By: Joe Pohoryles
After three days of drafting, the Redskins have 11 new players: eight via the draft, and three from free agency, with more likely on the way. The team wasn’t able to fill every need this weekend, but by-and-large the class of 2020 could be as impactful as last year’s class.
Of course the majority of the impact may come from one player alone in Chase Young, the crown jewel of the draft. The Hyattsville native should line up well in an imposing front seven, joining four other former first-round picks, and a couple of former fifth-round steals in Matthew Ioannidis and Cole Holcomb. With the selection of Young, Washington became the first team in the common era to draft a defensive lineman in the first round in four straight years (2017 – Jonathan Allen, 17th overall; 2018 – Da’Ron Payne, 13th overall; 2019 – Montez Sweat, 26th overall). Not to mention, Ryan Kerrigan was drafted 16th overall in 2011, so there is a ton of first-rate talent on the defensive front.
Looking past Young, I will be giving my initial impressions of the rest of the 2020 draft class, giving my choices for best/worst value, as well as lamenting over a few who got away. This has the potential to age very poorly, but I will continue to update this post over the next few days, so make sure to keep checking back in.
Best Value: Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU
The team finally got longtime left tackle Trent Williams off their hands in a trade with San Francisco, who would end up losing their own longtime left tackle, Joe Staley, to retirement. In return, the team received a 2020 fifth-rounder and 2021 third-rounder. Immediately following the announcement of the trade, the Skins were on the clock in the fourth round, and they picked someone who could soon develop into Williams’ replacement.
Charles just helped the Tigers win the 2020 National Championship, but he spent much of the season on the sideline due to off-field issues. His character had a lot to do with his placement in the draft; NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked Charles as his 63rd-ranked prospect. Franchises like the Patriots and Steelers have enough stability to have few issues with taking a gamble on a loose cannon-type of player, as their culture will most likely whip them into shape. The Redskins are not one of those franchises — in fact, far from it.
Coach Ron Rivera is looking to change the culture in DC, and is renowned as a coach who earns the respect of his players, so he’s probably the best man for the job in that department. Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses, as two of the team’s top offensive linemen and now the longest-tenured offensive starters on the team, could also be candidates to keep Charles on the right track as he transitions to the NFL.
Otherwise, the talent is there. He probably cannot be relied on as a starter right away, and maybe not until his second or third season, but to get any offensive line depth after losing the top tackle is a good thing. Getting a second/third-round caliber player with big-game experience in the fourth round has the potential to be a major move for the Skins, which is why I put Charles as the Best Value pick, but it will all be contingent on whether he can stay out of trouble.
My second choice for Best Value would probably be Antonio Gandy-Golden, the fourth-round wide receiver from Liberty. First off, what a name, and second, he could slot into the receiving rotation almost immediately in 2020.
Coming from a small school in a mid-major conference, it’s difficult to get much attention, but AGG’s stats pop right off the page. He put up at least 1,000 yards three seasons in a row, and garnered between 69-71 receptions and 9-10 touchdowns in each of the three seasons.
The receiving core is in need of talent, so getting a receiver who is used to a high volume with such a late pick is a plus. With Terry McLaurin and likely Steven Sims Jr. (or even Kelvin Harmon and 2020 third-rounder Antonio Gibson) ahead of him in the depth chart, he won’t be pressured to be a top producer right away, but he may very well turn into one of the biggest steals of the draft.
Worst Value: Antonio Gibson, WR/RB, Memphis
With the team’s first pick after Young, it made sense for the team to address a need on the other side of the ball. I don’t hate the player; I think Gibson could become very useful as a do-it-all player, as he lines up at both back and receiver, and he has experience returning. I simply thought the Redskins took him too early.
I don’t have my ear to the ground when it comes to the rumblings of NFL GMs across the league, but there was not much buzz surrounding Gibson as a top-of-the-third-round prospect. Perhaps he would have been gone by the time the Redskins picked again at 108, but in that case you may as well trade back to accrue a little capital. Maybe they found no willing partners.
In any case, he’s on the team now, and there is still reason for excitement. He was the American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Year in 2019, so the return game could be where his presence is felt the quickest. On offense, the team’s backfield consists of the oft-injured Derrius Guice, the 35-year-old Adrian Peterson, also oft-injured Bryce Love, Peyton Barber, JD McKissic and Josh Ferguson. Not all of these names will be on the roster at the beginning of the season, but given the injury history at the top of the depth chart, having an extra player with rushing experience is a good idea.
McKissic was slated to be the go-to receiving back, but given Gibson’s upside it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take over that role at some point this season. It’ll be interesting to see where exactly he fits in.
The biggest name to join the Skins this weekend (maybe outside Young) was not even drafted. Tight end Thaddeus Moss, son of Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, signed with the team shortly after the draft as a free agent. Many were screaming to have his name called on Day 3, but with no one calling his name at all, the team was able to nab him up quickly.
Moss definitely benefitted from receiving passes from 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow in a record-setting offense in 2019, but in such a thin tight end group, Moss has the chance to contribute right away. He won’t be a cog in the receiving rotation, at least not for awhile, but with run blocking being his best skill, he should be a great help to an offensive line that has lost Williams and breakout left guard Ereck Flowers this offseason.
He does not completely solve the tight end situation, but fans should be happy with his signing.
The Redskins also signed a quarterback with a chance to sit behind Dwayne Haskins Jr. and recent acquisition Kyle Allen. Steven Montez, from Colorado, spent three years as the starting quarterback for the Buffaloes, but never led the team to much success despite passing for 2,800 or more yards in all three seasons as starter. He’s a mobile, athletic player, but likely won’t see important playing time anytime soon.
Rounding out the undrafted free agents are a pair of wide receivers: Isaiah Wright out of Temple and Johnathan Johnson from Mizzou.
Wright did not get much usage at wide receiver at Temple, but was one of the team’s top returners. A speedy, tough player, Wright could provide value on special teams, but otherwise appears unlikely to nail down a consistent role in the receiving corps, if he can make the roster at all.
Johnson was signed after this post was initially published, making him the fourth UDFA. He had a much bigger role in his offense relative to Wright, as Johnson ended his career as a Tiger with the sixth-most career receiving yards in program history. Injuries hurt his production as a senior, and his draft stock, but he played in 13 games in each of his sophomore and junior seasons, totaling 724 and 737 yards, respectively.
He seems like a more traditional receiving option, and while he may be a long shot to make the active roster, he has the pedigree to crack into an NFL roster at some point, whether it’s in DC or elsewhere.
The Ones Who Got Away
The Redskins had a large gap between pick No. 2 and pick No. 66, but surprisingly enough there was a player many experts had going in the late first/early second round who was still available at 66. Not only that, but he would have filled a position of need very well. Houston’s offensive tackle Josh Jones was there for the taking. A prime candidate to slip into the void Williams left behind, Jones seemed like the clear choice.
Instead, the team took Gibson, and Jones went to the Cardinals just six picks later. Unlike Charles, who has several red flags, there was no obvious reason for Jones to slip that far. At worst, he appears to be a raw prospect who may need at least a year to become a full-time starter, but if that’s a red flag, then nearly every player drafted has that red flag. It would have been the team’s best valued pick by a mile in my eyes, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Another player plenty of Redskins fans had their eyes on in the later rounds was Virginia’s Bryce Hall. With the team in need of secondary depth, Hall, a 2018 Second Team All-American, could have been a great sleeper pick. A season-ending ankle injury in early October 2019 tanked his draft stock, but the Redskins had plenty of opportunities to get him. Instead, Hall went to the Jets just two picks after the Skins selected Keith Ismael, a center from San Diego State, and just four picks before the team selected Khaleke Hudson, an outside linebacker from Michigan.
Along with Ismael and Hudson, the team selected Arkansas defensive back Kamren Curl and NC State defensive end James Smith-Williams.
Ismael mainly played center while at San Diego State, but has experience at both right and left guard. He earned First Team All-Mountain West honors in his junior and senior seasons, following a Second Team selection as a sophomore.
With Pro Bowler Scherff slotted in at right guard, Chase Roullier holding down the center position, and Wes Schweitzer and Wes Martin likely to compete for starter at left guard, it seems unlikely Ismael will see much starting time immediately, but he seems better suited for a reserve role anyway. Given the O-line’s injury history, though, his versatility and durability could come in handy sooner rather than later.
Hudson, meanwhile, entered college as a safety, but found his role at Michigan as a hybrid linebacker. He was named 2019 Second Team All-Big Ten after leading the Wolverines in tackles (97), and should bring Rivera and Jack Del Rio the versatility that they love in their defensive players.
Curl and Smith-Williams were both seventh-rounders, and are not guaranteed to be on the roster by Week 1, much less major on-field contributors. Given the current state of the secondary compared to the that of the defensive line, I’d say Curl has the better chance to make the roster, but both bring upside.
Curl was a three-year starter at Arkansas, and while he wasn’t a major ball-hawking threat (just two career interceptions in college) or a strong tackler, but he provides good coverage in certain schemes, such as a traditional box safety or in Cover 2 situations.
Smith-Williams spent five seasons as NC State, but played more than six games in a single season just once (11 in 2018). Injuries have plagued him his entire career, but he is regarded for having high intelligence, great character and strong leadership ability.
Not to mention, he’s an athletic freak. Standing 6’4″ 265 pounds, Smith-Williams blazed a 4.6 40-yard dash and has a 123″ broad jump, which ranked in the 96th and 93rd percentile, respectively. He’s even drawn comparisons to new teammate and longtime defensive leader Kerrigan.
With the guys at the top of the depth chart at defensive line, it will be difficult for Smith-Williams to break in, but he appears to be as strong of a late-round flier as any.
(Cover Photo Credit: jondewi on Reddit/Swapcenter)