BY PETER HAILEY
When Leonard Hankerson was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Redskins fans thought they had a real steal on their hands.
The 6'2" receiver was coming off a huge season at the University of Miami, could run a 4.4 40-yard dash, and looked like he would finally be the big, red-zone threat the team has seemingly lacked for years. Things didn't exactly work out, however.
His rookie year was cut short by a torn labrum, his sophomore season was just decent, his third year was ended after a torn ACL, and he didn't record a reception last season. There's no denying that "Hank" showed the occasional flash of talent while in the nation's capital, but his stint with the Redskins was mostly marred by dropped passes and injuries.
Thanks to Hank's lack of production, the Redskins decided to part ways with this offseason. Now, the 26-year-old is in Atlanta, where he reunites with former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and looks for a second chance to develop into a successful NFL wide receiver. And by the sound of things, his tenure with the Falcons is off to a pretty good start.
In his position preview for the team's wideouts, ESPN's Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure says that Hankerson is actually pushing team legend Roddy White for the starting job across from stud pass catcher Julio Jones.
"Opposite Jones, the coaches really like newcomer Hankerson based on his strong offseason," McClure says. "Hankerson played in Shanahan's system while in Washington and appears to be healthy coming off a gruesome left knee injury in 2013."
McClure goes on to say that Hankerson's performance in minicamps doesn't mean the end for White, but it definitely puts some pressure on the ten-year pro.
"But Hankerson's emergence doesn't necessarily move White aside," he says. "It simply means the veteran White has to have a strong training camp and show the left knee injury that has plagued him won't be a lingering issue."
Coming across this note must be pretty puzzling for Burgundy and Gold fans. Over his four years in D.C., Hankerson put together a stat line that top receivers can equal in a single season: 81 grabs for 1,081 and six touchdowns. But maybe the change of scenery and reunion with Shanahan will help things add up for him.
If that happens, it would certainly be good news for Falcons fans. Redskins fans, meanwhile, will again be left thinking what might have been.