Position: Inside linebacker
Height: 6'1" Weight: 230 lbs
Drafted: Undrafted (2013)
Will Compton was a virtual no-name in the NFL in 2013. A year later, he played in all 16 games and started five with the Washington Redskins — two when Perry Riley went down with injury, three when Keenan Robinson got hurt. He endured a bit of a learning curve, but he showed signs of growth throughout the season and quickly emerged as one of the team's few reliable tacklers.
#1. He played four years at Nebraska and developed a penchant for getting to the ball. He finished with just five sacks, one interception (which he returned for a touchdown), one fumble recovery and 10 pass breakups, but he piled up 247 total tackles in his Cornhusker career. He recorded 110 of those as a senior in 2012, including a whopping 73 assists, which was five more assists than any other player in the Big Ten put up that year.
#2. After going undrafted in 2013, Compton spent much of the ensuing season on the Skins' practice squad. He played on special teams for Washington's Week 17 loss to the New York Giants and made a tackle, but he otherwise flew pretty far under the radar. In 2014, the former Nebraska standout made his presence felt with the Redskins and earned an everyday spot as the team's top backup inside linebacker.
#3. Compton finished the 2014 season with 60 tackles, good for seventh among all Redskins. Pro Football Focus credits him with just three missed tackles and a team-high tackling efficiency of 16.0. For comparison's sake, Robinson led the team with 109 tackles, but PFF has him down for eight missed tackles on the year and a tackling efficiency of 12.8. Riley racked up 93 tackles but missed eight, and his tackling efficiency was a modest 10.5.
#4. With four capable outside linebackers now on the roster, there have been talks of moving one of them inside in certain situations, a la Clay Matthews last season. If that rumor becomes reality, Compton could forfeit some playing time. Otherwise, it seems his role is pretty safe, with rookie Martrell Spaight and veteran Adam Hayward mostly expected to contribute on special teams. He hasn't played quite well enough to earn a starting job over Riley — generally considered the weaker of the two inside linebackers — but he has certainly played well enough to maintain his current role of top backup.
#5. While there is a slight chance Compton could be forced out of the top backup position, it's perhaps just as likely (if not more so) that he forces Riley out of his starting job. Riley has been a decent run defender at times and has shown flashes in coverage, but never both at the same time; Robinson is a solid coverage backer who is slightly below average in run defense, but that's always been the report on him. Compton is a well-rounded player who seems to be somewhat in the Riley mold of doing everything well enough. The difference is Compton is on the rise while Riley's play has declined annually (PFF graded him at 1.6 in 2012, -8.4 in 2013 and -9.8 in 2014).
Bottom Line: Compton has a role in 2015 that would make many NFL players envious: Not only is he not on the bubble, he has a chance to displace a multi-year starter. If I were a betting man — and if you saw my poker face, you'd agree it's a good thing I'm not — I'd put my money on Riley and Robinson holding onto their jobs for another year, health permitting. But in this hypothetical bet, I'd wager no more than a few dollars, because I think Compton has a real shot at overtaking Riley. Riley ultimately holds the cards, but Compton is peeking over his shoulder and ready to call his bluff. OK, I've exhausted my gambling metaphors.