Ask and you shall receive. Apparently you guys enjoyed the draft discussions post Tiller, Shoup and myself put together on David Amerson, so we're back with another post. We thought we'd switch it up a bit and look at the offensive side of the ball. Tiller argues that the Redskins can afford to take a wide receiver, particularly Justin Hunter, in the second round while Steve disagrees. Once again I get the nice easy, sit on the fence role of moderator.
First off guys, Justin Hunter is projected by most in the second round. Tiller, do you think the Redskins can justify any wide receiver, let alone Hunter, with the 51st pick given our needs in the secondary?
Tiller: With the news of us signing Fred Davis, and the possibility still of signing Winfield (or another cornerback) in free agency, the needs become even less in the draft. Tight end can now be scratched off the board and if Winfield (or Hall) is signed, we really have a primary need at safety. Because I believe the depth at safety is so great in this draft, I would advocate taking a safety in the 3rd round. Guys like Rambo, McDonald, Thomas(both of them), Williams and Jefferson may all be around for us. Likely a few will be gone by the time we pick, but I believe a few will still remain, and any one of these prospects will be a great upgrade to our secondary. When I look at corner, and see what we have on our roster (assuming we sign one of the two between Winfield or Hall), I see a group who is pretty set come 2013. Now the future remains cloudy, but a full salary cap, and a higher draft pick in 2014 can address that need. I would advocate a 4th rounder on a corner and there should still be some good developmental talent with guys like McGee, Mathieu (if he were to slip), Simon, and Commings. If this part of the plan holds true, we have the 2nd rounder to use on another weapon for this offense and our young quarterback Robert Griffin. What better weapon for a young superstar than a great running back (which we have in Morris), and some playmakers in the outside. We have one in Garcon and we were able to retain one in Fred Davis, but who opposite Garcon will command attention... no one. This is where Justin Hunter comes in.
OK, but wouldn't protecting Griffin with a second round right tackle become a bigger priority than another weapon? After all, the Redskins are a run first offense and they just re-signed Fred Davis as a pass-catching tight end to go along with Pierre Garcon who has the X receiver spot nailed down.
Tiller: The right tackle situation is certainly an interesting one, and with the recent signings of Polumbus, Pashos and Trueblood, along with Shanny's obsession with continuity, I don't see there being any way that we bring in four offensive tackles in one offseason. Had we not re-signed Polumbus and went out and brought in Pashos, I would have said right tackle is a big need. But since these moves were made I assume Shanny is going to go with one guy between Polumbus, Compton, Pashos and Trueblood to man right tackle and one to be our swing tackle.
What are your thoughts on this idea Steve? Is there a receiver you'd use our second round pick on? Tavon Austin comes to mind for me.
Steve: Given the Redskins salary cap issues and lack of a first round pick, I think the Redskins need to direct their resources to the areas that need it the most (RT, CB, S), especially when we are talking about their 2nd round pick. Even if the Redskins were to sign Antoine Winfield and/or DeAngelo Hall, corner would still represent a fairly big need. Already both Josh Wilson and newly signed E.J. Biggers are free agents after next season, and Minnifield/Hall would likely be as well. Add in the fact that the secondary would see Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty and Jordan Pugh hit free agency. That would leave just DeJon Gomes, Richard Crawford and Jordan Bernstein as players who have any NFL experience under contract for that season. As for the right tackle position you have Tyler Polumbus, who was the weakest link along the line last year, Tony Pashos who is trying to come back after missing last season due to injury (also an FA in 2014), Jeremy Trueblood who got benched in Tampa (and also a free agent in 2014), to go along with young late round picks Maurice Hurt and Tom Compton, neither of whom is considered a sure thing. At wide receiver though it is a different story. Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson form one of the deepest top 4 receiver depth charts in the league. In addition Aldrick Robinson and Dezmon Briscoe are guys who could find a job on just about any team in football. Receiver is one of the Redskins strongest positions for 2013, and while Moss, Morgan and Briscoe are all impending free agents, the Redskins would still have Garcon, Hankerson and Robinson under control. Garcon has established himself as a good receiver, and Hankerson has shown some flashes. He was pretty effective last year averaging 14.3 ypc, and finishing 3rd on the team in receptions over 20 yards. That is far more talent the Redskins have for 2014 then at the RT, CB, or safety positions.
My other issue with drafting a receiver early on is the fact that they typically take longer to develop and have a higher bust rate than most positions. And the fact is the Redskins are a run first team. The impact a receiver could possibly have is significantly reduced. I would maybe consider an advanced receiver like Robert Woods or a do anything weapon like Tavon Austin, but that is only because they can offer impact early. Even then I'd still probably be more inclined to use them on the board as trade bait for some team that doesn't have the Redskins receiver depth and/or would actually throw the ball enough to warrant the investment. In the end I think both of those guys would be well off the board before the Redskins could pick. Justin Hunter is a guy who doesn't fit that bill, as he's not a do everything weapon, and he's not an advanced receiver who will help right away.
Tiller, what does Hunter offer that makes you willing to take him with the 51st pick of the draft?
Tiller: Hunter offers the size/speed combo that teams covet. He ran a 4.44 40, had a 39.5 vertical at 6' 4" 196 pounds. It was rumored he was a little lighter at the combine than he was previously, so I believe he can put on five pounds without losing any speed. He is not afraid to go across the middle and make the tough catch which is so vital in the NFL. What really stands out to me is how much better he got from his freshmen year in 2009 until last season. He came in with amazing talent, but was very raw. He learned to become a really solid route runner, and uses his body control almost as well as Brandon Lloyd.
I can see Hunter being a really good Z receiver, and his presence would allow a guy like Morgan to move to the slot where his physicality would present a mismatch to most defenders.
What's you view on Hunter as a player, Steve?
Steve: I do agree with Tiller that Hunter has the size/speed combo (and a nice vertical) that teams covet. My issue with him is I think he's a bit raw and his value is more in potential than actual production. He played sparingly as a freshman, and then missed the majority of his 2011 campaign due to tearing his ACL, so we really only have one year to judge him on. While the 73 catches for 1,083 yards an 9 touchdowns seem impressive, I'm not too sure they are. In his seven games versus opponents (FBS) with winning records, he managed 36 catches for 435 yards (12.08 ypc) and 0 touchdowns, in his four games against non-winning record teams he caught 29 balls for 502 (17.31 ypc) and 6 touchdowns (he also had 8 catches for 146 and 3 TD's against Georgia State). Hunter just really disappeared in a number of big games, and he was among the NCAA leaders in drops.
Drops and lack of production in big games weren't Hunter's only issues. He allowed too many catches into his body, and would unnecessarily leave his feet, which limited his YAC chances, far too often. Also for receiver with such great size and leaping ability I'd expect him to win more jump balls, particularly in the end zone, and we just didn't see that. I do agree with Tiller that he needs to add some weight and muscle, because you rarely would see Hunter break a tackle or not get redirected in bump and run.
That all being said I do think Hunter has some tools and is a pretty good route runner who gains separation and has good awareness to work back to his quarterback. The size and speed are there, and if he has a couple of years I could see him being a valuable receiver, particularly in the intermediate area, on crossing routes. I think he's versatile enough to play both outside and inside as well.
Those are some pretty interesting stats Steve. Tiller, do you want to respond to those?
Tiller: I would say the erratic play of Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray contributed to some of the inconsistancies of Hunter this past season. Bray was highly innacurate when facing a pass rush, and ranked in the bottom half of QB's in the nation in completion percentage when being pressured(consequently, Landry Jones was one of the best in this catagory). It's obvious this pressure was applied more heavily against some of the tougher SEC opponents, so it's not surprising that Hunters totals may have dipped against some of the better defenses in the conference. Many of the balls Bray threw were into coverage, or were high(a result of not properly stepping into his throw)which were likely a result of him being pressured.
Either way, 73 receptions and 9 touchdowns are impressive any way you slice them. Steadman Bailey has some pretty gaudy numbers this past season for West Virginia, but look at some of the defenses he faced. They are not nearly as talented as even the mid-tier SEC teams. If you able to average over 5 catches per game, and over 12 yards per catch against FBS opponents with winning records, and you play in the toughest conference in college football, and have a quarterback who was erratic all season, I say that's doing a pretty darn good job.
Do you agree Steve?
Steve: I don't think anyone would question that Tyler Bray was erratic or that the SEC is the toughest conference to play in, but how much of an excuse should that be? Cobi Hamilton in 9 games versus FBS winning opponents, caught 73 balls for 1,159 yards (15.88 ypc) and all 5 of his touchdowns. And that was on a down Arkansas team that saw everyone struggling due to the controversy. As for a guy like Stedman Bailey, we have a far greater track record because he's been a two year starter. We've seen him have big games against big time opponents like LSU and Clemson in 2011 and Oklahoma this past year. Justin Hunter this year saw 41% of his yards, 34% of his receptions, and 78% of his touchdowns come against his three games (i.e. 25% of his season) versus Georgia State, Akron and Troy none of whom will ever get mistaken for SEC level of play. As for the "Bray factor", there is some validity there, but he was a 59.4% passer and that was inspite of Hunter's drops. And while Bray saw his numbers fall against winning record opponents, his numbers didn't drop as much as Hunter's did, meaning he wasn't solely responsible for Hunter's lack of production in these situations.
They went on back and fourth for a bit here, but I'm jumping in here to move this conversation on.
In the limited times I've watched him, I saw a willingness to go over the middle and go get the ball despite knowing a safety was coming for him. Steve, in an offense that utilizes play-action posts which saw guys like Josh Morgan taking big hits from safeties all year long, would Hunter be a nice fit?
Steve: I do think that is a strength of Hunter's as he's at his best running drags and crosses, and does well in that 8-12 yard area where the Redskins seem to typically like to throw. The fact that Hunter could play the slot would be a bonus (though Mike Shanahan typically prefers smaller/quicker receivers), given that Moss runs a lot of these routes as well. Schematically I don't have an issue with Hunter, it's much more on the production/development side, as well as actual need.
Tiller, for a guy that's 6'4", a 196 pound frame seems a bit lightweight as we've eluded to. In a run-heavy offense, is there a chance he gets overpowered by corners when blocking in the run game? And does his frame concern you with future injuries? He's already had a major ACL tear.
Tiller: I actually think he does a good job stalk blocking. He's not just a get your body in the way type of guy, he actually goes out and attacks the defender, often being the aggressor. He's not afraid to go inside on a crack block against a bigger defender either.
I'm not concerned about injuries with this kid, as many receivers are his size, and have played the game at a high level, without significant injuries. Randy Moss came into the league at 6'4" and a tad under 200, and he seemed to do just fine. Unlike Moss, Hunter is fearless across the middle, and even though he offers a larger target for defensive backs to zero in on, he contorts his body just enough to avoid the big hit.
I really like his ability to beat press-man at the line of scrimmage. I saw him effectively use a varity of different move to beat physical defenders. He moves his feet well, keeping his defender off balance, and explodes into his route with a low body lean, not allowing defenders to get their hands into his chest. He effectively uses the rip and swim to elude press, and he will fight to get outside leverage on routes requiring a mandatory outside release. What I really like his how he works cleanly into, and out of his stem, and he never seems to take a play off, or get lazy and round off his routes. This is the part of the game where I have seen the biggest improvement.
UK: OK guys, I'm going to wrap it here. I'm sure there was more to be said on this topic, but it'll have to be said in the comments section below. Plus I've had enough of these guys talking for one day! Let me know your thoughts on taking Justin Hunter or any wide receiver in the second round. Be sure to vote and comment below.