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2015 NFL Draft Grades: Mel Kiper, Jr. Gives the Washington Redskins the Highest Grade

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Mel Kiper, Jr. really liked the Redskins draft, what did everyone else think?

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Washington Redskins GM Scot McCloughan entered the 2015 NFL Draft with a plan, and followed it over the last 3 days.  He said he wanted to turn the team's seven original picks into 10, and he did that, along with a 6th in next year's draft.  He said he wanted to get bigger, younger, and more athletic everywhere, and you could definitely see that theme popping up throughout his picks.  He said he wanted to improve a special teams unit that still struggled last year, and there were players clearly drafted to contribute there early.  In the end, the Redskins drafted 3 Offensive linemen, a new OLB, a big, bruising RB, two WRs, two DBs, and som ILB depth.  The question is how much did this draft improve the team for the future?  We won't know that for a few years, but that doesn't stop the instant-reaction grades from rolling in the day after the draft is over.

Mel Kiper, Jr. really, really liked the Redskins draft this year, and gave it his highest grade for any teams(A-).  This grade was shared with two other teams who have had a history of drafting well(Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens) and a team that also has a new GM this year(New York Jets).  Kiper's favorite picks were Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Martrell Spaight, a player that h Jon Gruden told him was one of his favorite players in the draft.  Kiper hasn't graded the Redskins highly recently, in part because of the Robert Griffin III trade and his play over the last two seasons.  Kiper's A- grade is only shared by one other outlet, the Dallas Morning News, who devoted an entire article today that proclaimed the Redskins drafted better than the Dallas Cowboys this year.

How well did the Redskins draft this year?

Washington Redskins 2015 Draft Class:

Round 1(#5) Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Round 2(#38) Preston Smith, OLB, Mississippi State

Round 3(#95) Matt Jones, RB, Florida

Round 4(#105) Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke

Round 4(#112 Seattle Trade) Arie Kouandjio, OG, Alabama

Round 5(#141) Martrell Spaight, OLB, Arkansas

Round 6(#181 Seattle Trade) Kyshoen Jarrett, SS, Virginia Tech

Round 6(#182) Tevin Mitchel, CB, Arkansas

Round 6(#187 New Orleans Trade) Evan Spencer, WR, Ohio State

Round 7(#222) Austin Reiter, C, South Florida

E$PN IN$IDER(Kiper) (A-)

Top needs: OL, OLB, ILB, S

I don't think there was a softer team in the NFL the past season than the Redskins, especially on defense, where they simply didn't tackle. If there was a clear trend with this draft, it was a new GM drafting for toughness and attitude. Washington got a lot tougher on both sides of the ball in the first two rounds. I know there are questions about whether Brandon Scherff can stay at tackle in the NFL (he was a LT at Iowa), but even if he's a guard, while the pick value loses a little, the guy is a true mauler, a player who makes the run game better the second he steps on the field. Whether it's right tackle (makes sense) or guard, Scherff is a starter now. Preston Smith could have come off the board in Round 1, so to get him in Round 2 was minor coup. That's a clear need at OLB, and he can move around too. Matt Jones was a bit rich for me in terms of value, but it's all preference on RB at that point. Jamison Crowder is a small player, but again, a tough kid who has been hugely productive. Bill Polian threw out a Wes Welker comparison, and he doesn't typically exaggerate. Later on, they again got more physical with Arie Kouandjio and Martrell Spaight. When I went through tape with Jon Gruden, Spaight was one of his favorite players in the entire draft. I agree with Mr. McShay that everywhere you look, they got tougher. Overall, I was really impressed with this draft.

(E$PN IN$IDER)Todd McShay

Favorite Pick: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

I really like what new GM Scot McCloughan did with his first draft with the Redskins. It seemed like every player he chose was really tough, regardless of position. DE Preston Smith is a tone-setter, and Jamison Crowder could become a very effective slot receiver in this league. But my pick here is first-rounder Scherff, who is the nastiest offensive lineman in this class. He might never develop into an NFL left tackle because of his lack of ideal length, but he's a powerful run-blocker who gets the job done in pass protection as well -- and is one of the toughest players out there.

Most Improved Team in the NFC East: Washington Redskins

I really liked the first three picks of the Giants' and Eagles' drafts. I think both teams could get some early impact out of their rookie classes. But the Redskins are my choice here because I think they got tougher on both sides of the ball. No. 5 overall pick Brandon Scherff is a nasty, tough, physical run-blocker who should start right away at right tackle. Preston Smith is a tone-setter at defensive end who should help in the run game while also providing interior rushing ability on obvious passing downs. Jamison Crowder could provide early help as a slot receiver.

Dallas Morning News (A-)

One of the most underpublicized events of the offseason was Bill Callahan's move from Dallas to Washington. The man responsible for molding the Cowboys' offensive line into one of the best units in the NFL is now tasked with rebuilding the Redskins' shabby blocking front.

Callahan, considered one of the best position coaches in the league, apparently has gained a lot of influence at Redskins Park in short order.

Washington used its first pick on Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who will play right tackle at the outset of his career. In the fourth round, they grabbed 6-5, 310-pound Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio. They also added Florida's Matt Jones, a 6-2, 231-pound one-cut running back.

Scherff, Jones and Kouandjio should help resuscitate the Alfred Morris-led rushing offense that dropped to 19th in the NFL last season after leading the league in 2012. Receiver Jamison Crowder could have a similar effect on the Redskins' flagging special teams.

Crowder is a strong returner and has the ability to stabilize a weak position. The defense, headed by new coordinator Joe Barry, stands to benefit from the addition of some decent reserves and edge rusher Preston Smith — a potential replacement for Brian Orakpo. Barry and Callahan, the most recent additions to Jay Gruden's staff, have to be pleased. In turn, so too must be Gruden.

Fox Sports (B+)

Credit new GM Scot McCloughan for putting together a spectacular draft. By hiring offensive line coach Bill Callahan during the offseason, the Redskins stressed the importance of building up front. Callahan, who served the same role in Dallas the past couple seasons, watched the Cowboys spend three of their last four first-round picks on offensive linemen. Selecting Iowa's Brandon Scherff at No. 5 overall isn't sexy, but helps bolster an offense which allowed 58 quarterback sacks last season. McCloughan scored a 6-foot-5, 270-pound pass rusher in Preston Smith in the second round. What was most impressive was the package Washington scored, allowing Seattle to trade up for Tyler Lockett. The Redskins ended up getting a load of talent in Round 3 and beyond.

Rich Tandler (B+)

This was a very professional draft by McCloughan, who did what he was hired to do. They went in with a solid plan and, for the most part, they executed it.

The keys to this draft in the long run are Scherff, as noted above, Smith, and the later-round picks. They will be relying on Smith to do a lot of different things on defense. If he does them well, he could be a steal, the edge player that many expected them to take at the top of the draft. If he struggles, the pass rush will likely continue to be mediocre and a secondary that is still shaky will be exposed.

And as with any draft, it's important to get contributions from the later rounds. If Jarrett and Evan Spencer become special teams aces, if Arie Kouandjio can be a solid backup and spot starter, and if someone picked on Saturday emerges as a solid starter, the draft could be a solid success.

One other factor that could make this draft better is subsequent drafts. Assuming that McCloughan is around for many more drafts to come, the Redskins will stick to the same draft principles. McCloughan has his philosophy that it's a big man's game and while smaller players won't be excluded completely, the move to get bigger, tougher, and meaner won't be tossed aside for the next draft. The quest for big guys won't be a short-term fad; they won't be looking for fast, athletic types in a year or two. Consistency is a key to building a team; the Redskins are likely to have that now, for a change.

Sports Illustrated(Farrar) (B)

New general manager Scot McCloughan made it clear in his first Washington draft that he's going to do with the Redskins what he did in his stints with the 49ers and Seahawks: fill the roster with height/weight/speed monsters who can play the game. Some may question taking Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff with the fifth pick, but he's a perfect right tackle or guard who could fill in should left tackle Trent Williams get hurt. Second-round end Preston Smith from Mississippi State can play all over the formation. He's not a speed-rusher, but he can do just about everything else. Third-round back Matt Jones from Florida is a huge (6'2", 231) inside runner, and fourth-round guard Arie Kouandjio (the older brother of Bills tackle Cyrus) is a bruising guard with a lot of potential. Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel is one to watch over time: the 6'0", 183-pound four-year starter will need some time with an NFL coaching staff, but he has all the measurables.

CBS Sports(Rang) (B)

Brandon Scherff wasn't the most exciting pick at No. 5 overall but for a club that so often has gambled on dynamic athletes, the brawling blocker is the perfect meat-and-potatoes pick to start the Scot McCloughan era in Washington. Jay Gruden's scheme calls for bigger, stronger blockers than used by former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and with Scherff and fourth-round guard Arie Kouandjio, the Redskins certainly added that. Given the production of running back Alfred Morris and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in Washington, the addition of running back Matt Jones and slot receiver Jamison Crowder might be surprising, but each has the traits to project as early contributors in Gruden's scheme. Tough-guy defenders Preston Smith, Martrell Spaight and Kyshoen Jarrett aren't dynamic athletes, but are instinctive and highly physical.

Mocking the Draft (B-)

Best pick: Smith - For Washington Smith will be able to come in and do a variety of things. He can play down in four-man fronts and is athletic enough to be a linebacker.

Questionable pick: Jones - Washington had a need at running back, but I had a low grade on Jones.

With players like Scherff, Kouandjio and Smith, Washington did a really nice job of starting a culture to one that is more gritty and tough. Crowder was a coup in the fourth round. He's not big or fast but he some of the best hands in the draft. He'll be dependable for a long time for them.

NFL.com (B-)

Day 1 grade: C+
Day 2 grade: A-
Day 3 grade: B
Overall grade: B-

The skinny: GM Scot McCloughan is one of the best evaluators in the league, but Scherff was a big reach, even if he lives up to his potential. Failing to trade down and passing on the best player in the draft (Leonard Williams) is going to be something the team might regret, even if Scherff becomes a top-flight tackle or guard. Smith is a big player who can really get up field and brings some versatility to the line as well. Jones could have a long career in the league; he does all of the little things nicely and will be a nice complement to Alfred Morris. Crowder will be RG3's best friend as a reliable option out of the slot.

Bottom line: It's pretty clear the team wanted to beef up in the trenches, but that caused it to bypass some more talented players.

Rotoworld(Silva) (B-)

Overview: Confident in his drafting acumen and keenly aware the bottom of his roster desperately needs upgrades, first-year Skins GM Scot McCloughan got round three started by turning the No. 69 selection into Nos. 95, 112, 167, and 181 in a trade with the Seahawks. McCloughan added future draft capital in round five, dropping 20 spots (167 to 187) in a deal with New Orleans, and picking up a 2016 sixth-round selection. At first glance, I wasn't blown away by McCloughan's picks in rounds three through seven. He attacked special teams and was willing to use picks on role players. I absolutely loved his first- and second-round haul; both Scherff and Smith project as high-level NFL starters. Beyond rounds one and two, however, I don't think McCloughan was trying to hit home runs. He's got a 53-man roster to build and he wanted to stockpile useful football players, even if they're unlikely to become NFL stars.

CBS Sports (B-)

Best Pick: Second-round pick Preston Smith played defensive end in college, but will move to linebacker for the Redskins. It will be a transition, but he has the tools to make it work.

Questionable move: Brandon Scherff is a nice, solid player, and he should be a good starter for a long time, but why not a pass rusher early? I like Scherff but No. 5 is a bit high.

Third-day gem: Fourth-round guard Arie Kouandijo was a quality starter at Alabama and has a chance to push for time right away. He is tough guy in the run game.

Analysis: They added some solid pieces, and ended up with a solid haul. Scot McCloughan does a nice job with the draft. Scherff is a good player, but that seems high to me. Even so, it was a nice draft.

Washington Post (B-)

Brandon Scherff is a good player and if he becomes a reliable starter at right tackle, all is well. But if he ends up playing guard, he might not have been worth the No. 5 overall pick. Will the Redskins regret passing up DE Leonard Williams, perhaps the draft's top defensive player? The pass rusher they took in Round 2, Preston Smith, might not be an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense if the Redskins try to use him at outside linebacker, at 271 pounds. First-year GM Scot McCloughan did manage to trade for additional picks, as he'd said he wanted to do. The Redskins have to hope it turns out that he cashed in on some final-day selections like WR Jamison Crowder or G Arie Kouandijo.

Sporting News (C)

Scherff was a first-round home run, and should be a huge upgrade for them at tackle or guard right away. Smith also is in line to replace Brian Orakpo opposite Ryan Kerrigan. As for the rest, there are a lot of project, complementary picks. That balances out to be average.