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The 5 O’Clock Club: The 2017 Redskins - how they entered the NFL

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

2011 NFL Draft Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Note: this post takes the long way round to get to the point - around my ass to get to my elbow as it were.

Initially i copied the chart below, not knowing what I wanted to do with it. By the time I figured it out, I was too lazy to simply re-type it into something much simpler and more straightforward, and my Hogs Haven-supplied assistant typist was out sick, so the result is what you see below. Apologies to anyone offended by the lack of directness or efficiency.

Feel free to scroll down to the FORBES MAGAZINE ARTICLE heading and read from there.

Charting each player on the roster according to how he entered the league

The chart below shows the players on the Redskins roster at the end of the 2017 season, broken up by the round in which they were selected in the draft.

So here’s the look at the 2017 Redskins, but I’m subtracting players that I don’t want to count as a first step in ‘normalizing’ the roster to its pre-injury state:

  • First round: 5 (I refuse to count DHall)
  • Second round: 5
  • Third round: 6
  • Fourth round: 5
  • Fifth round: 6
  • Sixth round: 2

(I’m not counting the placekicker or Robert Davis (who played less than DHall))

  • Seventh round: 2
  • Free agents: 12

(I’m refusing to count the following free agents: the long snapper & punter, Manessah Garner, Dare O., Otha Peters, Fish Smithson)

Making adjustments to “normalize” the roster

So, that’s 43 players that I am counting. I’m going to continue to ignore the 3 special teams ‘specialists’, so I want to add back 7 players who were on injured reserve at the end of the season. Here are my choices:

  • Trent Williams - 1st round
  • Jonathan Allen - 1st round
  • Jordan Reed - 3rd round
  • Spencer Long - 3rd round
  • Montae Nicholson 4th round
  • Chris Thompson - 5th round
  • Mason Foster - UDFA

My ‘normalized’ 50-man roster of offensive & defensive players

My new numbers, after adding back 7 injured players, and percentages out of 50 total players:

  • 1st - 7 = 14%
  • 2nd - 5 = 10%
  • 3rd - 8 = 16%
  • 4th - 6 = 12%
  • 5th - 7 = 14%
  • 6th - 2 = 4%
  • 7th - 2 = 4%
  • UDFA - 13 = 26%

Picking out the 22 starters

I’m gonna use a little ‘judgement’ here, and count the number of ‘starters’ from each round. The idea of a ‘starter’ is a bit flexible, but I’ll try to pick a total of 22 guys, 11 offense & 11 defense.

1st - 5 (RyKer, Scherff, Doctson, TW, J Allen)

2nd - 3 (Brown, Swearinger, Smith)

3rd - 3 (Moses, Fuller, Reed)

4th - 5 (Cousins, Breeland, Crowder, Perine, Nicholson)

5th - 3 (Norman, IoanMan, Thompson)

6th - 2 (McGee, Roullier)

7th - 0

UDFA - 1 (Foster)

The Forbes magazine article

There was an article in Forbes magazine published in 2015 that tried to identify a correlation between draft position and success in the NFL.

I’m going to use the percentages from that article as the benchmark for comparison between the Redskins and the NFL ‘norm’ in the table below:

Feel free to spin this any way you want to in the comments.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. The Redskins have 1 12 fewer starters from the 1st round than the benchmark. I point my finger directly at the RG3 trade for that explanation. You can see the gaping hole on the chart for 2012, 13 & 14. Given the fact that the Redskins used three first round draft picks to get one player (who isn’t on the team now), I might’ve described the five starters they had on the team in 2017 as a good outcome if Doctson were playing up to his draft position. With his under-performance, the Redskins are probably close to where you’d expect them to be following that 2012 trade decision. Moving forward — assuming the front office doesn’t trade away any more first round picks — the Redskins should get closer to the benchmark every year. With Alex Smith on the team, this automatically goes up to 6 players, regardless of what happens in the draft. By 2019, the 1st rounder numbers are almost certain be similar to the rest of the league.
  2. The Redskins don’t draft well in the 2nd round. Of the three identified starters, only Smith was drafted by the Redskins. That means that there’s only ONE starter on the team that was drafted in the 2nd round. Now that’s a head-scratcher! There’s something wrong with the philosophy the Redskins are using in the second round. They continually seem to reach for players, or use the pick unwisely on players who don’t really fit well... and of course, there was that 2012 second-rounder the ‘Skins sent to the Rams in the RG3 trade.
  3. Moses, Fuller & Reed make up a pretty strong trio of 3rd round starters, and the ‘Skins are just about exactly where the benchmark would say they should be in this round. Fabian Moreau may grow into a starter soon, replacing the loss of Fuller. Of course, the team has no 3rd rounder in this draft.
  4. Five starters from the 4th round, including the quarterback! That’s impressive, especially when you take into account that all five players were drafted by the Redskins. The team will lose Cousins and probably Breeland from this group. Arie Kouandjio looks to be a bit of a bust here, but there’s still time for Samaje Perine to step up. Is this front office especially adept at picking early on Saturday? Or has the team been forced to ‘make do’ with second-tier talent for the past few seasons because of the four 1st & 2nd round draft picks wasted in the trade for and selection of Robert Griffin?
  5. The Redskins snatched Josh Norman up in free agency, and they drafted Ioannidis & Chris Thompson, meaning that they got very good-to-great performance from the 5th round starters in 2017. Washington more than doubled the league average for this round. Of course, Martrell Spaight has seen spot duty as a starter, and Sprinkle still has an entire career in front of him to develop.
  6. The league in general has 2 starters from the final two rounds — one from the 6th & one from the 7th. The Skins have two starters, but they are both from the 6th, with no one in the starting lineup from the 7th. This seems statistically insignificant to me.
  7. With my calculations, the Redskins had only one starter from the UDFA ranks (Mason Foster), while the typical NFL team has 3. It’s possible that the benchmarking article counted one or more of the punter/kicker/long snapper as starters, which might explain the variance. If not, I’m not sure how to explain the variance, except to look at the contributions of guys like Junior Galette and Anthony Lanier in positions where there is significant rotation happening, and where it may be difficult to distinguish between the starters and the backups.

However you explain it, the Redskins have noticeably fewer starters from the 1st & 2nd rounds, and UDFAs, while they have significantly more starters from the 4th & 5th rounds. With Cousins (and probably Breeland) gone, and Alex Smith in, the team takes one step closer to the league-wide benchmark numbers.

It seems reasonable to think that, as Washington gets further away from the effects of the RG3 trade, the roster will improve with the addition of 1st & 2nd round contributors year in and year out in the draft.

I think that fans often underestimate the significance of just one or two player on a team’s season. For instance, the Redskin defense looked entirely different with Jon Allen playing than it did after he got hurt. Changing 2 players out of the 11 on the field can have a huge impact!

The Redskins have been stepping in the ring like a boxer trying to fight above his weight ever since the 2013 season when the RG3 trade started to bite.

Drafting well this year and next will go a long way toward making the Redskins an annual playoff contender again.


What is the main driver behind the current construction of the Redskin roster?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    The Scot McCloughan effect
    (29 votes)
  • 9%
    The team’s ability (or inability) to judge free agent talent
    (14 votes)
  • 27%
    Bruce Allen’s ability or inability to pick the right player with each draft pick
    (42 votes)
  • 38%
    The RG3 hangover
    (59 votes)
  • 1%
    It’s got something to do with Jay Gruden
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Something else entirely
    (6 votes)
153 votes total Vote Now