With Kirk Cousins locked up under the franchise tag, how do the Washington Redskins now go after the 2017 NFL Draft? A 7-round mock draft for the Skins.
There was talk for much of the 2016 NFL season that the NFC East would be sending three teams to the playoffs. Behind the eventual division-winning Dallas Cowboys and feisty New York Giants were the Washington Redskins. With a potent offensive attack led by Kirk Cousins, they looked unbeatable at times. Of course, the flip-side reveals the other times where they looked quite flawed.
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Ultimately the Redskins were unable to reach the postseason and now face a busy offseason. On both sides of the ball, they have key players hitting free agency. Though they’ve already hit Cousins with the exclusive franchise tag, his future beyond this season still seems to remain in-flux in Washington. All of this combines to make the 2017 NFL Draft critical for the Redskins.
Though free agency will have a hand in deciding Washington’s approach, one thing that won’t change is that the Redskins should be targeting defense quite heavily in the draft. It was their Achilles heel in the 2016 season and they aren’t going to improve much without investing draft capital to address that side of the ball.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a seven-round mock draft for the Washington Redskins, putting them on the clock in the first round at pick No. 17.
Nov 5, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Marcus Davis (80) is tackled by by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1: Zach Cunningham, LB – Vanderbilt
There are a number of different areas that the Redskins could look to address with the 17th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Depending on how free agency goes, they might could look at wide receiver to address the position. However, it’d be foolish in my opinion to not look at the defense first and then work from there. With that in mind, they take a home-run swing with their first pick in 2017 to try and address a huge area of weakness as they take linebacker Zach Cunningham out of Vanderbilt.
Cunningham is an absolutely monstrous athlete, which is by far his greatest strength. Though he’s not exceptionally fast, he’s quick and explosive and has great drive and power in the lower half of his body. What’s more, he’s an absolute force against the run—something that Washington desperately needs to have as a part of their defense moving forward. There are games at Vanderbilt where Cunningham’s ability to stuff runs won games for the Commodores. Watch his performance against Georgia in the 2016 season if you think that’s an exaggeration.
As far as downside, Cunningham’s limited athleticism make him somewhat of a liability when asked to drop back into coverage. He can defend against some backs and tight ends, but not all of them by any stretch. With proper technique coaching, though, that may improve in the NFL. What will also need to improve is his size as NFL teams would like to see him bulk up a bit more. All told, though, Cunningham could be a playmaking star for the Washington defense that addresses a glaring hole in the front-seven.
Sep 24, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Budda Baker (32) celebrates after a Arizona Wildcats fumble during the fourth quarter at Arizona Stadium. Washington won 35-28 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2: Budda Baker, FS – Washington
Perhaps the most infuriating thing for Redskins fans in recent years has been how exceedingly little effort they’ve put into addressing the back end of their secondary. While they were willing to give cornerback Josh Norman a small fortune in free agency one year ago, they did nothing but move DeAngelo Hall to safety in hopes that his failing abilities as a cornerback might still be worth something at safety. No more of that.
Budda Baker is an absolute stud and, by my estimation, someone that teams should be looking at well before the Redskins make their pick in the second round. The Washington product has some concerns about his size as he came to Seattle relatively frail for a football player and, even after putting on some bulk, still comes off as a smaller player at the position. If you watch the film, though, you see that doesn’t limit what he’s capable a bit. Baker is a sure tackler that rarely sees plays break open because of him.
Moreover, Baker also has tremendous ballhawking abilities in the open field and a great ability to read plays and react to his reads with both precision and great playmaking ability. Though he’s not an otherworldly athlete that’s going to take the Combine by storm, he’s a guy that plays like he’s the best athlete on the field. What’s more, Baker is an on-field leader and general by all accounts and simply the type of player that you want in a locker room. All of these things make him the exact type of safety that the Redskins have needed and still need. Thus, they’d be foolish to pass on him here.
Sep 3, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Montravius Adams (1) walks off the field at halftime against the Clemson Tigers during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3: Montravius Adams, DL – Auburn
There’s no doubt that the Redskins need both help in their front-three and to help their pass rush this offseason, through either free agency or the draft. With players like Chris Baker set to hit the market in free agency, it’s a must for this team. That’s why a player like Montravius Adams sitting there in the third round is a highly intriguing notion that’s too good to pass up. Best-case scenario, the Auburn product could help address both of those needs as he develops.
When it comes to the physical tools, Adams has them all. He’s a mountain of a man at 6-3, 308 pounds with absolutely absurd length as they reach over 37 inches. What’s more, Adams is also a high caliber athlete given his size. If Adams is engaged, he has the ability to overwhelm blockers from his spot, but also the uncanny ability to make plays even when he seems like he’s been taken out of them. That’s invaluable in the NFL, that kind of recovery ability.
So why is he available in the middle of Round 3? That has everything to do with viable concerns about Adams’ motor and effort-level. Throughout much of his time with the Tigers in college, you’d watch and expect him to take over given what he offers and he’d let you down by pretty blatantly not 100 percent giving a damn about the task at hand. That’s problematic, sure; but it’s also not complete condemnation as NFL coaching can motivate these players. It’s a risk, but it’s one that has a high reward in an area of need for Washington.
Dec 3, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys safety Tre Flowers (31) tackles Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) during the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4 (via Jets): Samaje Perine, RB – Oklahoma
You’re not alone if you were impressed by the number that Samaje Perine put up on the bench press while at the NFL Combine on Thursday. Putting up 30 reps, he was the best of the running back group—and better than several offensive lineman who also got under the bar on Thursday—by a wide margin. However, there’s a lot more to like about the former Oklahoma Sooners running back other than the fact that he’s a warrior in the weight room.
What he does offer is a back who has the potential to be a three-down workhorse for teams. He’s not going to wow in the 40-yard dash like Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook surely will. However, his strength is indicative of his running style in that he embraces contact and is an absolute bear to bring down once he’s hit. It was a rarity in college to see Perine go down just on contact alone and also a rarity to see him overly effected by first contact.
Perine might seem like an interesting selection for the Redskins given the emergence of “Fat Rob” Robert Kelley towards the end of last season. Not only is Perine not a speed complement to Kelley, but Kelley performed solidly in the role of the No. 1 back. However, Kelley left plenty of yardage on the field and doesn’t have the vision or true three-down potential of Perine. If I’m Washington, I’d be much more in favor of bringing in Perine as the No. 1 with Keith Marshall as a speed complement if he can be healthy. Either way, the Redskins need to infuse true No. 1 talent into their running game and Perine offers a mid-round option with the potential to do that.
After the NFL Combine concludes, the notion of Tanoh Kpassagnon being available in the middle of the fourth round is likely going to be laughable. Playing his college ball for Villanova, there’s a chance that he’s not a name that many people are wholly familiar with. While that may be the case, he’s been doing nothing but making a name for himself in post-season All-Star games and as people have started to hear about him through the proverbial draft grapevine.
Physically imposing barely begins to describe Kpassagnon as he measured at 6-7, 280 pounds at the Senior Bowl. The big man doesn’t have an ounce of fat on his body he seems and is a long, athletic block of muscle that can come off the edge or use his power on the interior. The issue with Kpassagnon, of course, is that his level of competition in college leaves him as a very raw prospect. While you can call him an edge rusher, he could also play defensive end in a 3-4 defense, as the Redskins play.
Without a position and with much work left to do regarding his technique as a rusher or lineman, that’s why Kpassagnon is currently being projected at this spot in the draft. However, the potential with him is enormous and he could develop into a game-changing talent with how imposing he simply is as a physical presence. It’s not hard to imagine those at the Combine seeing that and falling in love, thus boosting his stock.
Sep 17, 2016; Boone, NC, USA; Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman Danny Isidora (63) lines up during the second quarter against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Miami defeated App State 45-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5 (via Saints): Danny Isidora, OG – Miami (FL)
One of the unsung needs of the Redskins entering the offseason is help on the interior of their offensive line. No, they don’t need anyone to replace Brandon Scherff as he’s an All-Pro caliber player at one guard spot. But when it comes to the center and other side of the center, Washington could certainly use a bit of work in terms of trying to keep Cousins upright and clearing the way for Perine—or whatever back is in play—coming up the middle.
Danny Isidora has the potential to be that type of player. If you’re looking for a player with the build and the strength to make something happen at the guard position, Isidora is certainly someone who fits the bill. Measuring in at 6-3, 312 pounds with solid length and respectable strength, he has all of the physical tools that you’d want from a player on the interior. With the proper development, he can no doubt be a starter in the NFL.
That being said, he needs the development for a number of reasons. Perhaps his biggest issue as he enters the pro ranks is that he simply doesn’t have much power on the interior. While he’s tremendously athletic for a player his size and has solid strength, much of that strength isn’t of the functional variety. In the end, that comes down to technique and training, both of which can be worked on by NFL coaching. As such, there’s hope for him becoming a quality guard and someone who can very much help the Redskins.
Dec 27, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver KD Cannon (9) catches a pass for a touchdown in the first half against the Boise State Broncos during the Cactus Bowl at Chase Field. Baylor defeated Boise State 31-12. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6, Pick 17: KD Cannon, WR – Baylor
Free agency will likely have a great impact on what happens in the draft for the Redskins. As both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are slated to hit free agency, there’s no guarantee that either of them are going to re-sign with the Redskins. Subsequently, they could be looking at a young receiving corps anchored by Josh Doctson (an injury plagued rookie and 2016) and Jamison Crowder (a high-quality slot receiver). That opens the door for a real burner like KD Cannon out of Baylor.
Much like the Bears as a whole—minus the horrific allegations about the football team—Cannon never seemed to full realize his potential. He doesn’t have terrific size at 6-0, 180 pounds, but the wideout has great speed and quickness that make him a deep threat on the outside. He might not be Jackson, but he can fill that role in the offense if Jackson were to depart on the open market.
After going with a linebacker in the first round in Cunningham, the Redskins again look to address that area of their front seven with one of the more intriguing prospects of this draft class. Jalen Reeves-Maybin likely would’ve been a Day 2 selection prior to his final year at Tennessee, but he returned and dealt with an injury plagued season.
When healthy, though, Reeves-Maybin is tremendously versatile with the ability to generate a pass rush both on the edge and up the middle in addition to being a sure tackler and athletic enough to make plays when dropping back into coverage. He’s not elite in any of these areas and will need to medically test well while also bulking up in the NFL. With that said, his potential makes this a possible steal for Washington.
Dec 30, 2016; Nashville , TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) warms up prior to the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, Kirk Cousins is going to be around for the 2017 season by all accounts. He’s been slapped with the exclusive franchise tag and would likely play under that if he and Washington’s front office aren’t able to come to terms on a long-term contract. Even then, the Redskins have to look for upside behind Cousins and Joshua Dobbs out of Tennessee is booming with upside.
Dobbs’ best attributes as a quarterback are indubitably what his athleticism provides. He can take off and make big plays with his legs, while also using the same traits to buy time while dropping back to pass. He’s a project, though, as NFL teams will need him to develop his mechanics and attributes as a passer before he’s ready to take the field. As a flyer, though, Dobbs makes sense here.
Round 7, Pick 17: Cameron Tom, C – Southern Miss
Without question, the Redskins need to at least address depth on the interior of their offensive line beyond taking Isidora in the fifth round. Though the hope would be that he won’t have to play in the 2017 NFL season, they get a high-upside prospect at center in the form of Cameron Tom out of Southern Miss.
Though he’s not exceptionally big or even exceptionally technical, he was effective in the college ranks. The best course of action would surely be to put him lower on the depth chart and let him learn for a few years behind a veteran that Washington could bring in via free agency. Eventually, he could wind up being a late-round flyer that pays dividends for the Redskins.