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Redskins 2016 draft possibilities: Robinson, Butler or Billings?


Redskins 2016 draft possibilities: Robinson, Butler or Billings?

With the busy portion of the free agent signing period over, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2016 NFL Draft and, specifically, holes Redskins GM Scot McCloughan still must fill. (And, yes, there are many.) Over the next few weeks, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will examine prospects that could be a fit in Washington.  

Up today…

Defensive line

Depth chart: Chris Baker, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean-Francois, Kendall Reyes, Kedric Golston, Ziggy Hood plus camp hopefuls Jerrell Powe, Corey Crawford, James Gayle, Christo Bilukidi, Anthony Johnson and Kamal Johnson.

Current situation: With defensive end Jason Hatcher retiring and nose tackle Terrance Knighton departing via free agency, the Redskins must fill two starting spots up front.

Baker returns and figures to be one of the two starters at end. At the other spot, they’ve got a strong in-house candidate to replace Hatcher in Paea, who’s aiming to establish himself after a so-so first season in Washington that was cut short by a toe injury. Paea's being paid like a starter, and I expect him to seize that job.

Assuming Baker and Paea are the starters at end, I’d expect Jean-Francois and Reyes to get significant snaps in the rotation. Hood could be in the mix, as well, and there's also been talk of transitioning outside linebacker Trent Murphy to end.

But who’s going to replace Knighton? Could it be Golston? That’s what Coach Jay Gruden hinted at the NFL owners meetings when he said of the Redskins' longest tenured player: “He’s a 12-to-15 play [per] game kind of guy. And when you’re in the base defense, really you’re looking at about 20-percent of the time nowadays, is all you are. So Kedric can do that.” Gruden also indicated that Baker and Jean-Francois are versatile enough to get some snaps at nose, as well.

Okay, but what about a year or two down the road? Both at end and nose tackle? Areas that aren’t a pressing need now can quickly become one in the NFL.

Here’s what we do know for sure as the draft approaches: this year’s class is deep with D-line talent and because of that, it would make a lot of sense for General Manager Scot McCloughan to bolster the unit early and perhaps late, too. 

Three prospect possibilities:

  • A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

A powerful, well-proportioned run stopper, Robinson (6 foot 4, 307-pounds) is position flexible and productive, having amassed 133 tackles, including 22 for loss, to go along with nine sacks in three seasons. Has work to do as a pass rusher, though. Tide teammate Jarran Reed could be on Washington’s radar as well. Redskins officials reportedly met with both at the Scouting Combine. Robinson and Reed are projected as first rounders.  

  • Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

Butler (6 foot 4, 323-pounds) as described by “Athletic interior lineman with long arms and outstanding athleticism that allows him to work on offensive linemen with a combination of power and quickness.” Yep. Sounds like the type of player the Redskins need to target early. Totaled 50 tackles, including 10 for loss, and three sacks as a senior. Butler is projected as a top-64 pick.  

  • Andrew Billings, Baylor

Listed at 6 foot 1, 311-pounds, Billings is an accomplished powerlifter who might be the strongest prospect in this year’s class. Says "Billings has a chance to become something we rarely see—a playmaking nose tackle with the ability to dominate the point of attack.” Produced 39 tackles, including 14 for loss, to go along with 5.5 sacks last season. Another projected top-64 pick.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency


In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."


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Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

The Redskins aren’t in the quarterback business, so it’s highly unlikely that they will look to trade up in the first round of the draft on Thursday. But their phones will be open for business to move down. 

Speaking at the team’s pre-draft press conference, Doug Williams didn’t rule out trading up from the team’s first-round spot at 13thoverall but he doesn’t think it’s likely. 

“The chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” he said. 

Williams said that the phones in the room will be ringing and that they will listen to any offers. But usually the team that wants to move up initiates the call and because the Redskins are set at one particular position they probably won’t pick up the phone. 

“If we were in the quarterback business, which is what this league is about, if we were in the heavy quarterback business we’d talk about moving up,” he said. “At this time, we can sit back and see what comes up if we stay at 13.”

The Redskins are set at quarterback after they traded their third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller for veteran Alex Smith to replace the departed Kirk Cousins. Williams thinks that the Redskins already got good value from the pick. 

“When I think about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft,” he said. “I don't care what nobody says. You can't get a better third-round pick.”

Because they think they got a good player, albeit an older one, with that pick, the Redskins are not necessarily looking to make a deal to move back and recoup that pick on draft day. 

Williams emphasized that in order to move back, you have to have a team that wants to trade up. Often that is easier said than done. 

“They don’t just call you to ask you, they have to get a player that they want,” said Williams. “At that particular time, they’re afraid that somebody else might pick him. They might call you to ask you if you want to move back . . . If we move back, that’s because somebody called us to see if we want to move back.”

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