The Washington Redskins started the 2011 NFL Draft with six selections, bearing issues at nearly every position. By the time the 3-day event of the NFL Draft was finalized, the Redskins finished with 12 picks, doubling their chances to be a little better for the upcoming season. Their aggressive move to gather more selections alone earn them a “B” and despite not drafting a quarterback, the talented additions boost their grade to an “A.”
To win in the NFL, a team needs to be able to do two things well—have decent quarterback play and get after the quarterback. Thanks to a bad offensive line—due to injuries, inexperience and father time—and learning a new defensive scheme of the 3-4 with an aging, non-athletic group, the Redskins lacked both attributes.
Washington had the opportunity to address its quarterback of the future by drafting Blaine Gabbert from Missouri with the 10th-overall pick, but (rightfully) trade down with the Jacksonville Jaguars for their 16th-overall selection and a second-round pick (49th). Instead, the Redskins made potential progress of pressuring opposing quarterbacks by selecting defensive end Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue. Kerrigan is a high-motor defensive lineman who can wreak havoc from the edge similar to his counterpart, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Brian Orakpo. Kerrigan will be making the switch from the 4-3 to 3-4 scheme, but the athletic 6’4″, 267-pounder looks at the positives and believes his transition will be smooth.
“I think it’s just seeing the game from a different perspective,” said Kerrigan at his press conference on Friday. “You’re standing up and you kind of can see the whole field, whereas, when you’re in a three-point stance, you kind of only have your straight-ahead vision. So that will be the biggest adjustment, but, I think with some time, I can make that adjustment pretty smoothly.”
Kerrigan is excited to be a Redskin and looking forward to working with Orakpo and the other veterans on the squad.
“I thank the Redskins organization for drafting me and picking me to be the next member of their team, said Kerrigan. “I’m really looking forward to getting to work with the coaches and the players like Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher and guys like that, and learning from them.
“I’m just really excited to be here…I fit very well in here, especially being opposite of Brian Orakpo. I feel like it will be a good combination and I am really looking forward to competing and working in OTAs and [training] camp.”
The Redskins used their first second-round selection on another top prospect, defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins from Clemson. Jenkins is a go-getter who can move up and down the field with great speed. Along with his speed, the 6’4″, 310-lb lineman is explosive off the snap, which will command attention from opposing offensive linemen.
Washington wheel and deal with their 49th selection (acquired from the Jaguars) with Indianapolis as the Redskins traded down again to gain the Colts’ 53rd and 152nd picks. With those selections, the Redskins selected the highly talented wide receiver from Miami (FL), Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson, “6’2” and 205 lbs, was expected to be compared with former Hurricane Andre Johnson (now with the Houston Texans), but had difficulties at holding onto the ball. With help and guidance from former Miami Dolphin Mark Duper, Hankerson turned his final two seasons at Miami into productive outings, as he broke Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin’s single-season touchdown record with 13 scores.
The Redskins went on the grab, selecting running back Roy Helu (powerful) from Nebraska, wide receiver Niles Paul (great burst with size and good hands) from Nebraska and defensive back Brandyn Thompson (great foot work, possible nickel and special teams specialist) from Boise State. Guard Maurice Hurt (good run blocker, quick off snap and stands square) from Florida, Nebraska cornerback Dejon Gomes (a ball-hawk) and the quick, immovable nose tackle from West Virginia, Child Neild were also selected.
Among the players mentioned, however, running back Evan Royster from Penn State, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson from Southern Methodist and defensive end Markus White from Florida State may be the team’s biggest gems in this year’s draft for the Redskins. Royster is a solid interior runner with good vision, has patience, hits holes quickly, finishes off runs, is a decent pass blocker and can catch well out of the backfield.
Robinson may stands at only 6″0″, but he is explosive, a good route runner, a good downfield blocker, and with 4.3 speed, he can stretch the field and break away from defenders. White will be an added motor off the edges with his long arms, quick off the line and is a true quarterback hunter. The Redskins’ staff masterfully added needed picks to improve their aging roster.
“We had that extra pick in the second round that we thought we could turn into some more picks and still get a very productive player and we were able to do that,” said head coach Mike Shanahan. “We evaluate everybody, and we spent about the last six weeks, about 10-12 hours a day evaluating everybody. You look at them, and then you put them in a pecking order, and go over and over and over it again, and you get a group of players that you feel can be productive at different positions.
“You’re just hoping that when it’s your pick that you’ve got a chance to get one of those guys,” he continued. “It doesn’t always work out that way. But I was very pleased. Obviously we have a plan with which direction we’re going. We’re going to evaluate every one. We’ve got a board we’re sticking with, and we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The Redskins not drafting a quarterback is probably one of the baffling questions of the draft weekend, but the Shanahan and the organization have a plan.
“We’ve got a lot of different directions we could go,” said Shanahan, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post. “I can’t share our whole game plan with you now for obvious reasons, but we do have a plan.”
The plan boils down to two things: free agency or staying in-house. Quarterback Donovan McNabb isn’t projected to be in the plans of the Redskins, Rex Grossman is still a question mark, and the free agent market for signal callers does not appeal to Washington. After this weekend, Shanahan has spoken highly of John Beck. Beck was acquired by the Redskins via trade with the Baltimore Ravens for cornerback Doug Dutch last season, but Shanahan had his eyes on the signal caller from BYU years ago.
“Let me say, when John Beck did come out [of college], I had him rated as the top quarterback coming out that year, and I didn’t even think it was close,” said Shanahan. “I had a lot of confidence in John Beck when he came out in 2007. I evaluate the quarterbacks every year, and I do have confidence in John Beck. He was by far my No. 1 guy. I think the world of him.”
The Redskins, under their new regime, has made a great start at restructuring the storied franchise through the 2011 NFL Draft. Now, it’s time for their graded “A” through the draft to earn a grade “A” performance on the field.