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The Comeback Kids

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With the 2012 draft rapidly approaching—only 17 days, a few visits to northern California, and several premature license plates to go, but who’s counting?—the Redskins first-round prospects have been whittled down to a short, impressive list of two. Because this year’s draft philosophy is all about sacrificing quantity for quality, it’s easy to forget that last year we did the opposite.

Trading down multiple times gave us a high quantity of picks from which we hoped to find a few real gems. Fourth-rounder Roy Helu was perhaps the team’s best return-on-negligible-investment, but even first-rounder Ryan Kerrigan (my fictional ex-boyfriend whom I left for my fictional current boyfriend, Robert) handily beat expectations.

Nearly a year later, you might think the dust had settled around the 2011 draft class, but how wrong you’d be! The jury is still out on two formerly promising players, WR Leonard Hankerson and DE Jarvis Jenkins, both of whom were sidelined by injuries. The question is what they can bring to this year’s squad. The answer, I think, is a lot.

Let’s start with a look at Leonard Hankerson, owner of those 10 5/8" hands over which Redskins fans drooled like Pavlov’s dog. For a little perspective: Hank’s mitts are 1/8" bigger than Larry Fitzgerald’s. Noah, get the ark! Anyhoo… late in a breakout game of eight receptions for 106 yards, Hankerson tore his labrum and spent the rest of the season on IR. He appeared in only four games last season, but is ahead of schedule in rehab and expected to join offseason activities by June 1. The addition of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan will limit Hankerson’s playing time, but any guy who can haul in 100+ yards playing with Rex Grossman gets my attention.

It might seem like eons ago in football years (a made-up timeframe even shorter than dog years), but Jarvis Jenkins wowed Skins coaches last summer. There was even talk that Jenkins could compete with Adam Carriker for a starting slot before a preseason ACL tear scratched his rookie season. The 6'4", 310-pound Jenkins is now healthy heading into the offseason program and should be able to start strong. Without the star competition at DE that Hankerson faces at WR, JJ is a better bet to make his presence felt.

To be fair, all predictions are crap shoots, including this one. The late Paul the octopus—a gelatinous balloon with legs—had better luck picking World Cup winners than lots of so-called experts. So here’s your grain of salt. Even still, it’s not unrealistic for either of these players to make a name for himself in 2012.

I’m no mathematician, but by my calculations, that makes two more reasons to be excited for August.