Blidi Wreh-Wilson is a perfect fit for the Shanahan regime.
Since the Washington Redskins are without a first-round pick, they need to make draft selections based on more than just ability. Having the skills is one thing—having the talent to utilize them is another. Mike Shanahan needs players who take pride in pulling on a Redskins jersey, and there are guys within this draft class who will do that.
Whether you believe in fate or not, there are certain types of players who epitomize what it means to play for a certain team. This is sometimes in flux, as coaching changes bring different playing styles, but the fans are drawn to players who evoke memories of old teams, or have a work-rate that fits with what they expect to see.
In an earlier article, I compiled a mock draft wherein I tried to consider these factors when making my selections. In accordance with this, there are several players who reappear within this piece, along with another who ranks as an outside bet.
Ray Ray Armstrong's history inevitably leads him to the Redskins.
This is the most obvious pick of the entire draft. Armstrong has been compared to Sean Taylor since he was in high school, and if Redskins fans could change one thing about their recent history, it would be to bring Taylor back.
Armstrong played up to those comparisons by going to Miami and wearing Taylor’s old jersey number, but had trouble with boosters that eventually led to his dismissal. He was always going to be a raw prospect, but a lack of playing time over his college career has led to doubts about his ability to absorb an NFL playbook.
He’s a slightly selfish player and lacks finesse in both coverage and tackling, which leads to him being exposed and out of position on his assignments. However, he has the ability to lay fearsome hits and become a player to avoid—much like Taylor.
He’s not going to start in Week 1, and he shouldn’t be expected to. However, his life has followed the path of Taylor to such an extent that if he can add a fraction of the late player’s work ethic, he’ll be starting in the NFL.
Armstrong will get picked up by a team; it’s just a question of when. Once projected as a first-round pick, he could end up falling out of the draft altogether in a class that is so deep at the safety position.
In a sense, the Redskins got lucky this year. The draft is deep at the team’s positions of need, so they could pick starters in most rounds.
Armstrong could end up being a total waste; but before he can be judged in that manner, there’s no doubt that the Redskins are the team he should be playing for.
The Redskins would get a reliable cornerback in Wreh-Wilson.
This pick was made based on the type of player that Shanahan likes to see on his roster.
Wreh-Wilson may not remind people of late, great Redskins, but his character is beyond repute. He’s got the sort of drive and commitment that Shanahan demands, as well as the skills in coverage that the team needs.
With better safety help, 2012 would have been a much easier time for the Redskins’ cornerbacks. Madieu Williams played too close to the line of scrimmage and left himself and his corners exposed over the top. The Redskins defense was regularly burned for big plays, and Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall took a lot of the blame.
Wreh-Wilson is a rangy corner who makes life difficult for receivers. He sticks with his assignment and takes good angles, turning his hips well and showing good anticipation for where the ball will be thrown. He stays tight in coverage and rarely gives up big plays.
He doesn’t make a lot of interceptions, and his Senior Bowl week wasn't his best showing, but he would give the team a reliable presence in the backfield, should the Redskins have more trouble at safety.
Phillip Thomas is versatile and dedicated to improving his craft.
There was an interview with Thomas in The Washington Post recently, wherein the young safety described firing up Madden NFL on the SNES and controlling the Redskins, believing himself a member of the team each time he played the game.
Of course, that may just be a quote he spun to every newspaper that interviewed him, and that in itself is a pretty baseless reason for drafting a player.
However, Thomas’ suitability for the team goes beyond his Madden preferences. He can already play both safety positions, which Raheem Morris pretty much demands from his safeties—and his corners, for that matter.
Versatility is essential in the Haslett defense, too, so Thomas has an advantage there. He’s also a high-character player who understands the virtue of film study.
While on Twitter, I had a quick discussion with Mark Bullock at HogsHaven.com, regarding Thomas and his suitability for the Redskins. Bullock was worried about Thomas’ struggles with misdirection, which is something Thomas certainly had trouble with last year.
Bullock also pointed out that Thomas had a horrible time against Chip Kelly’s Oregon team. With Kelly moving to the Eagles in the offseason, Thomas would find himself up against Kelly twice a year. It’s not a deal-breaker (and his dedication to study would help), but it’s certainly something that Shanahan will have been made aware of.
Despite this, the positives overwhelm the negatives and Thomas would learn quickly. If the team can retain Morris on its coaching staff, Thomas would have a mentor who would demand exceptional things from him, which would accelerate his development.
A hugely talented guy who gets suspended/dismissed for repeated drug violations, you say? He’s destined for the Redskins, surely?
Comparisons to Fred Davis and Trent Williams aside, Da’Rick Rogers will likely slip down draft boards because of these character concerns. However, like Armstrong, he’s a first-round talent who lost his way a little bit.
While some fans are calling for Tyrann Mathieu to be in a Redskins uniform next year, Rogers is a much better NFL prospect who could make game-changing plays for any team that drafts him.
It’s obviously unknown how much these violations will affect his draft stock, but Rogers shouldn’t last past the third round. Whether Shanahan feels he needs a receiver that early—especially one with drug concerns—is a different matter, but drafting on a “best player available” basis would make Rogers difficult to pass up in the third.
It’s likely that Shanahan trades down a couple of spots in the third or fourth round to pick up some value-players in the late rounds, so it could be that the coach makes a surprising pick. The team obviously has a big need at right tackle, but the coaching staff already has Tom Compton, whose pay was increased while on the practice squad.
With Chase Minnifield and Jordan Bernstine also returning at corner and safety, there’s definitely a surprise brewing in Washignton. Receiver could be a position where Shanahan makes a bold move, especially if Kirk Cousins is running the offense for some of next season.
Rogers is strong and gets a lot of yards after the catch. At 6’3” and 206 pounds, he has the size to be a genuine threat, and is also blessed with good pace and a big leap.
Beyond Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, the Redskins still lack reliability in their receiving corps. While bringing in a guy with repeated drug violations might not be the best way to fix those concerns, Rogers has the potential to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
Despite his problems at Tennessee, he performed well and without incident at Tennessee Tech. If he falls to the Redskins, he could be too good to pass up.