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Washington’s Draft Strategy Went Just as We Thought it Would

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I am a tea-leaf reader, and if you read the tea-leaves, it was actually pretty easy to predict the Washington Football Team’s draft plans. Now, not so much the exact player; although many of you nailed some of our picks, but rather the positions and when they were selected.

I’ve long been a subscriber to a Value Vs. Needs approach to drafting, and it appears Washington also held true to this model.

Let’s take a look at how this draft played out and some of the logistics behind the picks.


Linebacker:

If you paid any attention to the 2020 season, you’ll know that linebacker was the weakest link to our solid defense. If you paid any attention to free agency, you’d have seen that the position was STILL a weakness heading into the draft. Finally, if you paid any attention to the pre-draft process, you’d have seen seen that there were a few complete linebackers that possibly could have been on our radar at pick 19, and some that we could have targeted in the second round. After that, the talent level dropped off significantly, and you were looking at far less complete prospects who had limitations in either coverage, or guys who were viewed at tweeners at the position.

The selection of Jamin Davis should have came as a surprise to no one. Now, had I spoken these words three months prior, the word “reach” may have entered the conversation at pick 19, but as the draft process got underway, that began to quickly diminish.

Even the seventh round pick of Shaka Toney, the former PSU EDGE, can be lumped into this category, as many, including yours truly, believe he will play some SAM linebacker and as a situational pass rush specialist in nickel.

Offensive Tackle:

This was another very easy one to predict if you are a tea-leaf reader. Last year, Ron traded away disgruntled Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams (who is now the highest paid tackle in the NFL), to the 49ers. Third-year pro Geron Christian was named the starter heading into the year, and struggled mightily before ending up on season-ending injured reserve. Veteran journeyman Cornelius Lucas stepped in and performed well over the second half of the season. He wasn’t perfect, but in Washington’s short passing game, designed to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand in under three seconds, Lucas did his job. However, he’ll turn 30 before the season starts, and he’s under contract through 2021 - meaning he’s not the long-term option at the position.

There was no secret the staff wanted to upgrade at left tackle - the question was WHEN during the draft. Most figured it would come somewhere in the first two rounds, and that indeed turned out to be true when Samuel Cosmi was the selection at pick 51.

Tea-Leaf readers didn’t have to do too much work here, as this was a very easy choice in a draft that had not only high-end talent, but early depth. Again, this was more about WHICH player they would take and if it would be in round one or round two.

Wide Receiver:

Washington had a bottom 10 overall receiving corps in 2020. After Terry McLaurin’s 1,118 receiving yards, the next closest receiver (Cam Sims), posted just 477. After Cam, Steven Sims Jr. had 265 yards.

The Football Team was aggressive in free agency targeting former Panther’s do-it-all talent Curtis Samuel. He signed a three year deal to work yet again under coach Ron Rivera who drafted the Ohio State speedster. They also signed slot specialist Adam Humphries to a one-year deal.

Most figured, given the great depth in the top three rounds of this draft, that Rivera, Mayhew and Hurney were not done. This turned out to be true, as Washington got what most suggest is a steal in the third round when they picked North Carolina deep threat Dyami Brown. They then went and selected another receiver in the seventh in BYU’s Dax Milne.

It’s now safe to say, in just one offseason, that Washington may have the most dangerous receiving corps in the NFC East.

Safety:

Free safety was an ancillary need heading into the draft, but despite some buzz from talking heads around a possible first round flier on a player like TCU’s Trevon Moehrig, most thought safety would come in rounds three or four. This is where I was a bit off in my projections, as Washington didn’t dip into the safety pool until the fifth, when they grabbed Darrick Forrest from Cincinnati.

Some thought the Football Team may look at Benjamin St-Juste as a free safety, but defensive coordinator Jack Del-Rio put that notion to rest, saying the team loves him at corner due to his exceptional quickness and physicality.

There is still a chance we look to solidify the back end by signing a veteran before training camp (it has been reported that former Dolphins free safety Bobbie McCain will visit Monday), but I feel Jeremy Reaves should be given a chance to hold the position down, while guys like Forrest develop. There is also some hope that Kamren Curl, who performed admirably as a rookie, can shift over to deep safety, while Landon Collins mans his normal spot at strong safety.

Tight End:

Finding a legit TE2 heading into the offseason was a priority. Logan Thomas will turn 30 this summer, and although that’s not ancient for a tight end who relies more on physical size to win his battles, he is getting a bit longer in the tooth. A move tight with position flexibility, and speed to compliment Thomas’ size would have been nice.

Some may look to the recent signing of Sammis Reyes as that prospect, but the former college basketball player has never taken a snap at the position in a game. His height/weight/speed are certainly attractive, but at this point, they are all just “measurables”.

This is one area in this draft I thought we’d attack at least a round earlier, with a more dynamic prospect. Heading into round three, Hunter Long, Tommy Tremble, Tre’ McKitty and Brevin Jordan (character concerns in team interviews), were all on the board when our first of two picks came around. Instead, the team decided to go with Boise State’s John Bates in round four. I initially questioned the decision to draft a pedestrian tight end (4.84 40 - which would likely have been around a 4.95 at the combine), who had very limited collegiate production over fours years, but I’ll reserve my opinion until we see him perform on the field this coming season.


As for this 2021 draft class, there are two common themes you see - Character and Upside.

This is from Albert Breer’s May 6th article in Sports Illustrated.

More from Breer...

- “In each case, the player’s character informed Rivera, Mayhew and Hurney that the player was going to keep working at it—which would give the player and team the best chance to tap into the upside there, while also fitting into the locker room.”

“Our first two days,” said Rivera of those four, “we were very pleased. We really were.”


Obviously, I saved the best for last...

Quarterback:

This was/is always always going to be a topic for discussion among Washington fans. The need for quarterback has never been greater, and the outlook for our future at the position remains bleak. One can very easily argue that we have the worst “future” quarterback situation in the entire league - sitting on a 39 year-old veteran starter on a one-year deal, who was contemplating retirement before he was signed here, and two oft-injured back-ups with limited upside.

Washington watched as teams like the Jaguars, Jets, 49ers, Bears, Patriots, Vikings and even Buccaneers ddressed their need under center. Some will say it was smart to pass on the price it would have taken to move up for one of these top quarterbacks, but I think that once Lance was selected at number three overall, Washington was out of the discussion in the first. It was a tad bit unfortunate that two signal callers (Kellen Mond and Davis Mills), went before Washington’s selection in the third, as it would have been interesting to see if Ron pulled the trigger on either had they been available at pick 74.

Regardless, we came out of this draft no better than when we entered it at the most important position on the football field, and this is going to be an issue down the road.

Many are now pointing to the 2022 draft - and rightfully so, for the team to select their quarterback of the future, but keep in mind, with this defense expected to be at or near elite, and an offense that is greatly improved from a pure playmaker perspective, we may be in the same position next year as we were in this year...picking in no-man’s land.

Ron has made it VERY clear, that a future franchise quarterback is on the team’s radar. Washington was one of three teams heavily in the mix for former Lions’ stud Matt Stafford, with some even suggesting that Detroit turned down a better offer (it was reported that Washington offered 2019 1st and 3rd and a “starting player”), so they could send Stafford to a destination of his choosing. Others reported that Rivera at least “inquired” about Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff (before he was traded) - before settling on Ryan Fitzpatrick for the 2021 season.

If Rivera’s serious pursuit of Stafford wasn’t enough, Breer said in his article that although there was a great need at quarterback, Washington was not going to reach for one in this draft.

Key words here: if that was the way the dominoes fell.

More from Breer:

- “Now, even after all those conversations, Rivera said there was a quarterback or two in the class that Washington did feel strongly about. And that even carried into draft day.”

“Oh yeah, we did,” Rivera said. “At one point, we started saying, ‘Wait a minute, this happened, guys, let’s take a look at this and start talking. If this guy’s at that point, would we go up and do something?’ We had that conversation, and we stayed with that conversation for quite some time.”

Again, I think this was Trey Lance, an once he came off the board at three overall, the discussion then shifted away from quarterback.

So now that the chips seem to be all-in on the rest of the team, the staff can now turn their focus to re-signing some of our own to well-deserved contract extensions, and looking for our future signal caller in 2022 - even if that price to get him may be expensive.


Poll

Did Washington’s draft strategy of Value meets Need meet your expectations for this draft class?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    Yes
    (1016 votes)
  • 4%
    No
    (53 votes)
1069 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Where will Washington go to get its quarterback of the future?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    1st Round of the 2022 draft
    (416 votes)
  • 21%
    Priority Free Agent
    (231 votes)
  • 25%
    Trade for a premier veteran
    (274 votes)
  • 14%
    Sign another "Game Manager" in 2022
    (154 votes)
1075 votes total Vote Now

Please elaborate on the poll questions in the comments section.