Washington Redskins: Grading Every Draft Pick in the Shanahan Era

Tom NataliCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2013

Washington Redskins: Grading Every Draft Pick in the Shanahan Era

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    Even before Mike Shanahan was hired, you knew that the Washington Redskins organization was going in a different direction (or at least attempting to) as owner Dan Snyder fired general manager and right-hand-man Vinny Cerrato.

    Cerrato was responsible for the personnel of the Redskins for a number of years who clearly put more of an emphasis on free agency and high-valued trades versus building a franchise through the draft.

    To replace Cerrato, Snyder brought in Bruce Allen (who was responsible for putting together the 2002 Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers) as the general manager and then hired his big-name coach Mike Shanahan.

    Despite the now laughable disaster over Donovan McNabb, Shanahan and company have addressed this football team the right way—by not only drafting players with the first-round pick but finding gems in the fourth, sixth and seventh round.

    During the three years of Shanahan’s tenure, he has drafted 27 players. Below is a grade for each one of those.

2010 First Round (4th Overall): Trent Williams

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    Overall Grade: B+

    If I were grading Trent Williams on this season alone, then he would receive an "A+." He was fantastic; he neutralized some of the best pass-rushers in the league, not to mention, while playing more than half of the season injured.

    When Trent was selected the fourth overall pick, he was immediately penciled in as the starting left tackle.

    While his rookie season certainly had its ups and downs, Williams showcased All-Pro potential in 2010. 2011 started off promising, but embarrassingly ended with his four-game suspension.

    However, this year, Trent proved his worth and not only stepped up as a dominant left tackle but a leader in the clubhouse.

    I’m giving Williams a "B+" because I’m looking at this cumulatively, but I have a feeling we’re going to see him on Pro Bowl rosters for years to come.

2010 Fourth Round (103rd Overall): Perry Riley

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    Overall Grade: B

    2012 was Riley’s first full season as the team’s starting inside linebacker posting up right next to London Fletcher, and he did not disappoint.

    Even though he still has a lot of developing to do, Riley was consistent all season, as he was effective against the run and as a blitzer.

    After not playing at all in 2010, Riley eventually replaced Rocky McIntosh in the starting lineup halfway through the 2011 season.

    This was a major hit for Mike Shanahan. Selecting a solid and dependable linebacker in the fourth round is a great success.

    Riley’s biggest test will come sooner than later, however. As Fletcher contemplates retirement, Perry will soon have to be the quarterback of the defense. He has all the physical tools to become an elite linebacker, but can he do more than that?

2010 Sixth Round (174th Overall): Dennis Morris

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    Overall Grade: F

    Selecting Dennis Morris is something the Redskins would rather not look back on. He didn’t even make it to opening day as he was traded to the St. Louis Rams.

    Morris has yet to record a catch in his NFL career.

2010 Seventh Round (219th Overall): Terrence Austin

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    Overall Grade: F

    Playing well in the preseason won’t get you a passing grade here. In 2010 and 2011, Austin played in a total of 18 games and caught 15 passes, but couldn’t beat out Aldrick Robinson, Dezmon Briscoe and Brandon Banks this season.

    As mentioned above, Austin showed flashes of potential in the preseason, but it never came to fruition.

2010 Seventh Round (229th Overall): Erik Cook

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    Overall Grade: F

    Cook was given one opportunity as a Redskin, and that came last year when Kory Lichtensteiger went down with an injury.

    He started two games last season and clearly did not impress the coaching staff. He was released prior to the start of this year.

2010 Seventh Round (231st Overall): Selvish Capers

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    Overall Grade: F

    When Capers was drafted, this was considered a potential steal by Mike Shanahan, as the former West Virginia Mountaineer was given a second- or third-round grade following the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.

    Capers never played in a Redskins uniform, but spent a year on the practice squad, which is where he has remained as a New York Giant, too.

2011 First Round (16th Overall): Ryan Kerrigan

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    Overall Grade: B+

    Ladies and gentlemen of Redskins Nation, it could be a lot worse. In April 2011, the Redskins were initially set to draft 10th overall.

    In desperate need of a quarterback, it almost seemed certain that Mike Shanahan was going to pull the trigger on a young gunslinger. Sitting at the No. 10 spot, Shanahan wisely passed on Blaine Gabbert and traded the pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Can you imagine the state of the franchise if Gabbert was our starting quarterback? Or even Christian Ponder?

    Anyway, Shanahan addressed another major need that season, and that was Ryan Kerrigan. While Kerrigan has not reached the same amount of success as his first-round counterparts (J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith), he has developed into a solid outside linebacker.

    He’s great against the run, underrated in pass coverage (especially in covering play-action bootlegs) and he’s extremely durable.

    There’s only one aspect Kerrigan needs to work on, and that’s getting to the quarterback. He’s certainly capable of reaching a double-digit sack threshold every year, and that’s why I’m not giving him an "A."

2011 Second Round (41st Overall): Jarvis Jenkins

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    Overall Grade: C+

    According to numerous beat writers for the Redskins, the 2011 standout player of training camp was Jarvis Jenkins.

    He appeared to be a perfect fit in Jim Haslett’s 3-4 scheme, but sadly tore his ACL in the preseason.

    So 2012 was basically Jenkins’ rookie year. Weighing in at 315 pounds, Jenkins suffered from some growing pains as he was recovering from his knee injury.

    When starting defensive end Adam Carriker went down with an injury, Jenkins was penciled into the starting lineup. He seemed to get better every week and became a force against the run toward the end of the season.

    With Carriker set to return for the 2013 season, it’s going to be interesting where that leaves Jenkins going forward.

2011 Third Round (79th Overall): Leonard Hankerson

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    Overall Grade: C-

    It was back in November 2011 when the Redskins played the Miami Dolphins. Hankerson caught eight passes for over 100 yards from John Beck.

    I remember watching that game and was amazed with his potential. I envisioned him as the possession-type receiver who would serve as a perfect complement to Pierre Garcon.

    Well, he actually got hurt that game, and we didn’t see him the rest of that season. This year, he was wildly inconsistent.

    He slipped in the draft due to dropped passes, and that’s something he hasn’t been able to fix yet.

    Hankerson is still under contract and at a cheap price, he’s not going anywhere, but I’m not sure if I have the same hopes for him as I once did.

2011 Fourth Round (105th Overall): Roy Helu

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    Overall Grade: C

    Injuries are what keeping Roy Helu from becoming a respectable running back. He’s a perfect, situational “scatback” who has the speed to take any carry to the end zone and is very effective as a receiver out of the backfield.

    If Alfred Morris continues at the level he’s at now, then it’s going to be difficult to see Helu on the field that often.

    His season was cut short this year three games into the season, and coaches have to be concerned with his durability.

2011 Fifth Round (146th Overall): DeJon Gomes

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    Overall Grade: C

    Gomes has been given many opportunities as both the starting free and strong safety, but has not left the Redskins front office feeling comfortable.

    As a former fifth-round pick, Gomes seems best suited as a reserve versatile safety and special teamer, which should be considered an overall success.

2011 Fifth Round (155th Overall): Niles Paul

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    Overall Grade: C+

    Niles Paul is Mike Shanahan’s project. He sees Shannon Sharpe in him but just about everyone else hasn’t.

    Paul transitioned to tight end this season, and he certainly struggled.

    On the other hand, Paul is getting a "C+" grade because of his valued role on special teams. Serving as a gunner on punts, Paul is routinely the first Redskin down the field to make the play. In addition to that, he will be given an opportunity to become a full-time kick returner, too.

2011 Sixth Round (177th Overall): Evan Royster

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    Overall Grade: B

    Royster does all the little things right. He’s great in pass protection, he can be utilized on screen passes and draw plays and fits perfectly in Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.

    I would be surprised if Royster ever rushes for 1,000 yards in a season, but he’s a perfect role player on this team—not bad for a sixth-round draft pick.

2011 Sixth Round (178th Overall): Aldrick Robinson

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    Overall Grade: C

    As a rookie, Aldrick Robinson didn’t make an impact, as he spent the majority of his season on the practice squad.

    This year, he beat out Terrence Austin for a roster spot. There wasn’t a lot of Robinson highlights, but he made each of them count.

    Robinson is known for his speed, so I was surprised to see Mike Shanahan not use him more often. I would expect Aldrick’s role to increase in his third year.

2011 Seventh Round (213th Overall): Brandyn Thompson

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    Overall Grade: F

    The former Boise State product never made an impact in Washington; he shuffled on and off the practice squad during his rookie season, but did not impress.

    He was released prior to the start of this season.

2011 Seventh Round (217th Overall): Maurice Hurt

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    Overall Grade: C+

    Maurice Hurt has gained some valuable experience as a professional, thus far. After Kory Lichtensteiger’s injury last season, Hurt became his eventual replacement and filled in admirably.

    Despite succeeding at improbable odds, Mike Shanahan drafted two other offensive guards the following year, as Hurt began working out at tackle.

    He started one game this season at right tackle, and the offense didn’t miss a beat.

    All things considered, the resume Hurt has built is impressive, especially being the 217th player drafted. He deserves a shot to be the team’s starting right tackle next season.

2011 Seventh Round (224th Overall): Markus White

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    Overall Grade: F

    At one point, I can remember coaches were hopeful of the Florida State product. When Brian Orakpo went down with another injury, Markus White was given an opportunity to be an outside linebacker in this defense.

    He ended up being released twice this season, and he’s now on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

2011 Seventh Round (253rd Overall): Chris Neild

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    Overall Grade: C

    In his first game as a rookie, Neild became somewhat of a folk hero after his two-sack performance against the Giants in an impressive win.

    Neild was once considered a long shot to make the roster, but filled in notably backing up Barry Cofield in 2011.

    Unfortunately, Neild went down with a knee injury in training camp of this season and never got to further develop himself as a valued nose tackle.

    He’ll be back at camp this summer, but with the emergence of Chris Baker, Neild is going to have some catching up to do.

2012 First Round (2nd Overall): Robert Griffin III

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    Overall Grade: A+

    It will be a month tomorrow since Griffin’s knee injury occurred, and I’m still haunted by it. Never has a player meant so much to this organization.

    Griffin was everything we imagined and then some. We can only hope the recovery process is seamless.

    Anything short of an "A+" for the Rookie of the Year would be an understatement. He was incredible.

2012 Third Round (71st Overall): Josh LeRibeus

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    Overall Grade: C+

    Just how good is Josh LeRibeus? With Kory Lichtensteiger approaching free agency, did the rookie out of SMU prove to Mike Shanahan that he’s ready to become a full-time starter?

    LeRibeus spent the majority of the season on the sideline, but when Lichtensteiger went down with an injury against the Cowboys in Week 17, LeRibeus stepped in and did a great job, as the running game continued to dominate.

    People underestimated how difficult that is; LeRibeus was a mid-round draft pick and watched 16 straight games from the bench. He goes in halfway through the game in Week 17 and does his job.

2012 Fourth Round (102nd Overall): Kirk Cousins

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    Overall Grade: B

    I, like many critics, was very curious of the selection of Kirk Cousins. I thought (and still believe for that matter) that in an ideal situation, the Redskins could be in a situation that the Patriots, Eagles and Falcons all found themselves in at one point. (Matt Cassel, Kevin Kolb and Matt Schaub)

    The Redskins have their franchise quarterback, but can use their talented backup as trade bait.

    However, on that brisk Sunday afternoon in December, Cousins brought the Redskins to victory against the eventual Super Bowl champions.

    He followed up that performance with a remarkable 329-yard and two-touchdown performance in Cleveland.

    While he did seem overwhelmed against Atlanta and Seattle, Shanahan took the best available in the fourth round, and it finally started making sense.

2012 Fourth Round (119th Overall): Keenan Robinson

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    Overall Grade: C

    If Keenan Robinson didn’t end his season on injured reserve, then he would have had a higher grade. Robinson started gaining trust from the coaching staff and was getting featured in some different formations.

    I like his athleticism and range, but he’s still going to need some time to develop; this should be a similar process to what Perry Riley went through.

    London Fletcher returning could be the best thing for Robinson, which gives him another year to get acclimated to playing inside linebacker and learn from one of the best to ever do it.

2012 Fifth Round (144th Overall): Adam Gettis

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    Overall Grade: Incomplete

    I’m giving Adam Gettis an incomplete because we didn’t see him play once this season. From a confidence standpoint, it doesn’t look like Gettis is the answer.

    He significantly struggled during the preseason games this past summer. It would not be a surprise to see Gettis fighting for his job this coming training camp.

2012 Sixth Round (173rd Overall): Alfred Morris

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    Overall Grade: A+

    So Alfred Morris was OK, I guess.

    Just kidding! He was amazing, as Mike Shanahan continued to show the NFL world that he can find running backs anywhere.

    To all Redskins fans out there: Did any of you know who Alfred Morris was one year ago?  

    It’s incredible that Morris remains under the radar. His teammate Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are mentioned before him as far as rookies are concerned.

    I can remember hearing RGIII call Morris his “Terrell Davis,” and I’m sure Morris will have no problem with that.

2012 Sixth Round (193rd Overall): Tom Compton

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    Overall Grade: Incomplete

    Compton will receive an “incomplete” grade too. He spent the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad until being named to the active roster in December, in which he didn’t receive any playing time.

    I was impressed with his performances in the preseason, and he should be added to competition at right tackle.

2012 Seventh Round (213th Overall): Richard Crawford

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    Overall Grade: C+

    Richard Crawford as a cornerback? I’m not too confident. Richard Crawford as a punt returner? I love it.

    He will forever be remembered to Redskins faithful due to his heroic punt return in overtime against our cross-town rivals the Baltimore Ravens.

    Crawford’s ability as a punt returner is nothing spectacular. You won’t see the Olympic-style speed that Brandon Banks was once capable of, however, he gets the yardage that’s available. His one-cut and go is reminiscent of Brian Mitchell.

    As a cornerback, Crawford is certainly in need of some help. With another year to develop, I would expect steady improvement.

2012 Seventh Round (217th Overall): Jordan Bernstine

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    Overall Grade: Incomplete

    Jordan Bernstine fought his way onto the roster following an impressive training camp. Unfortunately, he tore his knee in Week 1 and was inevitably placed on injured reserve, which is why he is getting an “incomplete” grade as well.

    Bernstine may never be a valued starting safety in this league, but he has a legitimate shot at making a career out of being a special teamer.