would have the luxury of replacing/upgrading. It is gratifying to see a player that was drafted by the organization develop into a guy that contributes meaningfully to wins night in and night out. Drafted in 2004 by the Montreal Expos, Desmond worked his way through the minors and made his debut for the Washington Nationals in 2009. He is maintaining a solid batting average and decent fielding percentage. His blossoming--though only through eleven games early in a long season--has gotten me thinking about potential Redskins parallels.
2. Which player that has toiled in the background at Redskins Park has the best chance of turning into a major contributor in 2012? We could look to the practice squad or just look to the depth chart to determine if there is a player capable of imitating Ian Desmond's rise to prominence. It has to be someone we drafted. It has to be a player that we feel we could (and should) do better than prior to seeing what everyone can do in training camp. Finally, it can't just be a nobody that we think can "come out of nowhere" to star for the Redskins. After all, Desmond was rated in the top 20 prospects in all of baseball back in 2005, and the top defensive prospect at shortstop.
3. The danger of this game is actually looking at our drafts over the last five, six and seven years. So many bad memories. I don't think you can go with an undrafted free agent in this scenario because, again, Desmond was a fairly high (3rd round) draft pick. Even though a bazillion players get drafted in baseball, this kind of draft pick should be compared to a guy targeted and selected by the Redskins in the draft.
4. Can I just say one more time how upsetting it is to see, for example, an entire draft class from 2007 that consists of: LaRon Landry, Dallas Sartz, H.B. Blades, Jordan Palmer and Tyler Ecker? NOBODY even left on the team from a draft five seasons ago? If I got halfway decent odds, I would bet there were only one or two teams in the league that could say that.
5. I would be tempted to tap a guy like DeJon Gomes since I think he is kind of lumped into that "uninspired" group of safeties we have on the roster. One would think if he starts the season gang-busters, we would all do flips. Gomes was only drafted in 2011 though, so if he were to shine brightly early in the season, his "arrival" might seem early compared to Desmond's. While careers and career arcs tend to be longer in the MLB versus the NFL, I would be hesitant to compare a 5th round NFL safety prospect to a top shortstop prospect in baseball. Then again, I do expect to see respected members of our community suggest otherwise in the comments below.
6. It bears mentioning that with slightly less than 10% of the MLB season in the books, perhaps we should be focusing on a fast start kind of performance from a player on the Redskins to compare to what Ian Desmond is doing. That translates to roughly the first two games of the 2012 NFL campaign. In my mind, this opens up the possibility for a guy to fill in admirably for a starter who maybe gets injured in preseason. This also could alleviate concerns surrounding any potential flameout by Desmond in the coming months. After all, we shouldn't just assume that Ian is going to the All-Star game based on eleven games, and we shouldn't set our expectations on a Pro Bowler developing overnight from the depths of our roster. (This speaks more about the depths of our roster than the chances Pro Bowlers can develop overnight.)
7. Wait...I am unfairly representing the progress we have made under Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen to our second- and third-string players. In the 2011 draft, they unearthed at least five incredibly solid players that--if nothing else--should prove capable of spelling our starters at crucial parts of games and the season. This job is not over, but it has begun in earnest and the Redskins front office deserves credit.
9. If I can't include anyone from the most recent draft, and if we all agree that the pickings are rather slim going all the way back to the 2006 draft (do yourself a favor and don't trace our draft all the way back to 2004 looking for prospects), then there are really two candidates in my mind: Kevin Barnes and Rob Jackson. Barnes, a third round pick, came in a bit more highly touted than Jackson, a seventh rounder. Both have seen the field and both have proven that they deserve at least a spot on this roster. Even though Barnes' emergence would be as welcome as it would be pleasantly surprising, I am going with:
10. Rob Jackson...I think Rob Jackson will be the Redskins version of Ian Desmond this fall. He fits the profile of a player that was brought in by the organization and has fought hard to become a contributor at the professional level. It is fair to claim that Jackson might not be the prized prospect that Desmond once was, but in the NFL, a gifted pass rusher is rather prize-worthy. This is not to suggest that Rob Jackson will unseat either Ryan Kerrigan or Brian Orakpo in 2012, but I do expect Jim Haslett to see something in Jackson this summer that will cause him to insert the linebacker into more pass rushing situations early in the season. Should either member of the powerful Kerrakpo duo miss time in September, it says here that the Redskins defense will not miss a beat with Rob Jackson in the fold. In order to somehow quantify how we might compare a fast start by Jackson to the fast start by Desmond, I will suggest that three sacks in the first two games would do it for me. This would represent a pace that would be next to impossible to maintain, which would also fit neatly into the thought that Desmond is unlikely to end the season batting .350 with a .960 fielding percentage. I know one person who will be all over this here. (ih8...John Beck is NOT a candidate for this honor.)