While the NFL is in a hiatus period currently, fans are still demanding their daily dose of football information. This is the perfect time of year to do some reflecting; analysis that might otherwise fall by the wayside in the regular season.
Over the next several weeks, I will be digging into the Redskins draft history and examining picks with some hindsight. We will go through one draft class per week for the last 10 years to see how the Redskins have evolved.
We will begin with the 2011 draft class, as this year's group has not had a chance to play in regular season games. One important piece to keep in mind throughout these features is the various coaching and management regimes in place. It's important to to notice how the Redskins have evolved, and who helped them get to this point.
Without further delay, here is the 2011 Washington Redskins' draft class.
Ryan Kerrigan has been everything Redskins fans had hoped for and more in his rookie season. In his first season with the burgundy and gold, Kerrigan logged seven-and-a-half sacks, four forced fumbles, and one interception (returned for a touchdown). Needless to say, Kerrigan fully lived up to his first round pick value.
Coming out of Purdue, Kerrigan was a well established defensive end, but was a projection for outside linebacker. With no experience at outside linebacker, Kerrigan set out to prove that he was versatile enough to play both positions. His rookie season is proof enough that he is capable of playing in a 3-4 defense.
At this point there seem to be no downsides to the Ryan Kerrigan selection. The pick not only yielded a very capable OLB opposite of Orakpo, but it also yielded extra picks. Trading out of 10th spot, allowed the Redskins to accumulate extra selections and still draft a player with pro bowl potential.
One year removed from the draft, the Kerrigan selection earns an "A" grade.
Jarvis Jenkins a little more of an unexpected selection for the Redskins in the second round, but he quickly became a young player to watch. Jenkins was a defensive tackle from a 4-3 defense being asked to switch to defensive end in a 3-4, and he made the transition seamlessly. Unfortunately, Jenkins would be forced to sit out the entire 2011 season.
Jenkins quickly emerged in training camp and preseason games as a dominant force up front. Defensive ends in a 3-4 are typically removing blockers so the linebackers can make big plays. However, Jenkins quickly established himself as a disruptive force that could play well against the run, and penetrate on passing downs.
There is not much to base a grade on Jenkins off of yet, but the expectations are high heading into this season. Jenkins was being looked at as a key starter up front prior to his ACL tear. All indications at this point are the Jenkins is fully healed and ready to return to his dominant form.
The Jenkins pick receives an incomplete grade at this point but with all signs pointed to a high grade once he returns to the field.
Leonard Hankerson is another player who falls into the class of high expectations prevented by injury. Hankerson is a big receiver who was expected to compete for the number one receiver job was a little slow out of the gates, but emerged as the season went on.
Hankerson failed to beat out Jabar Gaffney for the starting job opposite Santana Moss last year, and did not see much playing time early in the season. However, Hankerson had a breakout game against the Miami Dolphins in week 10 with eight catches for 106 yards. Hankerson suffered a season ending labrum tear in his hip later that game.
All reports now are the Hankerson is fully healed and ready to compete for a starting job. Hankerson will have more competition this year as Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan are firmly in the mix now. Nevertheless, I expect Hankerson to catch at least 50 balls this year and show what a value he was in the third round.
Just as with Jenkins, the Hankerson pick will receive an incomplete until we see more out of him.
Roy Helu rivaled with Ryan Kerrigan as the most productive 2011 rookie for the Redskins. While Helu may not have started right away, he showed his value late in the season, and will compete for the starting job in 2012.
Coming out of Nebraska, Helu was seen as a good all around back with no exceptional qualities in any particular area. However, Helu sought to prove critics wrong by averaging over four yards per carry, and catching nearly 50 passes. There is no doubt that Helu is expected to put up much bigger numbers in the 2012 season.
The biggest thing holding Helu back at this point is Tim Hightower. Hightower was the feature back early last season and was re-signed this offseason after healing from a knee injury. It is hard to tell, but at this point some credible sites are listing Hightower as first on the depth chart.
Helu is a solid back that fits the Shanahan scheme well, and right now the pick earns a B+ grade.
Before going any further I must admit that I am not a Dejon Gomes fan at all. I do not believe he fits well in the Redskins defense, and further lacks the tools to compete with NFL players. With that said, I was not a fan of this pick, and still believe it to be a mistake.
Gomes was brought in as a depth player behind OJ Atogwe and Laron Landry and struggled to produce. Gomes was only able to start five games and compiled 32 tackles. While the tackles numbers are not bad, the manner in which they were made is the concerning part.
Gomes was typically more a passive defender who would allow catches to be made and then bring down the receiver. He is more of a player without a position; he is not big enough to player linebacker, and not fast enough to play defensive back. The three free agent signings at safety (Meriweather, Jackson, and Williams) tell me that the Redskins feel the same way.
While a fifth round pick can hardly be called a bust, it is nevertheless a pick that could have been used on a more productive player: Grade D+
Niles Paul completed the Washington Redskins love affair with the Nebraska players. Paul appeared to be a likely cut this offseason as the Redskins receiving core was packed. However, Paul has made the transition to tight end and appears to be the likely third stringer behind Cooley and Davis.
Paul had a typical season for many rookies in the NFL; very little playing time and the stats to prove it. Paul only started two games and caught as many passes. This is not a knock on Paul's ability, but rather the opportunity.
This offseason may be the best thing for Paul career though, as the switch to tight has coaches excited. Coach Shanahan was quoted comparing Paul to hall of famer, Shannon Sharpe. While this is clearly a projection, helps that coaches believe in Paul enough to keep him on the team at another position.
Paul is another incomplete for the Redskins as we have not see enough, especially at tight end, to give a fair grade.
Evan Royster is a player that I believed would be an over-qualified practice squad player, who eventually be picked up by another team. With Ryan Torrain, Tim Hightower, and Roy Helu, there did not seem to be much room for a fourth running back. Just as with Helu, Royster set out to prove critics wrong, and he did so when his number was called.
With only two starts under his belt last year, Royster averaged nearly six yards per carry on nearly 60 carries. While Royster would likely not have been able to maintain this production level across an entire season, he was able to prove his worth in the NFL. Once again though, Royster faces a crowded backfield and questions about how much time he will receive.
Heading into the 2012 season, Hightower and Helu are back and fully healthy. Also, the Redskins drafted Alfred Morris in the sixth round this year, bringing in more competition for the third string job. I find myself asking whether Royster truly has a long term job with the Washington Redskins.
Royster was a pleasant surprise for fans last season but without any potential for the long term I have to downgrade this pick: Grade B
Aldrick Robinson is on of the annual late round, speedy wide receivers the Redskins have become synonymous with drafting. Just like Terrance Austin in 2010, Robinson was a fast receiver who received no playing time in 2011 and is fighting for a final roster spot.
Robinson came in with some hype out of SMU as a decent receiver with great return man ability. While the Redskins appeared to have a return man in Brandon Banks, that appeared to be his only role. Teams rarely like to use a valuable roster spot on a return specialist who is unable to deliver in other parts of the game; but Banks proved to be one of those players.
Robinson has failed to earn playing time up to this point and the wide receiving class has grown significantly. With only one potential spot available for unproven players, Robinson will need to battle with Austin, Banks, and the host of other camp invites for the final wide receiver position.
It is hard to fault teams for taking a flyer-pick on a receiver in the late round, but this pick did not catch one ball in 2011. Grade C
If Aldrick Robinson represents the late round receiving flyer, than Brandyn Thompson represents the annual late round defensive back pick. Most teams spend a late round draft pick on a project defensive back with the hopes of striking gold. At this point, it does not appear that Thompson is anything more than a depth player with little future.
Thompson only played in six games last season, and compiled two tackles and one fumble recovery. With very little depth on the Redskins cornerback depth chart, the opportunity was there for Thompson to earn playing time; but he did not. While it is early in this player's career, I would not be surprised to see him cut this season or next at the latest.
A seventh round pick cannot be wasted so this pick receives a B-.
Maurice Hurt turned out to be one of the most valuable late round selections for the Redskins in 2011. With many injuries across the offensive line last year (Brown, Lichtensteiger, etc.) Hurt was able to see rare playing time for a seventh round selection.
When Hurt was drafted in the seventh round, he was seen as more of a depth player with upside to be a solid backup. However, injuries across the line gave Hurt the chance to start eight games last season and develop more quickly than expected. Presently, Hurt is listed as the backup left guard, with the versatility to play multiple positions across the offensive line.
I have to give the Redskins a B+ for this pick as little was expected of Hurt and he delivered far above seventh round value.
Markus White was an interesting pick in the seventh round last year as it was hard to project where he might play in the Redskins 3-4. Initially it appeared as though White was slated to compete as a defensive end, but it later became apparent he was transitioning to outside linebacker.
White is not an elite athlete and with two studs in Orakpo and Kerrigan, it is hard to believe that White will see any playing time, barring injury. White only played in two games last year and failed to register any tackles or other meaningful stats. It may be early to pass judgement but I will not wait long to declare White a waste of space on the 53-man roster.
Again, it is hard to be a bad pick in the seventh round but if White does not begin to produce or add value in some fashion he needs to be let go. Grade: B-.
Chris Neild was another surprisingly productive seventh round pick for the Washington Redskins. Neild is the rare college defensive linemen with consistent experience as a nose tackle. With free agents Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield being asked to play the unfamiliar position, the Redskins took a shot on a late round nose tackle.
Neild was not able to start any games in 2011, but when he finally saw playing time, he made the most of it. Neild was able to deliver two sacks and one forced fumble last year in limited action. Moreover, Neild played a true nose tackle position, maintaining his "0" technique, and freeing up lanes for other pass rushers.
It is early in his career, but I believe Neild may have a long future with the Redskins and that earns this pick a B+.