- Let’s start with some good Redskins news of the day: ESPN has ranked Washington’s rookie class as THE MOST PRODUCTIVE of all 2019 rookie classes. On one hand, it’s yet another trophy that belongs in the glass case of Redskins offseason trophies that mean next to zilch. And yet...I’ll take it! I’ll take it because it is not just believable but provable—of all the accolades we have granted ourselves over the year, we haven’t always been able to claim this. Sure, it’s a subjective analysis from just one outlet, but...it lines up with what we think, so it has to be right! (And no...Bruce Allen gets no dap, though it is sooooooo Redskins to be getting praise for a class of rookies right after we fire the GM.)
- The production out of Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin, the quarterback-wide receiver duo out of Ohio State, was enough to put the Redskins in striking distance of the top of any outlet making rookie class rankings. No, Haskins didn’t set the world on fire, but he also didn’t light his career on fire either. I try to stay away from gross generalizations, but history is littered with highly drafted quarterbacks that quickly show themselves to be unfit to serve as franchise passers. The most conservative thing you could say about Haskins is that he showed a great deal of promise battling in the second half of a lost season. I think it is incredibly fair to go farther than that though, as his development as a rookie showed itself in his ability to step up in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. His big body and bigger heart jumped right through the HD screen into our living rooms and seemed to win over veterans in the locker room. It was Terry McLaurin, however, that flashed the ready-for-primetime skills from the jump. He stretched the field with his speed. He ran precise routes that established trust with our quarterbacks. Strong, reliable hands and toughness after the catch are signatures of the Redskins rookie receiver, and these two Buckeyes playing together for a long time is more than just a source of passing hope for football fans. The early success puts in place a foundation on which something legitimately successful can be built. That’s different from just hoping...and that’s coming from someone who knows what a fool’s hope looks and feels like.
- It would be easy for people to get caught up in saying that a young quarterback learning on the job and a stud receiver aren’t enough to base this lofty ranking on, which brings me to Montez Sweat. That’s right, even though the third round wideout gets top billing (both because of his performance as well as the fact that he came out of the third round), the Redskins had another first rounder on the field all season, and he was a monster pass rushing specialist. The 6-6, 260-pound stud registered seven sacks in his first season, and he also looked more and more like a sure thing as the season wore on. By “sure thing,” I don’t mean anything more than a guy who belongs in the starting lineup and can impact games. In Haskins, Sweat and McLaurin, we have a trio of players that I feel comfortable suggesting we all would have unanimously signed up for ahead of the draft.
- The production out of the top half of the draft in 2019 is meaningful, but the Redskins got more than just three players in this draft to contribute. Both Wes Martin and Ross Pierschbacher logged time on the line in reserve roles. I know I have been guilty of overhyping fourth and fifth round interior linemen in the past (no, really), but how many times did we curse the names of these two? I have no idea if they can be frontline guys for our offensive line, but in a way similar to what I said above about Haskins, they haven't disqualified themselves from that possibility. Some of you might think this is...low praise. It’s not. Again, a bad interior offensive lineman is one of the easiest things to spot. These guys aren’t that. Further, they are cheap and if they can stay healthy, they can potentially be helpful off the field and on the bottom line. Teams need production from players on rookie salaries because you can’t pay top dollar for every snap at every position.
- Rounding out why the Redskins are able to boast one of the most—if not the most—productive draft classes in the league is the talent they found late in the draft that also saw a ton of snaps. Cole Holcomb, Kelvin Harmon and Jimmy Moreland came into Washington like so many late picks before them: lauded by us as future stars with nothing but upside. I mean, come on...I have led those charges many times. The beauty of this column is here we are talking about guys taken in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds who just turned in pretty damn valuable rookie seasons in burgundy and gold. Nobody is chiseling busts for the Hall of Fame, but again—and I can’t repeat this enough—these aren’t players that chased themselves out of the league. These are guys who are coming back next year with a chance at increased roles. Holcomb can tackle, Harmon can run routes and catch and Moreland can cover—and this is selling them way, way short. In short, unlike so many players we have selected late that washed out quickly, these three guys belong in the league. The last guy who deserves mentioning, though not as part of an analysis that covers the past season is Bryce Love. Allow me to heap on the homerific and blindly optimistic words that I look forward to heaping on the players we will draft this spring: if and when we have to wave bye-bye to Chris Thompson, Bryce Love stands at the ready to fill that hole. (I hope he is fully healthy, because this running back, a fourth round pick, has what it takes to play at a high level on Sundays.)
- I leave you with the news that Dan Snyder is pushing to have gambling on-site at Redskins games. Speaking as someone who watched firsthand as Fedex Field evolved from a bastion of fans that bleed burgundy and gold to a collection of—at best—apathetic spectators and at worst, a healthy collection of fans of the opposing team...I have concerns. Now, on one hand, all these players we have mentioned above have a chance to bring home field advantage back to FedEx Field. It’s a great start to precisely that, but we can’t dismiss the possibility that (and this kills me to even think) we could be looking at a stadium full of people that have bet against the Redskins. If you think the roar when the opposing team scores now is something, imagine when all those people who might not otherwise care are cashing in on our misery? I get that sports betting is what’s up at this point, so I am not leading any kind of crusade here, but...Snyder may be miscalculating here. It better be worth a crazy amount of dough to him. Maybe it increases attendance, but this is not a move to get more Redskins fans into the building. This is a move to get more money into the building. That won’t make it a more fun place for Redskins fans. It won’t make it a place where the players feel more home field advantage. Full disclosure: I enjoy the very legal act of sports gambling. It’s great, but I just want to try and marry reality here to what we could be facing. Imagine the rush at halftime as thousands of people get in line to bet against the Redskins in the second half? We’re talking about a stadium that has longer lines for burger than the most popular rides at Disney World. Not getting fed is one thing, but not getting those bets in could cause riots. Then again...it could speed up these burger lines...maybe let’s just see how it goes.
The Redskins rookie class was named the best in the league in 2019. Well, that’s a start...quite literally.