With free agency in the rearview and the NFL Draft fast approaching, the NBC Sports Washington Redskins crew examines the entire roster, position by position group. Today: Wide receivers.
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon, Cody Latimer, Cam Sims, Trey Quinn, Darvin Kidsy, Jester Weah, Jordan Veasy, Emanuel Hall
2019 recap: It feels like the Redskins are close to having a quality group of receivers for quite some time. If that actually comes true, 2019 will be where that group got its start.
Terry McLaurin's emergence (maybe explosion is the better word) was the best story of Washington's season. The third rounder hardly played in training camp or the preseason, but even so, the coaching staff and his teammates remained confident he'd deliver when Week 1 arrived. Those on the outside grew skeptical — then quickly saw what those on the inside knew.
McLaurin caught a 70-yard score in the opener in Philadelphia and consistently starred from there. By the end of the year, he had nearly set a new franchise record for rookie receiving yards and showed he was far more than a speedy specialist. Now, ask any Burgundy and Gold supporter for a reason that they're hopeful about the future, and McLaurin will be one of their first answers after Ron Rivera.
Beyond him, two other first-year pros stepped up, especially late.
Undrafted Kansas product Steven Sims survived roster cuts and then slowly made his way into the lineup, which was about the only slow part of his campaign. The shifty wideout notched a rushing touchdown, a kickoff return for touchdown and four receiving touchdowns in 2019 and was open constantly in the final stretch of games. If he can become a little more reliable with his hands, he'll continue to ascend.
Then there's Kelvin Harmon, who finished with 30 catches. 22 of those grabs, though, came from Week 11 on. The sixth-round selection is also useful in the running game as an aggressive blocker on the outside. His ceiling may be that of a role player, but that role will still matter and he can become really valuable in it.
Now, for the negatives. Paul Richardson's second go-round with the Redskins was just as disappointing as his first, and now he's gone. Trey Quinn, meanwhile, couldn't even average eight yards per catch. He was eventually overtaken by Sims, a decision that should've been made sooner. Lastly, Cam Sims never got going after a nice training camp.
2020 potential: Some may have finished reading the above paragraphs and wondered how such positive words could be written about a crew that played on the NFL's worst-scoring offense, and that's fair.
However, it's important to remember the three guys who led off the recap — McLaurin, Sims and Harmon — were found on Day 2, on the free agent market and Day 3, respectively. They all outperformed expectations by quite a bit, hence the praise.
The question now becomes: Can they each do so again in 2020 under Rivera?
For McLaurin, that seems almost unfair to ask, but he can still develop more (and he'd be the first person to say so). For as well as he played, he only had three 100-yard outputs and his single-game high for catches was seven. Yes, the QBs and supporting cast didn't exactly shine with him, but still, No. 1 targets dominate more regularly than that.
When it comes to Sims, he must learn Scott Turner's system quickly — in 2019, he didn't see the field as much early because the staff didn't necessarily trust him — and reduce his drops. He's so fun to watch when the ball is in his hands, but too often, it ended up on the ground.
As for Harmon, his uptick in stats occured when Dwayne Haskins became starter. Those two have actually known each other longer than ex-Buckeyes Haskins and McLaurin have and they were very comfortable working together. Harmon's not as dynamic as McLaurin or Sims, but he's more physically imposing and can turn in to an effective possession option.
In free agency, Rivera opted to bring in just one receiver: Cody Latimer. The ex-Giant is coming off his best-ever season, yet that only adds up to 24 receptions for 300 yards. Harmon will likely have to battle with him some, while McLaurin and Sims shouldn't be too affected.
Even with that trio on the roster, the Redskins are still one more legit threat away from becoming scary. Remember: Washington went hard after Amari Cooper before changing up their free agency plans. The team clearly wants more firepower.
Fortunately, they're nearing a draft that's supposed to have lots of threats to choose from. Right now, the 2020 potential on the outside is promising, but if Rivera and the scouting staff can identify another hidden Day 2 or Day 3 difference maker like McLaurin, then this position will really be exciting.
Overall WR projection: The headline of this story sums up the overall projection well. Together, McLaurin, Sims and Harmon are capable of doing damage for years to come, especially if the first two keep growing. However, for the organization to really feel confident in their offense, the depth chart will need to look more like McLaurin, _______, Sims and Harmon. That missing piece must be picked up later on this week.
WR grade: To avoid being destroyed online for putting too much stock into three second-year wideouts, the group as a whole gets a B- instead of something higher. As long as the Redskins select another receiver (or more) by the end of the draft, though, that B- will become a B- with an up-arrow next to it. How's that for a grade?
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