We are still a few weeks away from the 2017 NFL Draft, and the Redskins are poised to enter the event significantly better as a team than they were last season. For fans of the Skins, this has to be very exciting.
Heading into the 2017 offseason, the Redskins had major question marks at a few key positions. Below, I will take a look at these areas, and examine how the Redskins made significant improvements.
Quarterback: Franchising Kirk Cousins, and working towards a long-term deal, was the right move by the team. Unless something crazy happens before or during the draft, Cousins will be set to break his own franchise passing records for a second straight season.
Offseason Grade - C: This could obviously turn into an A if the Redskins reach a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins. It could also turn into an F if they were to trade him.
Wide Receiver: Some are going to argue that losing both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson will hurt this team in 2017. I am going to say we got bigger, younger and more talented by essentially having Josh Doctson healthy, and by signing Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick. An increased role by third year stud Jamison Crowder will also boost this unit. The maturation of impressive second year pro Maurice Harris, a big, reliable target in his own right, should help too.
Offseason Grade - B: The addition of a healthy Doctson will be the key. If the second year receiver can enter the season 100 percent healthy, he, Pryor and Quick should give the Redskins some serious weapons on the outside.
Tight End: Re-signing Vernon Davis was big for the Redskins. Even at 33 years old, the guy can still play at a high level, as is evident by his 44 receptions for 583 yards and two touchdowns in a reserve role last season. As always, Jordan Reed is just a beast when healthy.
Offseason Grade - B: Davis is a solid in-line blocker, and re-signing the vet was a smart move by the team, especially considering the injury concerns surrounding Jordan Reed.
Defensive Tackle: Say what you want about the Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee signings - when you had the worst group of defensive tackles in the NFL the prior year, almost anything is an upgrade. Both Mc's are upgrades to RJF and Hood, and although Hood remains with the team, he's much better suited in a reserve roll that he will likely play in 2017. The loss of Chris Baker hurts, but don't forget, Baker came to D.C. as a JAG, and although he was the best defensive tackle in a very poor group, he probably sits as just above average league-wide.
Offseason Grade - C+: Losing Baker lowers this grade a bit, but both McClain and McGee have some strong upside.
The NFL draft is bound to bring the Redskins even more help at defensive tackle this April, as the team can still use a pure nose tackle and 5-technique base defensive end for their 3-4.
Linebacker: To say the signing of free agent All-Pro linebacker Zach Brown was huge is an understatement. The 6'1" 242 pound speedster will bring a sideline-to-sideline presence the Redskins have not had at inside linebacker in years. He also excels in coverage, being able to drop seamlessly into his zone, or cover a back or tight end in man coverage. Cravens will most likely see some time as a dime linebacker, so the paring of him and Brown could make passing underneath much more difficult for opposing offenses.
Offseason Grade - A-: Without the Brown signing, this grade would have been and F. His signing was undoubtedly the most important one so far this offseason.
The NFL draft is likely to bring another top linebacker prospect to Redskins park, and if that happens, we can go from the position being an Achilles Heel of the team, to a major strength.
Safety: I am still very skeptical with the Redskins safety situation, but the move of Cravens to strong safety and the signing of D.J. Swearinger, certainly represent an upgrade to an absolutely horrible unit in 2016. The return of a healthy DeAngelo Hall should help bolster the unit even more.
Offseason Grade - B: I have my doubts about both Cravens and Swearinger in coverage, but both are extremely athletic guys who show great instincts for the ball.
A major focus in the draft should be finding a true free safety to develop in Manusky's new defense, and there are plenty to choose from in the first 2-3 rounds.
In your opinion, are the Redskins better at this very moment of the offseason, than they were last year?