After a “strong” 9 – 7 football season, *Jumps for joy, but then immediately realizes how weak the rest of the NFC East was *, the Redskins are looking to continue building upon a strong foundation that they established during the 2015 – 2016 season. In order to take the leap as a recurring threat in the NFC, Washington must draft extremely well on April 26th and address these three positions which hindered their success last year.
Washington Redskins 2016 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
Corner / Safety
Honestly… What did you expect to be first on this list? No really, what did you expect? Washington’s secondary has been the consistent weakness of this struggling defense for the past five years. The Redskins pass defense hasn’t been ranked above 25th in the league since 2011. Think about this: the last time Washington had a top 20 secondary, John Beck & Rex Grossman were battling for the starting position at quaterback, Tim Hightower & Ryan Torian were alternating at running back, Chris Cooley was starting at tight end, Santana Moss & Jabar Gaffney headed the receiving corps, Ryan Kerrigan was a rookie and LaRon Landry & Reed Doughty were “holding it down” at safety. Corner back DeAngelo Hall had high praises going into last years’ season stating “Most talented secondary I’ve been around,” but their production last year begs to differ. You could say that it’s time for this secondary to do less talking and evolve as a unit.
With the 21st pick, I see the Redskins drafting either cornerback Eli Apple or cornerback Mackensie Alexander. With the recent success of third year player Bashaud Breeland, bringing in another young gun at corner could bode well for the future of Washington’s secondary. Apple is a long, athletic corner that has great field instincts and awareness. He’s very physical for his frame and he’s not afraid to come up and make the tackle. His top end coverage can get a little sloppy but, his speed allows his to make up for that lack of technique.
My personal favorite is Alexander out of Clemson. When one says, “Shut down corner” I immediately turn to Clemson’s secondary standout. He has all the physical intangibles (besides length – 5’10″), NFL scouts like to see. He’s fiery, competitive and sticky in man coverage, which is what this Washington secondary needs. Under aging vet DeAngelo Hall, Mackensie could flourish and contribute to this secondary for years to come.
— Mackensie Alexander (@MackAlexander20) April 7, 2016
Washington struggled mightily last year getting their running game going… a lot. 51% of the blame can be credited to the offensive line and the other 49% can be due to the poor play at the running back position so, we’re just going to address the line issue for now. These past few years Washington has been doing the right thing by drafting young guys for that offensive line and allowing them to develop in the system, but there are still a few holes. The offensive line is headed by three-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams. Tackle Morgan Moses and guard Brandon Scherff have been Washington’s most recent offensive line draft acquisitions. Moses and Scherff started all 16 games for Washington in 2015, but those starts didn’t come without some notable struggles. These are a couple of young offensive lineman that will require some time to develop into absolute forces up front which is completely understandable. One glaring issue that cannot be ignored, however, is the sporadic performances delivered by center Kory Lichtensteiger. A-gap penetration has been one of the many issues haunting Washington’s offensive line and Lichtensteiger is half of that problem. In any offensive system, pressure up the middle kills a good percentage of plays called, run or pass. Lichtensteiger’s horrendous run blocking ability is the reason the Redskins must acquire a Center in this year’s upcoming draft.
Here are a couple options:
Ryan Kelly, Alabama – Kelly’s undoubtedly the number one center in this year’s draft, in my mind at least. The holes he opened up for Alabama’s running back, Derrick Henry in 2015 are absolutely incredible. Because of his size, mobility, and blocking versatility, Kelly is on a lot of teams radar … which may be why it’s a long shot Washington will even see him on the board. But nevertheless, if he’s on the board when Washington makes their second pick, don’t be surprised if he’s snapping the ball to quarterback Kirk Cousins in the nation’s capital during the 2016 – 2017 season.
Nick Martin, Notre Dame – Martin is a great pass blocker and an above average run blocker. With his 6’5″, 295-pound frame, he probably needs to put on a little more weight to be a force in the league. Martin is an extremely fundamentally sound technician when it comes to playing the center positon. This is a more realistic pick for Washington seeing as though Alabama’s center, Ryan Kelly, may be gone before the ‘Skins can grab him. Oh, and don’t forget that general manager Scot McCloughan has publically voiced his desire to turn “eight draft picks into 12,” aka trading down.
— FOX Sports: PROcast (@PROcast) February 20, 2016
Washington made a statement this off-season by parting ways with veteran interior lineman Terrance Knighton aka “Pot Roast” (who is now a member of the New England Patriots). General manager Scot McCloughan and the gang came to the conclusion that his asking price was more than they were willing to pay, and they wanted to get younger in the trenches. Luckily for Washington, this year’s draft is extremely deep at the interior defensive line position. I honestly see one clear cut, great fit for Washington and his name is … Robert Nkemdiche. I’ve been following Nkemdiche ever since he committed to Ole Miss from Grayson High School; here’s why I think he’d be a perfect fit.
Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss – Now I’m not completely sure how McCloughan and his staff are going to draft on April 26th, but if a talent such as Nkemdiche is still on the board … it’s going to be extremely hard for the ‘Skins to pass on him. Nkemdiche is extremely athletic, has a great build and plays with a passion like no other. However, he is extremely raw, which is the case with most athletes coming into the NFL. His pure strength and footwork allows his to live in the backfield, which is extremely useful for making opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable as well as penetrating those gaps to stop the run. Nkemdiche does have a few red flags though. On top of being short tempered, on December 12th of 2015, he was charged with the possession of marijuana when he fell 15 feet from an Atlanta hotel window. In his possession were seven rolled marijuana cigarettes. Nkemdiche proceeded to say “I made a mistake and put myself in an environment that does not reflect who I am as a person.” If Nkemdiche can put this issue behind him and show that he has matured into a responsible young athlete, there is no reason he can’t be successful at the next level.
GIF catches the end, but watch as Ryan Kelly steps aside to allow Robert Nkemdiche this TFL. Generosity: pass it on. pic.twitter.com/KXBZOJ9ybT
— Haunted Hat Wearer (@onemantobeat) September 21, 2015
Here’s all of the Redskins’ picks entering the 2016 NFL Draft (per redskins.com):
— No. 21 (first round)
— No. 53 (second round)
— No. 84 (third round)
— No. 120 (fourth round)
— No. 158 (fifth round)
— No. 187 (sixth round; acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints)
— No. 232 (seventh round)
— No. 242 (seventh round)