- With the whole world watching—because that is what it feels like when the draft is taking place in this era—the Chicago Bears sucked out all the stupid from the room. Just a mere handful of seasons removed from the Redskins paying ridiculously up for a quarterback, the Bears front office moved up one spot from #3 to #2 overall for the privilege of drafting Mitchell Trubisky. In addition to the swap of top picks, the Bears sent a third and a fourth in this draft and their third in 2018 to the San Francisco 49ers. The head-scratching that ensued has not yet stopped, with the whole world (probably) wondering if the Bears needed to move up at all. While Trubisky’s play will be the ultimate judge of this deal, it can’t be dismissed that the front office (Ryan Pace) apparently left the head coach (John Fox) in the dark on the deal, just barely removed from signing Mike Glennon to a $45 million contract. Why does this matter in a Redskins column, you might be asking? Well, don’t look now, but the Bears are about to pay a career backup roughly $20 million on a one-year deal to keep the lights on until Trubisky can play. (So much for taking a step back from paying through the nose at quarterback after jettisoning Jay Cutler.) This is yet another data point—albeit one from a franchise seemingly floundering at the moment—that informs us on what quarterbacks cost. It doesn’t tell us how much Kirk Cousins is worth, and it doesn’t force any reactionary moves here, but as long as we are going to argue and debate among ourselves on Kirk, these are absolutely things we all need to remember. It is also heart-warming when there appears to be a league consensus on which team is the village idiot...and it is NOT the Redskins.
- So it seems that new 49ers GM John Lynch just punked someone in his first draft. Why does this matter in a Redskins column you might be asking? Well, don’t look now but the guy who has been trying to snake our girl all of a sudden looks like he has some game. He is like Rob Lowe’s character Benjamin in Wayne’s World, when he was trying to steal Cassandra (played by Tia Carrere) from Wayne. While Lynch may not blow Kirk’s skirt up by ordering Chinese takeout in a flawless Cantonese dialect, I am pretty sure the book on his nightstand is entitled, “How To Steal Another Man’s Quarterback.” Just sayin’...I don’t see the presence of CJ Beathard keeping the 49ers from proposing marriage to Kirk Cousins. (That said, any of you that weren’t already CJ Beathard fans are welcome to join the CJ Fan Club—if he beasts out in 2017, it should help us.)
- As for what the Redskins actually did in the 2017 NFL Draft, I am prepared to give Bruce Allen some serious credit. I think we can all debate about what level of input Scot “McLovin” McCloughan had on this draft process prior to being driven to the edge of the forest and kicked out of Dan Snyder’s car. The truth is that at this point, it doesn’t matter. The Redskins added players that will help us win. They are our guys now, and those cards were turned in by Bruce, so let me do the right thing and give some appreciation. The addition of tough players from top college programs—winning programs—smacks of some McLovin flavor, but it also fits nicely into the kind of locker room Jay Gruden has been consistently trying to establish since his arrival. We can always play the game where we question the drafting of player X over player Y (especially when player Y gets selected directly after player X), but if you look at how the needs of the team were addressed in this draft, you have to be happy.
- Instead of breaking down each pick, which everyone else has been (and will continue) doing, I thought I would look at a few areas of need that were specifically addressed with the picks Bruce Allen made. Let’s start on defense, and on third downs. Our third down defense was historically bad in 2017, and it needed more than just a band-aid. Jonathan Allen is going to impact every down, but his ability to move up and down the defensive line should pay dividends when defending third downs. It is easy to say that a young and talented first-round pick on the defensive line will help us on third downs...and I love saying easy things. To me Ryan Anderson might actually be sneakily MORE of an impact for us on third downs, and not because of his pass-rushing prowess. I see us moving Anderson inside on these plays (assuming players like Junior Galette, Preston Smith and even Trent Murphy are healthy and productive), which could be huge. Anderson has good hands, and his size and football intelligence in the middle of our defense on third downs should do nothing but help us get off the field. Even though he might not play right away, Fabian Moreau also should impact third downs in his rookie campaign, by virtue of him being the fourth or fifth corner on the sideline. He is undeniably talented, with size and speed that make him an impact player. Greg Manusky should be able to deploy these three players on third downs in 2017 (again, when Moreau returns to the field), and to me, that is a huge win for a team that needed defensive help in this exact spot.
- Plenty of people would look at a fourth round running back and easily dismiss any potential impact in his rookie season. Even though I tend to rain the optimism down in general, I think Samaje Perine is going to be a steady contributor to the Redskins in 2017—and I think his presence will directly impact our area of greatest need: red zone production. Listen, he is not the speedy, dynamic running back that we all thought the team would target in this draft. He is a powerful, 233-pound wrecking ball that excels in yards after contact. As the all-time leading rusher from Oklahoma, his pedigree speaks for itself. The Redskins offense does not depend on a speed back to move the ball up and down the field—it relies on Kirk Cousins’ arm. Once the offense entered the red zone in 2016, that reliance allowed defenses to key on Kirk’s targets. Perine’s ability to gain tough yards in the tight red zone area should not only help the team in terms of actual production, but it should make defenses slightly more honest. This, in turn, should help guys like Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson operate somewhat more freely. We’re not talking about Fournette, McCaffrey or Cook, but in Samaje Perine, the Redskins have a running back that can and will play at a high level in this offense. And again, the addition should help a very specific weakness the team had last year.
- I spent months asking the question about how many starters the Redskins would net out of the first four rounds. With five picks in that span, I had hoped for as many as four, but I knew that realistically we were looking at two or three. Jonathan Allen is already penciled into our starting lineup, so that’s one. I don’t think you take Ryan Anderson in the second round with zero plans to get him into a formal role on this defense. Given that base defenses in the modern NFL inch closer and closer to nickel formations every year, I have Ryan Anderson starting inside next to Zach Brown. I don’t think this will be his “spot” on day one, but I do think he is the kind of player who beats someone out and makes it his spot. Moreau is dinged, and finds himself in a very crowded cornerback mix. While I think he has starter abilities, I can’t call him one at this point. That leaves the fourth round picks of Samaje Perine and Montae Nicholson. On the Nicholson front, I won’t blow smoke up your five-holes by calling him anything but what he is: a project. He has size and speed, but he needs work, and he needs to fully heal from a torn labrum. D.J. Swearinger and Su’a Cravens continue to be your penciled-in starters at safety. Will Blackmon looks to be in the mix ahead of Nicholson as well, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the rookie out of Michigan State shows enough to warrant the team moving on from DeAngelo Hall. As for Perine, it says here he takes the handoff on our first down from scrimmage when we open at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. I think the preseason battle between Rob Kelley and Perine will be legendary, making both backs better and ultimately creating a bit of a two-headed monster. I expect both Kelley and Perine to play a ton for the team in 2017, but something about Jay Gruden makes me think he is going to lean on that Oklahoma pedigree and make Perine his horse. If that is true, and we net three legit starters this season, with Moreau having very real starting abilities when he returns to health, we would have to call this draft incredibly successful.
The 2017 NFL Draft is in the books, but not before the Redskins establish themselves as “not the Bears.”