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Grading the Redskins' 2016 draft

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Grading the Redskins' 2016 draft

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 second draft with the team. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—C+

Scot McCloughan let the world know that he wanted to increase the number of picks he had to work with. He did not succeed in doing so. The Redskins went into the draft with eight picks and they ended up selecting seven players. He did get three additional picks for 2017 so there is a plus there. But McCloughan said he wanted “more swings” and he didn’t get them.

It appears that they were on the verge of swinging a significant deal in the first round. There really isn’t any other reason why they would take a 2017 6th-round pick from the Texans to move back one spot except to buy some time to try to complete a trade back. But there was no deal and the Redskins had to move on and pick Josh Doctson. I don’t think they’ll regret getting a receiver like Doctson but they didn’t get the additional picks they were looking for.

How the Redskins fared in that deal on the Jimmy Johnson draft trade chart is difficult to judge. By moving from 21st overall to 22nd the Redskins lost 20 points in chart value. Since picks for the next year are generally discounted by a round the 2017 sixth was only worth about 8 points, depending on how the Texans do next year. But since they accomplished what they wanted to and got a player they wanted anyway it’s hard to fret the dozen or so points they lost in the deal.

Let’s look at the other deals on the chart, for what it’s worth. On Saturday, the Redskins traded their fourth-round pick (No. 120 overall) to the New Orleans Saints for New Orleans’ fifth-round pick (No. 152 overall) and a 2017 fifth-round pick. The Redskins’ fourth is worth 54 points and the Saints’ fifth-rounder has a value of 31. That’s a difference of 23 points. That’s about the value of a mid sixth-round pick so again “deducting” a round because it’s a 2017 pick that’s an even swap. So was the Redskins deal with the jets where they sent their fifth-round pick (No. 158 overall) to the New York Jets for a 2017 fourth-round pick.

So the Saturday trades were reasonable deals if McCloughan wasn’t particularly happy the players on his draft board. But he still didn’t achieve his stated goal of adding to his stockpile of picks so the Redskins get a C+ in terms of strategy.

Talent/fit—A

It think that it’s safe to say that just about all of the players they got fit what they are looking for in at some respect.

—They want players to have had to work for what they got. Josh Doctson came to TCU as a walk on and left holding most of the team receiving records. RB Keith Marshall was highly recruited but at Georgia, injuries and players like Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb limited his playing time. But he kept at it, stayed at Georgia, and got himself a chance to keep playing football by being drafted.

—They wanted versatility and Su’a Cravens almost defines that. He’ll play linebacker strong safety, cover backs and tight ends, make tackles and contribute on special teams. Matt Ioannidis could play anywhere along the defensive line, including nose tackle if he can bulk up from his current 299 pounds.

—Toughness was a major theme, with Gruden particularly citing Ioannidis, Cravens and inside linebacker Steven Daniels.

—Other intangibles such as love of football, hustling and not taking plays off, and leadership keep popping up while reviewing the various pre-draft scouting reports on the players the Redskins drafted.

When you can stick to your plan and get seven players who have the traits you’re looking for to one degree or another, that’s a pretty good draft.

Overall—B+

If you haven’t figured it out after two drafts I don’t know if you can be helped. Scot McCloughan doesn’t care what you think, what I think, what Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock or any other draft analyst thinks, or what anyone else thinks. He is going to do things his way.

Immediate needs are not on his to-do list when he approaches the draft. Even though most viewed someone who can play nose tackle as their most pressing issue, he didn’t take a defensive lineman in the first round. Or in the second, third, or fourth rounds. The defensive lineman he took in the fifth may or may not play nose tackle.

It’s more important to him to get a good player who fits what they do not just in terms of scheme but also in terms of the culture the organization is trying to build than it is to plug a hole with a player who doesn’t really fit. If you make a habit out of that you will find yourself shopping for another player to fill that hole a couple of years later.

Again, if you haven’t figured this out by now you possibly never will and you’ll probably be perpetually disappointed in the Redskins’ drafts for as long as he’s here.

I could have gone with an A as the overall grade if McCloughan had not stated multiple times that he wanted to get more picks this year. He didn’t get them so I had to go with the B+.

The Redskins seem to be a better team today than they were last year and they could be much better in 2017 if this draft class and the group that McCloughan drafted last year start hitting their strides.

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 19, 23 days before NFL free agency starts.

Monday musings

—One possible solution to the left guard spot is perhaps being overlooked. Ty Nsekhe played there some last year, starting the game in Dallas and playing there until Morgan Moses got injured, forcing him to move to right tackle. Nsekhe is slated to be a restricted free agent but his return is likely. In December I asked Jay Gruden if Nsekhe might move to guard in 2018. “I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back,” he said. “Feature him some” doesn’t mean that they will make him a starter; perhaps they want him to be the top option to fill in at four of the five OL positions. But it’s something to keep an eye on if they don’t land a left guard solution in free agency or the draft.

—When I posted about Albert Breer’s report that Kirk Cousins would file a grievance if the Redskins put the franchise tag on him in an effort to trade him, I pulled up a copy of the CBA to see the language on which Cousins could base his case. I read through the Article 10, which deals with the franchise tag twice and I saw nothing of it. But Mike Florio found it in Article 4, the one that deals with player contracts. “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Since the Redskins clearly have no intention of employing Cousins after the Alex Smith trade, this seems to be a fairly simple case. In reality, it never is.

—I tweeted this last week:

However, possible cap casualties from other teams are not included in that group. That won’t turn the pool of players who will become available to sign into a bunch of potential franchise changers. Still, there could be a number of players in whom the Redskins could be interested in like RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith, edge rusher Elvis Dumervil, and DL Brandon Mebane. A plus to signing players who have been waived is that they don’t count in the formula that determines compensatory draft picks. The Redskins have never really paid attention to that in the past but with potential high comp picks at stake if they lose both Kirk Cousins and Bashaud Breeland, this could be a good year to start.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 10
—NFL Draft (4/26) 66
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 202

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.