Home / Redskins Draft Analysis: New Regime, Same Old Tricks

Redskins Draft Analysis: New Regime, Same Old Tricks

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For the past few years, being a Washington Redskins fan usually meant an unexciting draft day.  Owner Dan Synder and Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato's modus operandi was to trade away draft picks for established players who often turned out to be busts.  Recently cut wide receiver Brandon Lloyd would be the latest example.

This year, things were going to be different. In recent years, former head coach Joe Gibbs, along with Synder and Cerrato, made the drafting decisions. There was speculation that having three different inputs caused confusion and chaos for personnel moves. Gibbs retired at the end of last season and Synder anointed Cerrato de facto GM in the offseason. According to reports, Cerrato's new title gives him the bulk of the power when it comes to personnel choices. Like many others, I had assigned most of the blame for the Skins recent poor choices to him. Nevertheless, I thought that with less interference he might actually come up with a draft that made sense.

He certainly would have plenty of opportunity; Washington had the most draft picks in one year since 2000. They had plenty of holes to fill, but nearly enough draft picks to address them all. Looking back on their draft, it did match match their needs, but in almost a completely backwards order.

Biggest Needs

Primary priorities going into the draft should have been right guard, cornerback, safety, and a left guard/left tackle or center. I thought secondary priorities should have been punter, defensive tackle, wide receiver, and a weak side linebacker.

The offensive line is getting old; all five starters are over 30 years of age. Starting RG Randy Thomas and starting RT Jon Jansen combined for only four starts last year. Stephon Heyer, an undrafted pickup last year, did his best at RT, but still has leaps and bounds to go in improvement. Randy Thomas' backup is Jason Fabini; he is a not a youngster at 34. He did not particularly dazzle in relief last year either, defenders too often got at the quarterback from his side. The left side of the line missed no starts last year, and center Casey Rabach only missed one. However, given the age of the line I would say it is about time the 'Skins starting bringing in some new blood.  

In last year's playoff loss against Seattle, opposing quarterback Matt Hasselback just had too much time in the pocket. Without anyone pressuring him, he easily found open receivers and kept drives going longer than they should have. Clearly, the 'Skins needed to add a fearsome pass-rushing defensive end during the draft. Philip Daniels is a decent DE, but not a feared one. The line needs to be able to add pressure from both sides. Right now, opposing offensive lines can concentrate on stopping the elite DE Andre Carter.

Second corner Carlos Rogers will likely miss the first few games of the season due to injury. Number one corner Shawn Springs is often nicked up. Fred Smoot is the third corner right now, but will have to play as the second until Rogers heals, and if Springs gets hurt again might even have to move up to number one.  There has also been some talk about Springs' contract; he may not be around in 2009.  All of this should have made adding another corner a high priority.  

Most of the national pundits were predicting the Redskins to pick a safety in the first round. But why?  Reed Doughty and LaRon Landry played well last year and deserve to keep their first string positions.  Still, the 'Skins only had three safeties on the roster going into the draft; surely drafting another would be their fourth or fifth priority.

So, when the draft went down, I was confused.  First, the Redskins traded away their first round pick to the Falcons to get another pick in Round 2. The Falcons then took offensive tackle Sam Baker, whom the Redskins could have used.  He is a big, strong offensive lineman that can play guard and tackle.

Day One

Their first pick in the second round was Devin Thomas, a big-bodied wide receiver whom the commentators regarded as a steal at this draft pick. Nevertheless, their next 2nd round pick is beyond puzzling: tight end Fred Davis. He sounds like a fine TE and all, and may even become an NFL star later in his career, but there was absolutely no need for him. Chris Cooley is one of the elite TEs in the NFL and has never missed a start. Second TEs in this league are a dime a dozen; there always seem to be serviceable ones out there in free agency and later in the draft.

At this point, surely Cerrato and Synder were done with pass-catchers and were about to get down to business. No! They chose wideout Malcolm Kelly with their third pick of the second round. Again, a big-bodied receiver considered a steal at this late in the draft. Jason Campbell now has plenty of receivers to throw to – if the line holds up long enough for him to get to that.  Now with Antwaan Randle El, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, and the draft picks Thomas, Davis, and Kelly, you have six receiving threats. Six threats who will probably all want to touch the ball during a game.

Day Two

On Sunday, Cerrato and Synder seemed to come to their senses and realized that you have to play defense sometimes too. And they took offensive tackle Chad Rinehart, corner Justin Tyron, punter Durant Brooks, safeties Kareem Moore and Chris Horton, quarterback Colt Brennan, and defensive end Rob Jackson. The pundits seemed to have liked the majority of the 'Skins later picks. The consensus was good selections at great values with a few possible starters.

On day two, I really liked the selection of Brennan. He can come in and compete for a third-string spot and then for second-string in a few years. There are many knocks on him that allowed him to fall so far. His character issues, injuries, and the fact that he's a product of Hawaii's system. However, he has great accuracy and I cannot wait to see how he develops.

I also like drafting Durant Brooks at punter. Derrick Frost is a mediocre punter who buckles under pressure. This pick will end up either replacing him with an upgrade or make him up his game. Either way the Redskins need it.

Reports and articles have said that Cerrato and Synder were simply following their board. They chose the best player on their list, regardless of needs. In a recent Washington Post article, Cerrato commented that: "In the past, when we've made mistakes, it's because [we] didn't go by 'take the best players, not fill a need." Regardless of Cerrato's justification, this smacks of the 'Skins once again choosing the razzle-dazzle over their actual needs.

Articles have also defended their decisions, pointing out that a wide receiver's NFL potential is harder to predict than perhaps any other position. By taking two, the 'Skins have twice the chance of success.

Other factors may be that there simply were not any sure things at the other positions. The more marquee names taken at defensive end and offensive line all had some sort of question mark. Some are banged up, others are criticized for being one-dimensional.

Final Thought

The talking heads say it takes three years before you know whether your draft is successful. That may be, but I still think the Redskins have some holes in their roster. They still need a backup defensive tackle to add depth and competition to that position. That line also needs another DE to complement Andre Carter. We saw how important having a solid D-line is last year with the Giants.  I do think they addressed their needs with their later picks, if they plan on those picks playing later this year.

Overall, it was a better draft than usual for Washington, but not the one that is going to push the team over the top. That might be next year's.

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About Mark Kalriess

  • Drafting Fred Davis is a fine choice, but that means they had to waste a compensatory pick on an alarm clock.

  • TheMalcolmConnection

    I couldn’t disagree more with this article. Let’s all remember that this defense was a top ten defense last year. Reference the playoff loss all you want, but the reality is, our defense was still a VERY good one. When you want to look at stats, look at the touchdown catches by Redskins wide receivers.

    While I think that the Fred Davis choice will prove to be boom or bust, the value that was had by the choices of Kelly and Thomas was outstanding in the second round. Out of all of the guards, safeties and defensive linemen, who would have been available without a significant reach? Merling is the only one who came to mind and while that trade might prove to be poor, at least the Redskins attempted to load up on offensive weapons and build through the draft.

  • I am not sure how to react to your article. You managed to attack and defend the Redskins here and I am still not sure how you did it. You basic breakdown of the teams needs is not one I agree with. You can see my own breakdown of the Skins roster through my link if you are interested. The ONLY ENTIRELY accurate criticism of their selections would be that they COULD have selected a player at a position of need rather than Davis or Kelly. The problem with this criticism(as you pointed out in the latter stages of your article) is that no one really knows how any of these players will work out. Each linemen(defensive and offensive) left on the board at each selection point had MAJOR question marks. So it was entirely reasonable to NOT take those players. There are ALSO question marks about Thomas and Kelly. Davis was a pretty easy pic, winning the Macky award as the nations best TE is NOT a small feat. So each argument has AN EASY COUNTER ARGUMENT. We won’t know for a couple of years for sure.

    And besides, this is the way teams are supposed to draft, just take the best player available year after year and one will always end up with quality depth. Maybe it doesn’t seem to make sense now, but it will IF the Skins do the same again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and so on.

  • will gullickson

    hi – like poster number 3, you managed to defend and attack the skins draft simultaneously, which suppose shows more balance than the title of your post, which seems mostly negative. I’d like to address some of your points:

    “Primary priorities going into the draft should have been right guard, cornerback, safety, and a left guard/left tackle or center. I thought secondary priorities should have been punter, defensive tackle, wide receiver, and a weak side linebacker.”

    Left tackle? Center? Right guard? Really? I was thinking that if we had a glaring need, it would be either DE or CB, but good arguments were made on the intarweb that tall WR should be included as well. I don’t know much about that, but I do know that Chris Samuels is our pro-bowl LT, Thomas is our RG, and Casey is our C. I can’t really prove you incorrect here but I just have to disagree.

    “Most of the national pundits were predicting the Redskins to pick a safety in the first round.”

    This isn’t true – sure, there were a few opinons advocating Phillips at pick 21, but there were others saying 1) he’d be a reach there and 2) it’s simply unfair to draft Phillips at 21 to fill Taylor’s shoes. Most seemed to have Merling at this spot, which actually could have happened.

    “The Falcons then took offensive tackle Sam Baker, whom the Redskins could have used.” Sure! But this also seems early for Baker. I think most agree on this point.

    “Nevertheless, their next 2nd round pick is beyond puzzling: tight end Fred Davis” Agreed, but because the need aspect of this pick is not there. It seems that Davis is precisely the type of player Cooley is, a great pass catching TE that’s in the middle of the pack as far as blocking. But I can’t argue with where they took the Mackey award winner here.

    In regards to the selection of Brooks “Regardless of Cerrato’s justification, this smacks of the ‘Skins once again choosing the razzle-dazzle over their actual needs.” This is a little bit harsh when talking about (arguably) the best punter available. It’s a sixth round pick, after all.

    While the Redskins reluctance to draft defensive linemen (since Montgomery) is cause for concern, I accept that most pundits seem to think that we got some players (especially the top three picks) were relative bargains. And after having a relatively heavy draft where lots of players were taken, it doesn’t really seem to be the same old tricks to me. I’ll take it.

  • Mark Kalriess

    When I was referring to Cerrato’s justification I was referring more to day one. I actually think the drafting of Brooks was a good pick at great value. I did mention that I liked his selection in the article. I should have made that point more clear.

    In my opinion improving the d-line, o-line, and depth in the secondary is needed for the team to reach the next level. Being a top 10 defense is good, but can they win the Super Bowl with their current defense?

    Drafting the best players available if is alright, if you are considering it a re-building year. But I really think the ‘Skins are just a few pieces away.

  • Sure they are “are a few pieces away”, but isn’t most every team in the league? Even the Giants have holes on their roster now. The Patriots and Colts may be the most complete teams, with Jacksonville in there as well, but even they have “holes”. If the Redskins have any chance of getting back to being the perennial contender they used to be, they need to draft in this manner every year. The only way this draft would really be considered a “mistake” or “the same old tricks” would be if they go backwards next year with their methodology. This was a good step forward, the Redskins simply need to keep taking the same steps forward.