Quick Links

Redskins draft countdown: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

Redskins draft countdown: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 17 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

Christian McCaffrey

Running back

Height: 5-11
Weight: 202
40-yard dash: 4.48

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Smooth, controlled stride length with choppy feet for instant cuts and change of direction. Plus vision with above average anticipatory feel for opening creases. Hugs contours of the running lane and staggers and stutters his feet to maneuver in tight quarters. Protects football while running through traffic. Reads keys quickly on stretch plays.

Lance Zierlein,

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have given their defense a boost in free agency with some free agent acquisitions and the move of Su’a Cravens to safety. The offense, however, was hit by the free agency losses of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. They could make up for some of the lost production with the addition of a back like McCaffrey.

Rob Kelley can get you 1,000 yards on the ground but that may be his ceiling. He can be effective but not one of the centerpieces of an NFL offense. With his speed and elusiveness, McCaffrey can. And if Kirk Cousins is going to be gone in a year—and despite what many fans want to believe that seems to be more of a probability than a possibility—the Redskins will need to have someone to feature offensively.

His versatility is key. He’s not going to be able to carry 25 times a game consistently but nobody does these days. Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in carries with 20 per game. An average of 16 carries per game gets a player in the top 10 in rushing attempts. So while there may be concern that McCaffrey can’t be a workhorse back, there is really is no such animal in the modern NFL.

Film review (2016 unless indicated): vs. USC, vs. Arizona

McCaffrey fumbled just three times in his three college seasons and one of them came early in this game against USC. It was a careless type of fumble as he didn’t have the ball secured as he was going to the ground. Later in the first half he made a nice stutter step to get wide open but the quarterback overthrew him.

McCaffrey was effective lined up next to the quarterback in the shotgun and in the I-formation and as a single back with the QB behind center. A few times he took a direct shotgun snap and gained yardage. He can find running room between the tackles as well as outside. In one goal to go series against Southern Cal he ran three straight times out of a four-point stance and pounded in for the touchdown on fourth and one. McCaffrey can play like a small back when the situation calls for it but he can be just as effective as a bigger back when needed.

McCaffrey is a matchup nightmare against a linebacker trying to cover him coming out of the backfield. He just needs a step and he turn a short catch into an explosive play.

His outside runs are nice but his runs between the tackles, as he reads his blocks and pick his way through traffic, are the most fun to watch. He is able to break tackles not because he powers through them but because the defenders rarely get a clean shot at him.

McCaffrey isn’t asked to pass protect much and he has a tendency to dive at the pass rushers legs. He’ll need some coaching up in the NFL.

Potential issues: There must be some concern about his size even though he was pretty durable in college, missing only a few games besides the bowl game he famously decided to sit out. It’s one thing lasting at 5-11, 202 in college; he will be pounded more in the NFL.

And he has already taken some pounding. In the last two years he has 590 rushing attempts and 82 receptions. That’s a lot of punishment and it would be a concern even with a larger back.

Then there is the question of if running back would be the best use of the Redskins’ No. 17 pick. While they have upgraded the defense, they could always use more help there. And even though Jay Gruden has said that he loves Rob Kelley if they do want to upgrade there will be plenty of quality backs available later in the draft.

Bottom line: Bruce Allen has said that the Redskins will take the player on the board who has the best grade. It’s quite possible that there won’t be a defensive lineman, inside linebacker, or even a guard on the board with a better grade than McCaffrey. For that matter, it’s not a given that McCaffrey will be there.

But if he is, he might be too good to pass up. The defense might have plenty of time to rest up if McCaffrey is added to what could be a potent passing attack.

In his own words:

When asked about his position flexibility:

Something I really pride myself on is not just being a running back that can catch the ball but if I move out to the slot, I become a receiver. If I move out to X or Z, I become a receiver and not just a running back. I really try to pride myself on route running, catching and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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


Quick Links

Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

Quick Links

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins draft countdown

Da’Ron Payne

Defensive tackle

Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.

He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 311
40-yard dash: 4.95

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run.

Lance Zierlein,

How he fits the Redskins: This just in—the Redskins need a nose tackle. Of course, if you’re reading this you know that, and you’ve known it has been the case ever since the Redskins went to the 3-4 defense in 2010.

In very closely related news, they need to play better against the run, too. You probably noticed that they were dead last in the league in rushing defense last year. And that the NFC East has two very strong rushing teams in the Eagles and Cowboys and a Giants team that could well take Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft. If they don’t fix their rushing defense they could literally get run over.

Payne could help them a lot. He can take on double and triple teams and clog up running lanes in the middle. If they try to go around him, he has the quickness to penetrate and disrupt outside runs.

And a defensive lineman taken in the top half of the first round should be able to provide some pass rush pressure. As noted by Zierlein, Payne has the potential to do that. He’ll never be a double-digit sack guy, but if he can kick in four to six per year and get some pressure up the middle, that would be fine.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs Georgia (national title game)

Like most players, Payne can’t get much in the way of a pass rush when he is double and triple teamed. But when they tried to block him one on one he consistently got pressure. Payne didn’t get many sacks, but he did make a difference. Against Georgia, one pressure resulted in an interception and another forced a third-down incompletion.

Payne is very difficult to move off the spot in the running game, even when the offense tries to do it with two or even three players. Running backs did not get by him on a regular basis. In the second half in particular, Georgia tried to move the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are likely to get selected in the top 100 in the draft next month. But they kept running into a mass of humanity in the middle of the line with Payne in the middle of it.

He played well during the Tennessee game during the regular season, but he didn’t have a lot of impact. The only time his name was called was when he was hit with a roughing the passer call.

Potential issues: At 311 pounds, Payne may not be the ideal size to fill the chronic hole at nose tackle. It should be noted, however, that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said that the Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for the 350-pound nose tackle and that a relatively smaller player can get the job done. Ziggy Hood played the nose at 305 pounds last year. The Redskins finished last against the run, although that’s not necessarily cause and effect.

Bottom line: The Redskins went 20 years without taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round before taking Jonathan Allen last year. Nobody could legitimately complain if they doubled up on first-round D-linemen after so many years of neglect.

Payne should be there when the 13th pick goes on the clock. Unless the Redskins address the nose tackle spot in free agency Payne will be under strong consideration. The defensive line improved last year with the additions of Allen in the draft, Stacy McGee as a free agent and the second-year emergence of Matt Ioannidis. Payne could be the final piece of what could be a dominant defensive line.

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