Sunday, May 1, 2011

What We've Learned From the Redskins 2011 Draft

I'll have more stuff up today about the players drafted, the Skins future QB and some targets in free agency but let's quickly look at the Skins draft and see what we know about the team.

1. The Skins biggest need was in the defensive front seven. I think that could have been many Skin fans general assessment of the team in 2010. The line struggled to stop the run and had little pass rush (except for Brian Orakpo who had the sleeper hold put on him usually 2-3 times a game)

(Tampa LT or Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake ? You decide. Photo via DC Sports Bog via @chaztopher)
In a division that has three decent (sometimes excellent) passers in Manning, Romo and Vick and two of those three teams love to beat the Skins by running the ball down our perspective throats (Giants, Cowboys), the Skins have to have players that are going to be nasty. The Redskins need a front seven that will destroy the run and hit the QB every time he thinks about even throwing the ball. They started to address those issues by drafting 2 OLBs (Kerrigan, White) a 3-4 DE (Jenkins) and a NT (Neild).

2. The Skins QB for 2011 is/has been already on this team. I have to write has been because I think the 2011 QB on this team will be either Rex Grossman or John Beck. I'll be writing more on Beck soon because I think it'll likely be him as the starter at some point. Grossman will put points up but always tends to make a key INT or fumble. The roster could be worse at the position look at Arizona for an example. My early theory: Skins build the roster in 2011 with the 12 draft picks and then work on signing young OL and developing from within (see: Erik Cook, Selvish Capers, Clint Oldenburg etc.). In 2012's draft, I expect the Skins to target a franchise QB early and maybe trade up like the Jets did for Sanchez to get him.

3. Shanny is no Vinny. Mike Shanahan mentioned trading back to acquire more picks this season to fill multiple needs on the roster. When the Skins came up at #10, Blaine Gabbert was there for the picking. It would have been a classic (ie. Snyder tenure) move. Go with the top rookie QB on most boards. Give  the Skins fans a glimmer of future hope (our next "The future is Now!!!" QB like Jason Campbell was in '05), sell more tickets, sell more jerseys and give Mike Shanahan another 1-2 years of cushion from fans waiting for the QB to develop. Instead, Mike Shanahan made a shrewd move. He traded with Jacksonville, made them cough up a 2nd rounder (steep price IMO) and took a blue collar, high motor kid in Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan will be loved in DC if he pans out (Skins fans love the blue collar guys see The Hogs and Riggo) but he'll never be a splashy superstar in the football world that the Skins have drafted in previous years. Then, Shanahan uses that 2nd round pick to move back multiple times. That move got the Skins Leonard Hankerson and Roy Helu.

The thing to take out of this is that the Skins changed strategy. Shanahan was patient. He studied the board, moved back when he could to acquire picks and move up if he had a player he really liked. Then he went and tried to fill needs. While I was getting tired of seeing multiple WRs coming off the board, I at least knew that the Skins didn't blow all of their early picks on 1 position. I don't think we would have ever seen a draft like this from Cerrato. Even when it looked like Vinny was going to pull a draft like this off in 2008, he still found ways to screw it up (see 2nd round 2008, reached in 3rd and 4th rounds and drafted a punter in the 6th). Maybe things would have been different had Jake Locker been available at #10 or if Christian Ponder was there at #16 or Kaepernick at #41. We will never know. What I do know is that the Skins weren't the team this year reaching for a QB and went the safer route by skipping the one popular pick to get many players to help the team overall. I can't see that happening with the previous FO.

4. No RB is safe. When the Skins draft two RBs it's clear that the team felt they needed improvement at the position. It's true. Ryan Torain is a good back and was productive in 2010, but he can't stay healthy. The Skins need reliable backs that don't break down often. Keiland Williams improved throughout the season, but he's more of a blocker (has become a good pass blocker) and pass catching threat than RB. By adding two more RBs to the roster, it's going to force the current Skins to step up. A shaky depth position now has become deep with multiple RBs to compete at training camp.

5. No WR is safe either. Hankerson is a lock to make the team. I would guess Anthony Armstrong will as well. I would also guess that Santana Moss or a free agent veteran will be on the final 53 man roster. That leaves 2 draft picks, Terrence Austin, Brandon Banks, Malcolm Kelly and other WRs left to battle for 2-3 spots on the roster. Again, the Skins are looking for competition and may the best men win the job.

6. Skins will still use free agency to get better. I don't believe that you build a team only through the draft. You have to use free agency to find players to improve upon depth and find a potential starter. The problem with the Redskins is that in many past seasons they always go after the biggest name and the guys who make highlight reels. It didn't matter if the player would work well in the locker room or if he even fit the scheme. Expect the Skins to be a bit more shrewd in this free agent class. I think they will target a couple of O-line prospects, a corner and a WR. Some of this could be resigning current Redskins like Santana Moss or Carlos Rogers. Even with 12 draft picks the Skins still have holes to address. No wonder the team went 6-10 in 2010.

7. Safety Depth. The Skins seem set at starter when it comes to safety. But in the NFL that means little. LaRon Landry missed a large portion of 2010 with a tendon injury. With his berserker style of play, the Skins would need depth. Drafting Dejon Gomes says to me that the Skins have concerns about the depth. Reed Doughty may be a free agent. Both Chris Horton and Kareem Moore have struggled with injuries. There are some other guys as well on the roster as well. Mike Shanahan loves competition and clearly he feels that the Skins need some at this position.

8. Corner Depth. Same can be said about the corner position. Beyond DeAngelo Hall, I'm not sure what the Skins have pertaining to corner. Can Kevin Barnes develop into a #2/nickle corner or would he be better converting to FS? It's clear that Shanahan and the coaching staff feels that there is little depth in the position and need to either get younger or possibly upgrade the position a bit.

9. Skins happy with ILBs? 2011 will be interesting to watch at the ILB position. In particular watching the development of Robert Henson and Perry Riley. Both seem to be potential starters at ILB next to London Fletcher (my guess is that Rocky McIntosh probably won't be back, ideally he's a WOLB in a 4-3 and a free agent). Henson wowed some last year in preseason until he suffered a season ending injury against Arizona. Riley showed potential and could be starting the season. H.B. Blades also could be considered, but I think he also may be a free agent depending on the CBA.

10. Lockouts Suck. The Skins were able to introduce Ryan Kerrigan and give him a playbook before the stay was given by the 8th circuit appeals court. Problem is that 11 of the 12 players drafted were day 2-7 picks. Thanks to the lockout, these players don't get playbooks (unless a crafty Mike Shanahan slipped some vets and or Kerrigan some extra playbooks to distribute to the rookies). Also, many of the draft picks are developmental prospects. They need to get into the weight room, they need to start working with coaches. They need the opportunity to get signed by the team (bet many have forgotten that huh?). This makes the 2011 draft very frustrating. Also, the Skins can't sign any UDFAs. The real losers of all of this are the rookies caught up in this mess.

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