The 2017 Redskins draft was the first one after the firing of Scot McLoughan. There was some speculation that McLoughan’s big board may have been used, or may have at least informed some of the picks. Despite responsibility for the draft being somewhat unclear, we do know that Kyle Smith was promoted to Director of College Personnel two months after the draft occurred, so it’s probably safe to say he had a significant role in it.
The draft is fairly unusual in at least two respects: 1) The Redskins had 10 picks in the draft, and 2) 9 of those players ended the 2019 season still on NFL rosters (7th round pick Josh Holsey, who suffered a freak accident to his toe in 2018, was the only player not on a roster).
I’ll go through each of the picks, summarize their play to date, their likely trajectory, and what the draft means for the future of the team.
Round 1: Jonathan Allen (pick #17)
Allen was supposed to be the star of this draft, and if the draft can be said to have a star, he would likely be it, though his play has been a bit more reminiscent of a white dwarf than a red giant. Allen originally slipped in the draft as a result of fears about his arthritic shoulder, which, thankfully, hasn’t been a problem in the time he’s been playing in DC. He did, however, suffer a Lisfranc injury in week 6 of his first season, which cut his rookie year short. In 2018 and 2019 though, Allen proved to be a reliable starter, collecting 14 sacks and serving as part of a potentially intimidating threesome with Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis.
The Redskins face a decision about whether to pick up Allen’s 5th year option this year, or to let him “bet on himself.” In my estimation, his 5th year option amount, which would be around $10M, is probably more than he deserves to make, given his performance thus far. This is particularly relevant given the fact that both Daron Payne and Tim Settle will have contract considerations coming up at the end of next year. I suspect much of the decision on the 5th year option will come down to Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio’s assessments of whether or not Allen has been criminally underutilized by inept defensive coordinators so far in his young career.
Round 2: Ryan Anderson (pick #49)
Anderson is likely the most controversial of the 2017 picks. From virtually the moment he was drafted, there were concerns that he was taken too high, and that he wasn’t athletic enough to succeed at the pro level. Anderson lent credence to those concerns in 2017, having very little impact on defense. Even in 2018, he only registered 18 tackles and 2 sacks. Finally, in 2019, Anderson seemed to have come into his own a bit, starting 4 games (playing in 16 total), registering 43 tackles and 4 sacks. It’s probably safe to say he’s reached the status of “reliable depth.”
It remains to be seen whether Anderson will ever be a consistent starting level talent. Perhaps moving to the 4-3 defense will open some doors for him to further showcase his talents. In any case, I think the most likely outcome is that after next season Anderson is either signed by the Redskins for LB depth on a modest contract, or allowed to walk and potentially generate comp pick capital for the team in the free agent market.
Round 3: Fabian Moreau (pick #81)
When he was selected, Moreau was talked about by some as a “first round talent who fell because of a torn pec at his pro day.” Despite being strong and fast (4.35 speed), the Redskins defensive coordinators insisted on trying to play him in the slot - unsuccessfully - until it became so painfully apparent that Josh Norman was such hot garbage in the secondary that he had to be replaced. Moreau was finally moved outside in late November 2019, and had significant success. In the month between his position shift and the injury that put him on IR in late December; he had 3 interceptions and a dramatically lower “passer rating against” than he did in the slot.
Assuming Moreau can stay healthy and keep up his improved performance on the outside, he likely fits into the role of “able depth” at CB, with Quinton Dunbar starting on one side and a high draft pick or free agent competing for the starting role opposite Dunbar. If Moreau can’t stay healthy, or if he can’t continue to show improvement in 2020, I suspect he will be allowed to walk in free agency at the end of his rookie deal.
Round 4: Samaje Perine (pick #114)
Perine was an absolute beast coming out of Oklahoma, where he set the Sooners’ all-time rushing record. Remember, this is the school where Billy Sims, Joe Washington, and Adrian Peterson played. Unfortunately, we never glimpsed that level of talent in the NFL. Perine wasn’t a speed back, but he was incredibly strong. There was even a story that he lifted a car up to help a woman change a tire. Even so, he wasn’t able to show any promise as a reliable goal line back. The Redskins waived him prior to the 2019 season, with Derrius Guice back healthy and ready to play. He then bounced to the Bengals practice squad and was eventually poached by the Dolphins. He went on to have 5 rushes for 16 yards last season.
As a 4th rounder, it’s hard to call him a bust, but he never really fulfilled even the RB2 role one might have reasonably hoped for based on his draft position.
Round 4: Montae Nicholson (pick #123)
An athletic specimen coming out of college, Nicholson was allegedly described by one scout as, “big and beautiful with no impact on the game whatsoever. He just doesn’t have the aggressiveness you need to play this game on this level.” Three years in, it would be difficult to say that was an unfair characterization, though with the added experience, we might add “brains” to what’s missing. Poor decision-making off the field has had a significant impact on Nicholson’s availability on it, and the Redskins still find themselves looking for a reliable free safety, even after having spent another 4th round pick, on Troy Apke, in the 2018 draft.
Nicholson is yet another member of this draft class who goes into the “decent depth” bin at his position, but who seems unlikely to ever project as a quality starting free safety at this point. If all goes well, he will have significant competition, gathered from the draft, free agency, or both, to line up alongside Landon Collins next year.
Round 5: Jeremy Sprinkle (pick #154)
For two years, Sprinkle was firmly TE3, behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. Then, in 2019, after both TEs went down with concussions, he had his chance to step up and shine. He started 13 games, but, unfortunately, failed to seize the opportunity. He caught 26 balls for 241 yards and a TD, but was outshone late in the season by UDFA Hale Hentges, who looks to be more solid TE depth on the team moving forward. Sprinkle was on the roster at the end of 2019, but may not be when roster cut downs come before the 2020 season, particularly if the Redskins pick up a TE in free agency and one or two in the draft.
Round 6: Chase Roullier (pick #199)
I would argue - and have argued - that Roullier has been one of the best values on the Redskins since he’s been with the team. He hasn’t been spectacular (does anyone ever describe a center as “spectacular”?), but he has been incredibly reliable, steady, and solid. In an offensive line that has seen myriad combinations over his three years with the team; he has been the one constant.
As a 6th rounder, Roullier has been a legitimate “steal,” and should absolutely be a target for re-signing/extension by the Redskins if they can secure him on a reasonable deal.
Round 6: Robert Davis (pick #209)
Robert Davis had lots of fans excited with his potential, spending most of 2017 on the practice squad, but looking to potentially break out in 2018. Then, disaster struck. He blew out his knee catastrophically in training camp and spent 2018 on IR. Somewhat miraculously, he was able to achieve a comeback for training camp in 2019. It turned out, by that point, that the Redskins had re-stocked the WR cupboard, and Davis was placed on the practice squad again. From there, he was poached by the Eagles and elevated to the team’s roster at the end of the 2019 season.
Round 7: Josh Harvey-Clemons (pick #230)
Harvey-Clemons came into the NFL as a “hybrid” type player, capable of playing linebacker or safety. What that has translated to, in practice, for JHC, is primarily seeing the field as a special teamer. Once envisioned as a developmental prospect who could potentially blossom into “a matchup solution to the athletic tight ends in the NFC East,” he has never come close to living up to that promise. With the team shifting to a 4-3, there is a thin sliver of hope remaining that perhaps, deployed differently, JHC may still have something to give the team beyond special teams’ value.
Round 7: Josh Holsey (pick #235)
Holsey played in 12 games in 2017 and looked to be potential depth for the Redskins cornerback corps before nearly “severing” his toe, according to Dr. Gruden, in 2018. He was cut by the Redskins, signed by the Raiders, and cut by them before the 2019 season. Like many 7th round picks, he washed out, perhaps in an accelerated fashion because of his unfortunate injury.
Looking at the several drafts leading up to the 2017 selections, the Redskins would have been ecstatic to have 90% of their picks left in the league after three years. In most of them, they would have been lucky to have had 50%. While the 2017 draft has yet to produce any superstars, it has produced 2 key starters and 5 reliable back-ups, all of whom are likely to at least play out their rookie contracts in the league. In that respect, the 2017 Redskins draft was perhaps the best the team had seen in multiple decades. Thankfully, at least based on initial impressions, it’s looking like the 2018 and 2019 drafts could end up being even better.
Of these players taken in the 2017 draft, who do you think has the best chance to become an consistent starter?
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None of the above