In the Redskins pre draft briefing Vinny Cerrato made explicitly clear that the team would not reach for need positions and would stick with the best player available strategy. After completely ignoring the Defensive Line -- a need according to many and a weakness of the 31st ranked 2006 Redskins Defense -- in Free Agency, the Redskins did not draft a single linemen on Saturday or Sunday.
That does not by itself make this draft a bust. What might is the fact that the Washington Redskins were limited to just one 1st day draft pick and only five overall. The Redskins 2nd round pick was traded to the Jets so they could draft starting outside linebacker Rocky McIntosh in the 2006 draft (that pick was incidentally traded to Chicago, and then to San Diego. It gets around). The Denver Broncos scooped our 3rd round pick in the forgettable TJ Duckett trade, that yielded very little on-field. And our 4th round pick belonged to the San Fransisco 49ers complements the Brandon Lloyd trade, also disappointing. The 'Skins did manage an additional 6th round pick they scooped from Chicago for Adam Archuleta.
The big question mark on the Redskins' draft is the position they selected most at; linebacker. A defense that finishes 31st overall has a lot of needs, and linebacker simply wasn't one of them. Marcus Washington is a Pro Bowl caliber player on the strong side, joined this year by London Fletcher who the 'Skins signed from Buffalo. 2006 Rookie Rocky McIntosh, who cost the Redskins two 2nd round picks and a 6th rounder, was set to replace outgoing linebacker Warrick Holdman. Even if he couldn't pull that off, we still have Lemar Marshall who is more than capable of taking over the weak side, having played in that capacity on a 2004 defense that ranked 2nd in the nation.
Let's go through them picks:
With the 6th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected LaRon Landry, safety, LSU.
Not a terribly surprising pick given the scuttlebutt coming out of Washington was that many on the coaching staff coveted the big hitter out of LSU. It essentially came down to a choice between Landry and 19 year old Amobi Okoye with the former winning out.
Disagree with the Redskins selection based on their needs, as a fine argument can be made that Defensive Line was more of one. That's a fair argument and perhaps a compelling one. But there is little question that Landry has all the physical abilities to play on Sundays in the National Football League. He was the consensus best Safety available among a draft class that included Texas' Michael Griffin and Florida's Reggie Nelson, both selected in the first round.
Although there is little doubt that Landry will start games in 2007 for the Washington Redskins, don't expect him to be doing so by week 1. Recent Redskins history advises us that Landry will have to wait, just like his predecessors. Recent 1st pick Rocky McIntosh (in the 2nd round) had to wait 14 weeks to crack the starting lineup, which he did in virtue of a Marcus Washington injury that put Warrick Holdman on the strong side. He did enjoy special teams playing time. Ninth overall pick Carlos Rogers did not start until Week 3 of the 2005 season, against Seattle, and didn't even see the field in four games that year. Sean Taylor, selected fifth overall, is arguably the best player the Redskins have drafted in years, certainly under Joe Gibbs second tenure with the team. Just like Rogers, Taylor had to wait til week 3 to get his first start with the 'Skins.
With all that in mind, it's safe to assume that LaRon Landry at least enters the season behind Pierson Prioleau on the depth chart. Prioleau apparently had wrestled the starting SS starting job from Adam Archuleta before a freak non contact injury (that he is still recovering from) took him out for the season. The Redskins added Omar Stoutmire in the offseason as well, though he was brought in as a backup.
Landry started 10 games as a freshman at LSU, winning his fair share of their BCS Championship in 2003. A moment, now, for his multitude of accomplishments:
Freshman All-SEC 2003
Second-Team All-SEC 2003
First-Team Freshmen All-American 2003
SEC Academic Honor Roll 2004 (for those alleging he isn't smart, perhaps)
Second-Team All-SEC 2004
Second-Team All-SEC 2005 Associated Press
First-Team All-SEC 2005 SEC Coaches
Third-Team All-American 2005
Thorpe Award Semifinalist 2006
First-Team All-SEC 2006
First-Team All-American 2006 Associated Press
Landry is fast, big, smells the ball well, and is also good against the run. He punishes on hits and has a nose for the quarterback as well, accumulating 8 sacks with the Tigers. At LSU he had 315 tackles, 22 passes defensed, and 12 picks.
What he's not known for are his hands (which can improve, although he'll be comfortable dropping passes next to Carlos Rogers) and a tendency to miss tackles while going for the big hit. Frankly, after the Sean Taylor experiment, I'm just fine with a guy who goes for the ball. Our inability to generate turnovers was at least as deplorable as our big-play defense in 2006. I'll take one or the other, though I suspect Landry is a better coverage player than Archuleta was anyways.
There are some concerns with his fit here in Washington. Taylor did best next to Ryan Clark (who really wasn't all that great against the pass anyways) who did an admirable job of talking Sean Taylor to where he needed to be on any given play. Landry will be a rookie next year and will not be able to coach Taylor up. If anything it will be the other way around, as Taylor becomes the proven veteran across from Landry. Adam Rank also pointed out that Landry might have trouble avoiding penalties in the NFL if he continues to hit like he did in college.
Despite those concerns, Landry is a good pick. Many had him pegged as the best defensive player available in this draft, and clearly he impressed the Redskins staff enough for them to bypass the perceived need on our D-Line. Whether or not two big hitting safeties is the best use of draft resources for a team will ultimately be decided by Landry's on-field product, though I daresay that having Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry lined up next to each other is the type of "problem" most NFL coaches would gladly accept.
Landry at #6 was neither an unnecessary reach nor ultra efficient pick. Safety was a need on the team as Prioleau is unproven as a starter and is still recovering from injury. Not as much a need as the defensive line, in my opinion, though by all indications the coaching staff knows something (a lot of things, actually) that I do not.
With the 143rd pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Dallas Sartz, outside linebacker, USC.
You'll be hearing the word "pedigree" to describe our late round draft picks as a few of them come from sporting family trees. Dallas Sartz, the grandfather, was a boxer for Washington State. Jeff Sartz, the father, was a safety for Oregon State.
Your father and grandfather cannot play football for you, though Dallas Sartz, the linebacker, appears capable of playing on Sundays in some role. At 6'5 he's a tall kid which could come in handy either in coverage or on special teams. Apparently that height works against him as one of the knocks in his scouting report is that he lines up too tall which leads to getting pushed under and away by lower centers of gravity. That's a coachable problem.
I said the height could help in coverage though some additional coaching will as well, since he isn't known as great against the pass.
He's known as a hard worker and a selfless player, which should come in handy when he's resigned to special teams. All this spells out to a guy who has probably outplayed his physical ability due to work ethic and intensity, and that's the kind of person I don't mind having on the roster. Realistically, though, Sartz isn't risking Marcus Washington or Rocky McIntosh (or Lemar Marshall) for playing time. If he's ever going to grow into the starter at OLB, he'll need to bulk up. That shouldn't be a problem though since he's a tall kid -- he'll be bigger than 235 come the regular season.
One of the reasons Sartz fell so low is because he's had a history with injuries. He sat out of a lot of practices in 2005 and 2006, including 11 missed games in '05 due to a shoulder. His knee kept him out of some practices in '06. Depending how you look at it, that can be a positive. It definitely increases his potential cap as a player, since his evaluation was marred by the injuries. How you feel about Sartz will depend on whether you think those injuries were accidental or indicative of frailty, though attitudinally (which is not a made up word) he seems like a tough kid who would do everything possible to get back on the field.
He projects to special teams which is about what you expect from a 5th rounder. I don't view him to make a legitimate challenge at any starting position and will consider this a quality pick if he's still on the team by the end of next year. If he can see some field on kickoff coverages and perhaps put himself into one big play, I'd call this pick a huge success.
With the 179th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected H.B. Blades, inside linebacker, Pittsburgh.
Love this pick, and so does Michael David Smith. Take it away, MDS:
1. Pittsburgh linebacker H.B. Blades lasted until the sixth round largely because scouts are concerned that at 5-foot-10 and 235-pounds, he's not big enough to play linebacker in the NFL. But Blades was so tough against the run in college that he should have erased those concerns. The Redskins finally chose Blades 179th overall, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams must be thrilled.
That's what his dad and uncle did. What H.B. (which some say stands for how 'bout that) did was make First Team All-American, Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. He had an incredible 433 career tackles.
The knocks against him are his height and size, which are considerable. He's not that much smaller than our current ILB though, as London Fletcher is 5'10, 245 pounds. If he can put on eight pounds this offseason he'll be at a good spot to challenge for starting duties. Even though we "addressed" the ILB spot in free agency by picking up London Fletcher, he turns 32 this month. I really do view Blades as the kind of guy who can come in and challenge for that spot given a year or two to develop in Gregg Williams defense. The word on him is that he's a smart player who can call your defense and perhaps fits that role as the "quarterback of the defense". He reads offenses well and can get teammates where they need to be.
Even though this didn't really address a need, I view Blades as an extremely solid pickup in the 6th round. He fell lower than he should have due to concerns about his height (of all things) and that he didn't participate in the agility drills at the combine due to a hammy injury. All this guy ever did at Pittsburgh was prove that he's an elite linebacker and I see him having a good shot playing on Sundays. Like Dallas Sartz he could also make an immediate impact on special teams. Hogs Haven is looking forward to having Blades around as well, since he has an excellent last name that lends itself to bloggable monikers.
With the 205th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Jordan Palmer, quarterback, UTEP
A bit surprising of a pick though I've warmed up to it. The Redskins have a decent amount of money tied up in both the 2nd and 3rd QB spot by older players (Mark Brunell turned 37 this year, Todd Collins turns 36). Let's be clear about what this pick is not: a replacement for Jason Campbell. Jordan Palmer was brought in to be a backup for Your Washington Redskins and, who knows, maybe one day he will develop into a good enough quarterback to start or else get some decent value in a trade.
Back to that whole pedigree thing; Jordan is the younger brother of Cincy Bengals QB Carson Palmer -- who happens to be a two time Pro Bowler. If he's almost as good as his older brother, he could develop into an outstanding NFL quarterback.
As far as the physical, uncoachable stuff goes Jordan Palmer is excellent. He's tall at 6'6, big at 235 lbs (making him both taller and larger than his older brother). The negatives against him are mostly coachable errors. He throws too many picks, has some throwing mechanic concerns, and he might not see the field well. He's immobile by immobile standards which, unfortunately, is not coachable.
The biggest good news here for me is that, unless I've read it wrong, Jordan Palmer fits well into Football Outsiders David Lewin's Quarterback Projection which is "based primarily on games started and completion percentage." Jordan Palmer has started games for four seasons and finished his senior year with a very serviceable 65% completion. Over four years his completion percentage was just under 60%. Jason Campbell also scored outstandingly by this projection.
The drafting of Jordan Palmer does not bode well for NFL Europa Redskin Casey Bramlet, who was already struggling to fill the role of marginal 4th string QB now ostensibly occupied by Palmer. It might not bode well for Todd Collins either, as the team could decide he is too expensive a 3rd string quarterback now that we have a young guy with a potential upside. Jordan will still have to play his way on to our roster as there's no guarantee he sticks around, but he has all the physical talent necessary to succeed at the NFL level. He won't be thrown into a difficult situation any time soon as JC is the starter on this football team, so here's to hoping he develops into a quality backup QB.
With the 216th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Tyler Ecker, tight end, Michigan
This happened to be a need position that didn't get a lot of notice prior to the draft. Perhaps most of us assumed that we would fill it in free agency or that we could fit people on the current roster (Mike Pucillo?) into the needed roles. Currently on the roster are Chris Cooley, Todd Yoder, and Eric Edwards. Cooley is the clear starter, Todd had a respectable year in 2006 given that expectations weren't especially high. If you had told me that Yoder would have more TD receptions than Brandon Lloyd at the beginning of the year, I would have laughed... joke is on me.
The Redskins cut Brian Kozlowski and Christian Fauria, so there is a shortage of players at this position that needed addressing. Word on Tyler Ecker is that he's been bulking up to play either blocking tight end or -- and he has a long ways to go at his current weight (around 250?) -- offensive linemen. Scouting reports say he's a decent receiver in the short but not on long passes due to his questionable speed.
When addressing the value of a 7th round pick, it's best to remain realistic. Attrition this late in the draft is fairly substantial and if this guy is on the team by next year he will be a successful pick. What I see potentially out of an Ecker (which would make him an outstanding pickup in the 7th round) is a red zone specialist. Last year we had Mike Pucillo lining up in jumbo sets as a tight end in the red zone, and I'm fine for that when we're going to pound it in. Ecker represents a good blocker who also has better hands than Pucillo who could be used to surprise defenses. In 2005 one of the ways we scored in opponent's territory was by throwing Mike Sellers at them all over the place; he had just 12 receptions but 7 of them were touchdowns. Our red zone failure in 2006 is well documented. If Ecker can make the team than I would love to see him get some stealth touchdown receptions (just like Todd Yoder did against Tampa last year). Failing in that, if he can really put on the pounds he would be welcomed as a pure blocking tight end, which we lack.
While I would certainly have preferred we trade down to acquire more first day picks, thus getting multiple impact players as opposed to one in LaRon Landry, I'm not entirely upset about this draft. I would have placed more of an emphasis on our defensive line needs in the 1st round, though after that I don't really fault the team for not selecting a D-Linemen on day 2. My concerns with the line are at the starting positions, and round 5-7 do not represent reasonable means of replacing Phillip Daniels or Cornelius Griffin. Kedric Golston (selected in the 6th last year) is the exception to the rule, and he bumped Big Joe Salave'a, not Griffin.
Without knowing the availability of a trade, I have to presume the Redskins did not receive offers that met with their approval. If you had to pick one defensive player from this draft, you could do a lot worse than Landry. There are concerns about virtually every other player (most of them illegitimate, in my opinion, but concerns nonetheless) though rarely is anything said against LaRon. Gaines Adams might be too small against the run -- not my opinion. Amobi Okoye might lack the maturity to play at the NFL level -- not my opinion. Jamaal Anderson's College success might've been anomalous -- not my opinion. But those are real concerns held by other people and I have to respect the wisdom of the masses. If you were looking for one defensive guy in this year's draft who projected as a productive NFL player without question, that guy is Landry. I would also be lying if I didn't admit that the thought of Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry together on the field really intrigues me.
Perhaps better than what we did in this year's draft was what we didn't do. There was a real concern in my mind that we'd either trade for Briggs (moving down to 31st pick in the draft) or trade up for Calvin Johnson. I don't want to dwell on why I felt neither of those options was good for the team, but I'm pleased that neither happened. Neither Calvin Johnson nor Lance Briggs fits a serious need on this team as we have quality starters at both the WR and Will LB positions. Pierson Prioleau might be a fine starter, but he's unproven in that role and he is coming off of injury. He has started games for the Redskins over the course of a few years, but has never successfully wrestled that job permanently from anyone. The team's addition of Omar Stoutmire was evidence either that they had questions about Prioleau's ability to win the starting job, or else concerns over his injury. LaRon Landry silences those concerns.
The biggest question mark about the Redskins was their drafting of linebackers in the late rounds. At first I took this as additional evidence that the team is concerned over McIntosh -- they've been rumored interested over linebackers all offseason, and this was just one more additional piece of evidence to that end. Still, it's hard to imagine the coaching staff really thinks a 5th and a 6th rounder (even though Blades should have gone earlier than the 6th round) represent the future given that McIntosh was a 2nd round pick, knows the defense, and has actually started games for this football team. I don't know about Dallas Sartz though he could be productive as a special teams player. H.B. Blades fully represents Vinny Cerrato's professed strategy for selecting the best player available (without exclusive regard for need) as he was at that part of the draft.
Attrition is high enough on the 2nd day where it's foolish to hope that those players become Pro Bowlers -- they rarely do. When that does happen, you thank your lucky stars for it. Both linebackers could see some field on kickoffs and if they produce tackles and remain with the team through 2007, I'll consider them worthwhile picks.
Regarding Palmer and Ecker, these are both non-starter needs that were filled cheaply on the 2nd day of the draft. If neither pans out we won't have lost anything significant. Palmer is a late round pick with a huge upside, Ecker represents a guy who could grow into a non-starter niche role with the team. Both are justifiable picks.
Rather than assigning a "grade" for the team -- a meaningless endeavor without context which I admittedly cannot provide given my pedestrian knowledge of the other 31 teams, their circumstances, and their draft needs -- let me just say that I am content with this draft. None of the disasters I felt could have occurred actually did so. We questionably ignored the D-Line, though Landry is a fine pick and after that there really wasn't much we could do. We filled some backup needs as well as selected at least one player who represented excellent value in that particular round in Blades. We have a guy with an upside in Palmer, and a 7th round pick who could become a role player in the red zone.
Realistically though, attrition just happens. Pretending that our 5th-7th round picks all remain with the team is optimistic even by my standards, so ideally if some or half or most of those guys remain with the team come 2008, I'll be a happy camper.
Knowing that, how successful can a draft really be when you only have one 1st day pick and just five overall? Not much. We'll be receiving poor grades from the peanut gallery for the draft and rightly so; you cannot efficiently utilize your draft resources if you don't have any. The team deserves criticism for its failure to recover value for the picks it throws away, and we paid the price in April for that. I hope that Joe Gibbs was earnest at the pre draft briefing when he committed to having more picks in the 2008 draft.
Overall I was not unhappy with our use of admittedly limited draft resources. We didn't do anything flashy which is fine by me. If I had to assign a grade for the team, it would be an 8.174b on an undisclosed scale metric. Take that grading systems.
I will say one final word on the D-Line. I think the team has more faith in that unit than it deserves, though I'm also willing to acknowledge Gregg Williams knows more about this team than I do. Perhaps this is giving him more credit than last year would demand, but I still think he's a competent Defensive Coordinator. His resume speaks for itself through continued defensive success over a number of years for different teams. He was good in Tennessee. He was good in Buffalo. He has been good in Washington. I do not think Williams simply forgot how to Coach a defense (or a defensive line) in 2006. I am willing to respect his decision to take Landry granted the circumstances, and if the coaches really feel as if the D-Line is good enough to enter the 2007 season -- and they've indicated as much by deed and action through their failure to either draft or sign or trade for any starter quality linemen -- then I am willing to see their best efforts to that end. Am I confident in our D-Line? No, but prove me wrong Redskins, prove me wrong...
This article was also posted at Bleacher Report.