The Washington Redskins need help on the defensive line, but would they select Michigan State’s Malik McDowell with the No. 17 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft??
Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell visited the Washington Redskins on Wednesday, per Ian Rapaport. As a result, many have wondered if the Redskins would actually take the much-maligned McDowell with other options still on the board with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
It’s no secret Washington needs help along the defensive line. And McDowell is arguably one of the five most talented players in this class. That is not an exaggeration. At 6-6, 295 pounds with 34.75-inch arms, McDowell is not only athletic, he’s scheme versatile too. Washington, which runs a 3-4 front, could line McDowell up at defensive end in base packages and slide him inside when the team brings in extra defensive backs.
So, why isn’t McDowell being talked about as one of the draft’s top picks?
Well, teams are worried about what they’re actually getting in McDowell. Are they getting the player who dominated the Big Ten as a sophomore in 2015 or the player who struggled to produce as a junior in 2016?
Before completely dismissing McDowell’s play in 2016 it’s important to note he fought through an ankle injury while also dealing with less talent around him than the year before. Those are important factors some want to ignore. But if you read scouting reports on him you’ll see clear indications that some teams love him, quickly followed by how he scares some teams to death.
There’s a lot to love about McDowell’s game. His extraordinary length and athleticism make him a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen. He explodes off the snap, puts his hands deep into the opponents chest and pursues opposing ballcarriers.
But if McDowell is so dominant and possesses so many physical gifts why did he accrue just 7.5 sacks in 32 career college games? Sacks don’t always determine a player’s true performance level. However, it’s feasible to think McDowell should’ve produced more during his time in East Lansing.
The biggest topic around McDowell this draft season is the concern about his work ethic. He could dominate one series, then the next look disinterested and get pushed around by inferior offensive linemen. His technique was often a mess, too. When you watch McDowell’s film, his footwork is often an issue and, because he’s so tall, he tends to play high and lose the leverage battle.
Then there was the Combine. One anonymous NFL team source said about McDowell, “worst interview we did,” according to Eric Edholm of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner. Then another said, “awful interview. Awful.” Edholm also noted the anonymous said McDowell bristled at the notion he took plays off.
When you leave impressions like this in interviews, that’s a major red flag. That weekend in Indianapolis is the biggest in your life as it pertains to your future as an NFL prospect. If one team came out and said that, okay, maybe they’re just putting some bad information out there hoping McDowell falls to them. And, yes, that happens. But more than one team stated how bad he was in interviews. That cannot be overlooked.
The Redskins recently hired one of the best defensive line coaches in all of football in Jim Tomsula. Tomsula has done terrific work over the years with less-heralded defensive linemen. Perhaps Washington hopes Tomsula can clean up some of McDowell’s technique and refine him into a superstar. That is possible if McDowell cooperates.
Is the risk too big for the Redskins at No. 17? Yes and no. The team needs help along the defensive line. Yet, Washington also needs to nail its first pick. McDowell is not a slam dunk.
McDowell should be on the board when the Redskins pick in the first round. His visit shows there is a genuine interest in him, but will Washington pull the trigger on the polarizing McDowell? If McDowell pans out, Bruce Allen — or whoever is in charge — will look like a genius. If he doesn’t, someone could lose their job.