Football Team

Who could be WFT's next McLaurin or Gibson in 2021 NFL Draft?

Football Team

In the movie industry, blockbusters are the ones with big names, big hype and a lot of excitement surrounding them.

While those films can be successful, there are other, lesser-known works that end up being hits and cleaning up at award shows. Marvel movies have all the advertising, make a lot of money from packed houses, but then a film like Parasite comes out of nowhere to win Best Picture. 

Movies are a great metaphor for the NFL Draft. The quarterbacks are the blockbusters, with all the hype and first-round projections revolving around them. It takes up much of the conversation in the months before the draft.

In 2021, many believe the Washington Football Team will opt for the blockbuster even if the team wins the NFC East with an ugly record. The futures of Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are very unclear. But maybe an indie, art house pick could make the difference instead. 

In the past two drafts, Washington has had great success -- especially offensively -- with picks outside the first round. Both Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson were third-round selections who did not garner much attention prior to the draft. Yet in 2020, they've established themselves as two of the best offensive pieces for the Burgundy and Gold. McLaurin is one of the best receivers in football, and Gibson is making a case for rookie of the year.

Those two, and plenty of other players over the years, have demonstrated that the best selections aren't just made in the first round. 

 

So yes, a quarterback could go early to Washington. Or, the likes of Ja'Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts would be exceptional additions for the unit. But, the first round isn't the only way for Washington's offense to improve.

Here's a look at some non-QB options that could once again give Washington great value.

Najee Harris - RB (Alabama)

The Crimson Tide has produced plenty of NFL running backs over the years, and Harris appears to be the next in line. He won't bring with him the accolades or first round talent that others have, but that doesn't mean he can't be serviceable.

At 6'2" and 230 pounds, Harris has the chance to create a bruising running style that is similar to what Derrick Henry does in Tennessee. In Washington, he could be the perfect change-of-pace back to pair with Gibson.

Typically Gibson's ability to run and catch would make him the versatile option that changes up the offense, but he's already proven that he deserves to be on the field as much as possible. What Washington could use in a bigger runner that helps wear down the defense over time and can be useful in short-yardage situations. The team has other pass-catching options like J.D. McKissic, but Harris could serve as a ground-and-pound back who compliments what Gibson brings to the field.

Chubba Hubbard - RB (Oklahoma State)

In Cleveland, the Browns have shown how dominant a two-headed rushing attack that features two all-around runners can be. It's something that Bryce Love could have helped Washington approach if it wasn't for injuries. And his 2020 season is now officially over. The team could try for it in 2021 with the Oklahoma State product.

An injury that has held Hubbard out for part of the 2020 campaign could lower his draft stock slightly, and some projections have him landing in the third round - that part of the draft that has become familiar for Washington. With speed a versatility, Hubbard and Gibson could become interchangeable in the backfield and give the team two formidable options at all times.

Hubbard needs to show improvement catching the ball, but the raw talent and explosiveness are there. If he's available late, Washington could have a two-headed monster of its own.

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Chris Olave - WR (Ohio State)

Any wide receiver coming out of Ohio State in the draft now gets an even closer look because of what McLaurin has done. Olave does have a chance to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Buckeye and it wouldn't hurt Washington to potentially nab him.

The junior is a polished route-runner with sure hands, something Washington can desperately use in the passing game across from McLaurin. In an elevated role as a junior, he's already shown he can handle a greater volume as he's scored four touchdowns in four games in 2020.

Emeka Emezie - WR (NC State)

Something Washington could use is a big receiver who can go up and get the ball and sometimes just overpower defenders. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Emezie could be just that.

 

More than anything, he's proven to be someone who can attack the football and make contested catches no matter how the coverage is draped on him. Both when trying to stretch the field and in the red zone, Emezie could become an option for whoever is under center that allows the QB to just throw the ball up and let him go get it.

Dazz Newsome - WR (North Carolina)

Washington is still searching for a dynamic option in the slot, and while Steven Sims can continue to develop, Newsome could come in and quickly find ways to improve that part of the passing game.

Newsome can work all portions of the field from the slot, and he won't just be a receiver that can work on crossing routes. He's shown time and time again that he has the speed to get behind the defense for a big play. Additionally, his agility makes him a threat to pick up yards after the catch. 

Even if Washington's offense is still more of a quick-passing attack than big plays down the field in 2020, Newsome could help create explosive plays from anywhere. Also, Dazz is just a very, very cool name. 

Brevin Jordan - TE (Miami)

Even with Logan Thomas begin a pleasant surprise, Washington could really use a game-changing tight end. It's clear that Kyle Pitts is far and above the best option in this draft, but he may not be available for the Burgundy and Gold.

Therefore, Jordan could be a mid-round selection who ends up paying dividends for Washington. The size isn't the same as Pitts (6-3 to 6-6), but Jordan can still create matchup problems for defenses. As someone that can work downfield, linebackers could have a tough time keeping up with the multi-dimensional tight end.

Jake Ferguson - TE (Wisconsin)

Ferguson adds more size than Jordan but is a tick less explosive. What he would bring to Washington is a guaranteed safety blanket for whoever is under center. In the middle of the field, he's become a reliable option who has the potential to make a few defenders miss. 

If anything, Wisconsin is great at developing gritty, football guys who make all the little plays and just find ways to get open. A team can never have enough of that.