I don’t know about you, but I came away very pleased by Washington’s draft this past weekend. The team managed to make the right decision on Day 1, pick up an intriguing playmaker on Day 2 and fill out the roster with a variety of interesting talents that both provided need and versatility on both sides of the ball.
I think Ron Rivera and Kyle Smith did a fine job in their first draft together, and what I loved the most out of this virtual draft experience was just how open both of them were throughout the entire process. It never felt like there was a disconnect on either side, and what we ended up seeing was two guys work together to bring players onto the roster that could contribute in some way almost immediately. Needless to say, if you weren’t already excited about this new beginning in Washington, then you will be now.
So today we will be taking a look at every pick of the team’s draft, seeing where these guys fit, how they might contribute and what I think of the pick overall. I won’t get into undrafted free agents just yet as we’ll save that for another day once those signing start to pile up.
First Round (2nd overall): EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
Player breakdown: A six-foot-five, 264-pound edge rusher from Hyattsville, Maryland, Chase Young was the cream of the crop in this year’s draft class after two consecutive seasons of dominant production at Ohio State. Though he had a strong sophomore campaign with 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 13 games, he exploded onto the scene this past season, erupting for 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss in just 12 games (he missed two games due to a suspension). For his efforts, he took home the Chuck Bednarik, Ted Hendricks and Bronko Nagurski Awards as the top defender or defensive lineman in the country. For lack of a better term, Young was simply unstoppable in college against some of the best competition in the country.
Young blends elite athleticism and size with an incredible variety of moves to get to the quarterback. He’s a disciplined rusher with the power to bull-rush and the speed to get to the outside. The way teams specifically went out their way just to focus on Young shows the kind of impact he left in college, and I have no doubt that he’ll receive the same kind of attention at the next level. The most prevalent comparison during the draft process has been Julius Peppers, and if the team could get that kind of production out of him, then it was definitely worth the No. 2 pick.
How he fits: With the team shifting to a base 4-3 defense now that Jack Del Rio is the defensive coordinator, Young will continue to be a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end like he was at Ohio State. Personally, I think he works better in the 4-3 than as a standup edge rusher in the 3-4, though with a talent like Young, I’m not sure it matters all that much. Young acts as the final piece to the puzzle for a defensive line that now has four first-round picks from the last four drafts. Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Montez Sweat have all looked to be solid selections by the Redskins, and will most definitely benefit from a guy like Young entering the fold.
Add in standouts like Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan and we have what looks to be one of the most dynamic front sevens in the league. It’ll be so hard for teams to specifically focus on any one of these guys, that someone can dominate at any given time. I don’t think this team has had a defensive line of this caliber since Gregg Williams’ run as defensive coordinator, and it’s hard not to be excited by this move. Though the secondary still isn’t exactly great, having a group like this rushing the passer only makes their lives easier. This pick just helps in so many ways. The Redskins absolutely made the right pick here, and I would expect it to pay immediate dividends.
Third Round (66th overall): WR/RB Antonio Gibson, Memphis
Player breakdown: After being a JUCO standout at East Central Community College, Antonio Gibson transferred to Memphis, were he played two seasons. His last season was what put scouts on notice though, as he became a dynamic scoring threat as both a rusher and a receiver. While playing mostly as a wide receiver, Gibson also found time in the backfield as a running back and had experience fielding kicks.
No matter where he was, he still flourished getting to the end zone, scoring 13 times on 94 touches last season; he earned second-team All-American Athletic Conference honors as a wideout as well as AAC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year. Gibson further boosted his stock at the NFL Combine, where he showcased his straight-line speed with a 4.39 40-time, the eighth-fastest time of all combine participants.
How he fits: It’s hard to say where he fits at this point, but I can’t imagine Scott Turner intends to force Gibson into one specific role. When asked what he think his role will be on the offense, Gibson just flat-out said “a weapon,” and I think that is probably the best description I could ever come up with. It’s clear this team views Gibson as a Christian McCaffrey sort of threat that can be moved around all over the field, and I think Rivera wouldn’t have gotten him if he didn’t think Turner had a plan on how to use him effectively.
If I had to pick a position he would be the best in, it would probably be at running back based on his six-foot size, but he was far more productive as a slot receiver last year with 38 catches for 735 yards and eight touchdowns compared to 33 carries for 369 yards and four rushing touchdowns.
But that brings up an important question about this running back group. We now have six guys competing for playing time if we add in Gibson. So who’s the odd man out? I assume Peyton Barber and Bryce Love (as much as I like Love) will need to impress the most to stay on the roster, but it does help that they are allowing teams to keep 55 active players on the roster starting this year. Regardless, I like the dedication to giving Dwayne Haskins weapons on offense. J.D. McKissic, Love and Gibson are all dynamic speedsters with a chance to score off every touch. Gibson; however, might be the most explosive of the bunch. Expect him on the field a lot early in his career.
Fourth Round (108th overall): OT Saahdiq Charles, LSU
Player breakdown: A three-year starter at LSU, Saahdiq Charles perhaps wouldn’t have fallen this far in the draft had it not been for the off-the-field troubles that kept him from playing six of LSU’s games this season. Despite the suspension, Charles still started nine games at left tackle and was a key cog in the unit’s success en route to the national title. Charles also missed three games in his sophomore season, though that was due to an injury. He did play in every game of his freshman season, starting nine of those games at three different positions across the line.
Charles was probably a second or third-round prospect for most draft analysts thanks to his quick feet and high-grade athleticism. He may be a bit undersized as a left tackle, but he’s got the discipline at the position you want despite a few bad tendencies. He’ll need to add some more weight if he wants to handle NFL-level pass-rushers, but the skillset and potential is there for him to be a quality starter.
How he fits: Getting a replacement for Trent Williams was a must for this offseason, and I think the team has done well in providing some options for a good competition. I still think Cornelius Lucas is the favorite to start this season assuming the team doesn’t make any more moves, though Charles has a pretty good chance to start right away. The team also has former third-round pick Geron Christian, but he has struggled mightily in preseason performances and the regular season appearances he’s made. Charles certainly has loads of potential, and will probably start for this team sooner rather than later, but I still think the team would be best suited going with Lucas, who started eight games in Chicago last season with a good degree of success, but there’s nothing wrong with having a high upside prospect entering the competition as well. I think the value here in the fourth round was excellent though.