Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we have to dig in a little more to come up with a grade for Scot McCloughan’s first draft with the team. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.
McCloughan’s quest to increase his stockpile of draft picks from seven to at least 10 did not get off to a good start during the first round. They were on the clock with Leonard Williams, thought by some to be the best player in the draft, on the board. It seemed like they would have been able to move back a few spots, pick up a mid-round pick, and still get Brandon Scherff, the top player on their board. At the very least they could have waited for the clock to run down closer to 0:00 to exhaust all possibilities rather than turning in the card with about three minutes left on the clock.
Since they ended up keeping the fifth overall pick, you can also debate the wisdom of spending that on a player who is going to play right tackle or guard. A team can generally find players who can do a good job filling those low-impact positions later in the draft.
I’ll ding the grade a little bit for value but we really don’t know at this point. If Scherff turns out to be a very good right tackle who holds the job for the next eight years or so or a Pro Bowl-caliber guard, the value for the pick will be there. If his career turns out to be something less and if Williams lights things up with the Jets, the pick may go down as a mistake.
McCloughan got the deal that he was looking for during the third round on Friday. He traded back with the Seahawks, going all the way from the 69th overall pick to the 95th. Seattle shipped picks they had in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds in exchange for moving up. The deal was close to even on the traditional Jimmy Johnson draft trade chart and a steal for the Redskins on the Football Perspective chart, which uses the Approximate Value of players selected in those draft slots to value the picks.
After making a solid deal, however, it looks like they reached with the pick they got from Seattle. Running back Matt Jones may well have been available later in the draft, perhaps much later. Perhaps they could have taken massive guard Daryl Williams of Oklahoma or 6-2 safety James Sample with that third-round pick and then they could have grabbed Jones later on Saturday.
McCloughan pulled off one more deal before it was over, sending fifth-round pick they got in the Seahawks trade to the Saints, who gave up their sixth rounders in this draft and in the 2016 draft. Assuming they didn’t lose anyone they really wanted to have between that fifth-round pick and their first pick in the sixth, this is a decent if not highly significant deal.
Most of the “needs” boxes were checked with the exception of a few. Although Jones can pass block and may have been underutilized as a pass catcher out of the backfield at Florida, he isn’t the model third-down back. They entered the draft without a succession plan at free safety behind Dashon Goldson, who turns 31 early in the season and they left it still lacking one. While we are waiting to see if Jordan Reed can stay healthy for a season, some tight end depth may have been helpful.
However, it is important to note that this was not a good draft at the safety and tight end positions. It’s better to bypass the position altogether than it is to take a player who isn’t a fit just to check off the box.
What was clear is that McCloughan went into the draft looking for a specific type of player—big and mean—and he found a bunch of them. In particular the top three picks, Scherff, edge defender Preston Smith, and Jones, are all large and they play with an edge.
The draft picks weren’t all behemoths. Notably they took 5-8 wide receiver Jamison Crowder and 5-10 safety Kysheon Jarrett. But those two players were taken with special teams in mind. Crowder is likely to return punts Week 1 and could bring back kickoffs as well and Jarrett will be expected to jump right in on coverage teams. The two could contribute little from scrimmage and still be very valuable additions.
Given the struggles that the Washington special teams have had over the last couple of years, the attention paid to them represented a solid positive.
This was a very professional draft by McCloughan, who did what he was hired to do. They went in with a solid plan and, for the most part, they executed it.
The keys to this draft in the long run are Scherff, as noted above, Smith, and the later-round picks. They will be relying on Smith to do a lot of different things on defense. If he does them well, he could be a steal, the edge player that many expected them to take at the top of the draft. If he struggles, the pass rush will likely continue to be mediocre and a secondary that is still shaky will be exposed.
And as with any draft, it’s important to get contributions from the later rounds. If Jarrett and Evan Spencer become special teams aces, if Arie Kouandjio can be a solid backup and spot starter, and if someone picked on Saturday emerges as a solid starter, the draft could be a solid success.
One other factor that could make this draft better is subsequent drafts. Assuming that McCloughan is around for many more drafts to come, the Redskins will stick to the same draft principles. McCloughan has his philosophy that it’s a big man’s game and while smaller players won’t be excluded completely, the move to get bigger, tougher, and meaner won’t be tossed aside for the next draft. The quest for big guys won’t be a short-term fad; they won’t be looking for fast, athletic types in a year or two. Consistency is a key to building a team; the Redskins are likely to have that now, for a change.