Redskins

Redskins

The best player in the Redskins draft came with the organization's second pick. That's no knock on the first pick, but it shows the strategic balance Washington attempted to deploy in the 2019 NFL Draft.

After two straight seasons with a 7-9 record and no playoff appearances since 2015, the Redskins organization stood at a crossroads.

Was it time to rebuild? Maybe. Were there still enough pieces to try and win now? Maybe. 

Trying to thread that needle - rebuilding on the fly - comes with exceeding risk. Usually, teams do more damage attempting to patch holes rather than starting over.

But after three days of drafting, 10 new players heading to Washington, all with strong track records of success and almost all from major college programs, there's some optimism the Redskins pulled off that exact feat. The results won't be known for a few years, but Kyle Smith's draft board delivered a healthy dose of prospects at the most important positions on the field. 

For years, the Redskins refused to build depth on the interior of their offensive line. This year they did the opposite, adding two guards in the middle rounds in Wes Martin and Ross Pierschbacher.

A week ago, Jay Gruden's team had one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL. Now, with the addition of speedster Terry McLaurin and physical Kelvin Harmon, that group looks much different. There's no guarantee the two rookies will help right away, but there are plenty of reasons to think they can.

 

Speed, too, has been a problem in Washington, both on offense and defense. 

Well, the 'Skins just landed elite positional speed at linebacker by adding Cole Holcomb, on the defensive line by adding Montez Sweat, receiver with McLaurin, and if fourth-round running back Bryce Love can return all the way from a knee injury, he injects serious flash to the backfield.

Not every report will be glowing from the Redskins draft. The team did not add a safety or a tight end, something that was a reasonable expectation going into the action in Nashville. Holes do remain on the roster, just like they do for every NFL team.

But all of their picks, even seventh-rounders Jimmy Moreland and Jordan Brailford seem to have a realistic chance at making the 53-man roster.

Brailford led the Big 12 in sacks last season at Oklahoma State, and Moreland was a big play machine at FCS-level James Madison. During his career at JMU, Bradford set a school record with 18 interceptions, six of which he ran back for touchdowns. And despite standing just 5-foot-10, Moreland blocked six kicks in college. What's not to like about those guys in the seventh round?

Ultimately, though, this draft will be judged by the two first-round picks. 

In Dwayne Haskins, the 15th overall pick and the Redskins first selection, a new franchise quarterback has arrived. The former Ohio State Buckeye has immense potential and prototype size. After last November's horrific injury to Alex Smith, Washington had a huge hole in their long-term plans at quarterback. By drafting Haskins, that hole is plugged.

Still, fans need to remind themselves this is a rookie quarterback. Very rarely do rookie QBs guide their teams to winning records, let alone playoff spots. Haskins has all the talent needed to play the position, but going from college football to the NFL is a tremendous transition. 

With Bruce Allen at the helm, the Redskins front office showed intelligence and restraint by not trading up in the draft to get Haskins. Allen and the entire organization deserve credit. The first 14 picks fell perfectly for the team to get their quarterback without using additional draft capital to move up, which would have been a major mistake. 

Now, the Redskins would be wise to show the same intelligence and restraint and not force Haskins into a starting role. 

If the 21-year-old earns the job in training camp and preseason action, then, of course, he should start. That could happen.

Gruden declared that Haskins will get the opportunity to compete for the QB1 role, alongside veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. That's the right move. Let all three quarterbacks compete.

 

The wrong move, however, will be pushing Haskins ahead of the veterans just because he's the first-round pick and the new face of the franchise. Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick last season, did not start right away in Cleveland. Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, did not start until Week 17 as a rookie. 

Patience paid off for the Redskins in getting Haskins with the 15th overall pick. That plan should remain in operation.

Conversely, the Redskins need to get Montez Sweat on the field as soon as and as much as possible. Unlike Haskins, Washington did trade up in the first round to get Sweat, and the franchise has been lauded for the move.

The 26th overall pick, Sweat projects as an immediate impact player that can make the Redskins defense better right away. His speed off the edge, power, athleticism and long frame, paired with a stout defensive line and opposite veteran Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan, could all work together to give Greg Manusky's defense one of the best fronts in football. 

Let Sweat sweat. Let Haskins learn.

The Redskins deserve applause for a draft class that looks to have balanced need with talent, strength with speed, and solved their quarterback riddle. The team showed patience when they needed to and got aggressive in the right moments too. 

Now, the team needs to show that same blend of patience and aggression to get the most out of the most important players, and the best for the franchise. In 2019, and beyond. 

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