Galdi gives his take on what he wants to see from the Redskins with their 2018 first-round pick
The 2018 NFL Draft is this Thursday night through Saturday (April 26-28) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Every draft for every team is big. But you could argue that this is the most important draft for the Redskins this decade. I believe that the Redskins need to have a good 2018 season in order for Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden to keep their jobs (and Jay essentially admitted to this at his season-ending press conference on Jan. 2). A great draft with multiple immediate impact players would go a long way toward helping the Redskins have a successful 2018. Another mediocre or bad draft could seal Bruce’s and Jay’s fates. Some other thoughts:
1. The only thing that I truly care about with the Redskins’ no. 13 overall pick is that it leads to them having a player who is good from the get-go – There are a bunch of guys who the Redskins could take at 13, and I am cool with just about any of them.
The Redskins taking a defensive lineman in Da’Ron Payne of Alabama or Vita Vea makes sense for what is the weakest position group on the team.
The Redskins taking a safety in Derwin James makes sense given Montae Nicholson’s injury history and D.J. Swearinger’s age and penchant for expressing his unhappiness (as warranted as it may be).
The Redskins taking a defensive back in Minkah Fitzpatrick to play the corner/safety-hybrid role that Kyshoen Jarrett occupied in 2015 until his career-ending neck injury in the Week 17 win at Dallas is mighty appealing.
The Redskins taking a corner in Denzel Ward of Ohio State makes sense given the Redskins’ questions at corner beyond Josh Norman.
The Redskins taking an edge rusher like Tremaine Edmunds of Virginia Tech or Harold Landry of Boston College would make sense because there’s no such thing as having too many quality edge rushers.
The Redskins taking an inside linebacker like Roquan Smith of Georgia or Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State would make sense because the Redskins have little depth at that position beyond Zach Brown and Mason Foster (though Martrell Spaight has flashed).
The Redskins taking a receiver in D.J. Moore of Maryland or Calvin Ridley of Alabama would make sense if the team internally is down on Josh Doctson.
You get the idea.
The idea is that the Redskins need that no. 13 overall pick to yield a player (or players) who hits (or hit) the ground running. We can’t have another Doctson who we’re hoping finally blossoms in Year 3. We need a Trent Williams (2010), Ryan Kerrigan (2011), Brandon Scherff (2015) or Jonathan Allen (2017) – a guy who makes an instant impact.
2. There are five guys in particular who I am eyeing for the Redskins at 13, assuming that they keep the pick – I don’t pretend to have studied film for hours on all of these guys. But just going off what I’ve read about, seen of and heard about these guys, I would be happy with any of them being taken by the Redskins with the no. 13 overall pick. Of course, some are more likely than others to actually still be available at 13.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive back out of Alabama – This guy played as a true freshman for Nick Saban at Bama – think about that. I love that Fitzpatrick can play both corner and safety. That kind of versatility is rare and fits in so well in this pass-happy NFL in which teams are in nickel more so than they are in their base alignments. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay has called Fitzpatrick “a true shutdown corner.”
Derwin James, safety out of Florida State – The comparisons of him to Sean Taylor may be a bit much, and James having torn the lateral meniscus in his left knee in the second game of 2016 is concerning, but this guy possesses a ton of talent and could help shore up what has been the biggest black hole in D.C. sports since Taylor’s death – safety on the Redskins. Cooley raved about James in a film breakdown on The Team 980 on Monday April 23.
Roquan Smith, inside linebacker out of Georgia – Speed has been a problem for the Redskins on defense for years. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline beast. Teaming him with Zach Brown would give the Redskins a lightning-quick inside-backer duo with a quality backup in Mason Foster and a player with promise in Martrell Spaight.
Denzel Ward, corner out of Ohio State – I don’t think that enough has been made of the Redskins’ questions at corner. Josh Norman is coming off a mediocre season, Quinton Dunbar is a work-in-progress and Fabian Moreau is completely unproven. All three could be great in 2018, but how certain can we be about that? Ward is viewed as the best corner in this draft. He in 2017 had 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions, including a pick in the Big Ten championship game win over Wisconsin. The 17 pass defenses were the fourth-highest single season total in Buckeyes history.
Vita Vea, defensive tackle out of Washington – There are effort concerns, as there usually are with defensive lineman. But the dude is listed as being 6-4 and 347 pounds and was a running back in high school. The combination of size and speed is so tempting, especially for a team in the Redskins that has had a porous run defense each of the last three seasons. I would take Vea over Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, who was skewered pretty good by Cooley in a film breakdown on The Team 980 Friday April 20.
3. I do not want the Redskins taking a running back at 13 – I am open to the Redskins trading down and taking a running back in the first round, though that’s a classic case of you better be right, because quality backs can be found deep in just about every draft. But spending a top-15 pick on a running back is too high in my opinion unless you’re talking about someone who everyone is raving about like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. The Redskins reportedly really like Derrius Guice of LSU. Great. Trade down and take him.
Six of the top-ten rushers in the NFL in 2017 weren’t first-round picks, and one of those first-rounders was New Orleans’ Mark Ingram, who was a late-first-round pick (no. 28 overall in 2011).
Nine of the top-10 rushers in the NFL in 2016 weren’t first-round picks.
Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (second round in 2013), Chicago’s Jordan Howard (fifth round in 2016), Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (third round in 2017), New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara (third round in 2017) and Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy (second round in 2009) and are all examples of quality backs right now who weren’t first-round picks.
People have gotten caught up with first-round backs like Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, the Rams’ Todd Gurley and Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette having done well in recent years. Yes, those guys are good, no doubt. But you don’t need to spend a first-round pick on a running back in order to draft a good running back. Heck, the Redskins themselves know this off taking Alfred Morris in the sixth round in 2012 and Chris Thompson in the fifth round in 2013.
The Redskins have drafted one running back in each of their four drafts in the Jay Gruden Era: Lache Seastrunk (sixth round in 2014), Matt Jones (third round in 2015), Keith Marshall (seventh round in 2016) and Samaje Perine (fourth round in 2017). The Redskins have signed undrafted free agents like Silas Redd (May 2014), Trey Williams (May 2015) and Rob Kelley (May 2016). Not a single one of these guys has truly panned out. The Redskins need to be better at identifying and/or developing running backs.
The Redskins’ running game has not been good over Jay Gruden’s four seasons as head coach and has been especially bad in two of the last three seasons. Spending a pick as high as 13 on a running back – unless he ends up being a stud for at least four or five seasons (and how many backs do that any more given how fickle the position has become?) – is not the way to go.