Washington Redskins: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
The first draft of the post-Mike Shanahan era for the Washington Redskins could best be described as front-loaded. The team took eight players, but the strength of the class is definitely most evident in the first two selections.
General manager Bruce Allen and rookie head coach Jay Gruden wisely targeted a versatile outside pass-rusher with their first pick. That was followed by a partial steal in Round 3, when the team's patience was rewarded with a huge offensive tackle who had been a prominent predraft target.
What followed was a collection of questionable picks. Most of them met needs, but many of the prospects taken seemed underwhelming or reaches.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this draft was how Gruden and Allen handled it. The latter was experiencing his first controlling influence in five years with the team.
Allen proved himself up to the task, smartly trading for extra selections and staying faithful to an unpopular—but perhaps necessary—strategy.
Here is a complete recap of what Washington did right and wrong in the 2014 NFL draft, with analysis for all the big decisions.
Here are all the picks made by Washington:
Round 2, Pick No. 47: Trent Murphy, OLB/DE, Stanford
Round 3, Pick No. 66: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Round 3, Pick No. 78: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska
Round 4, Pick No. 102: Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
Round 5, Pick No. 142: Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane
Round 6, Pick No. 186: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Round 7, Pick No. 217: Ted Bolser, TE, Indiana
Round 7, Pick No. 228: Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas
Washington scored big by landing Trent Murphy with its first pick. The selection was made possible by Allen's first trade of the day.
Taking Murphy answered a pressing—if unpopular—need. The defense needed another quality pass-rusher after notching just 36 sacks in 2013.
Murphy is a great fit, having led collegiate football with 15 sacks last season. He also comes from a Stanford defense based on a similar hybrid 3-4 scheme to the one Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett runs.
On a team level, drafting Murphy gives Allen leverage in future negotiations with Brian Orakpo. The 10-sack outside 'backer received the franchise tag this offseason, but he will soon want a lucrative, long-term deal.
The third round began in the best possible way as Washington snared hulking O-lineman Morgan Moses. The team was keen on Moses prior to the draft, according to DraftInsider.net reporter Tony Pauline and ESPN.com writer John Keim.
Moses will add tremendous size to the front five at 6'6" and 314 pounds. He is more physically dominant than current right tackle Tyler Polumbus and should slot in straight away.
Improving the protection around quarterback Robert Griffin III should always be a priority, considering the investment in the young passer. Selecting Moses honors that commitment to Griffin.
The next selection is where things began to get a little questionable. Allen used the pick he earned from the Cowboys to take Spencer Long, a brittle and unheralded guard during his days at Nebraska.
The problem, as with many of the picks Washington would make from this point, was that there were better prospects at the position still available.
For instance, Gabe Jackson was taken just three picks later. He would've added even more mass up front.
Long filled a need, particularly in terms of depth, a recurring theme for Washington in this draft. But while the 6'5", 320-pounder should challenge right guard Chris Chester, it feels like the Redskins could have done more with their bonus pick.
That same theme was repeated in Round 4 when Washington selected cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Again, a need was answered, namely adding another tall, physical cornerback to the rotation.
But it was also true that Allen left more highly touted cornerbacks on the board. Aaron Colvin, Keith McGill, Walt Aikens and Pierre Desir were all picked after Breeland.
After Round 4, Gruden's voice obviously echoed loudest in Washington's war room. The next three picks were on offense, the first two of which were particularly intriguing.
Diminutive, possession-based wide receiver Ryan Grant and pint-sized speedy rusher Lache Seastrunk could prove to be steals. But Grant wasn't a pressing need, and Seastrunk isn't much of a receiver out of the backfield, something Gruden clearly wanted, according to a tweet by radio host Chris Russell (via Josh Hill of Fansided.
The two final-round choices were tight end Ted Bolser and kicker Zach Hocker. Bolser satisfied the need for another tight end to back up burgeoning young star Jordan Reed, but again the choice of prospect was underwhelming.
Hocker might improve the kicking game, but using a pick earned in trade on a kicker produced a hollow ending to this draft.
In many ways, the seventh round symbolized the regime's clear objectives in this draft. Allen and Gruden clearly prioritized adding depth and improving special teams, over targeting impact prospects.
Washington Post reporter Mike Jones made that clear after the team's work on Day 3:
As he assessed the to-do list from his first draft as coach of the Washington Redskins — and declared it a success — Jay Gruden made two things clear: depth and competition will serve as themes leading up to the 2014 season. And, the mission of improving the special teams units also carried great importance as Washington searched for talent.
While that is certainly not the most glamorous draft strategy, it could be necessary work for a team that finished 3-13 last season. The roster was wafer-thin behind core starters at vital positions in 2013, while the special teams was a year-long ode to calamity and self-destruction.
If they did nothing else during this draft, Allen and Gruden at least impressed upon fans how committed they are to building a deep roster, loaded at every area, not just the star positions.
Best Pick: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Many might put Moses here due to the boost he could provide to an offensive line that surrendered 43 sacks last season. But Murphy gets the nod instead because of how he'll help expand the defensive playbook.
It's becoming a well-worn cliche that a team can never have enough pass-rushers. But familiarity should not breed contempt toward this phrase.
Faced with opposition of that calibre, defensive schemer Haslett needs all the weapons he can get his hands on. As his latest, Murphy won't just be depth in case Orakpo stumbles through a franchise-tag year.
The flexible 'tweener will instead be a roving pressure specialist Haslett can unleash from various sub-packages. Murphy was dominant rushing the passer at the collegiate level.
He tallied 15 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss during his final year at Stanford, per cfbstats.com. While it can be dangerous to be wowed by stats, no team should covet a prospect who wasn't a playmaker in college.
Those who are skeptical about the pick should take a moment to imagine Murphy adding his penchant for getting into the backfield alongside the destructive talents of Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
Haslett and new assistant Brian Baker have promised to let their outside linebackers attack more often this season, via ESPN.com reporter John Keim. It's an admirable and necessary desire, but it's one that requires the talent to work in practice.
Haslett's defense now boasts three top-notch "Joker-style" rushers who can create havoc from anywhere. He is already keenly aware of the possibilities, according to NFL Media insider Albert Breer:
1) Murphy doesn't fill a big need, but coaches feel like they can put him with Orakpo, Kerrigan and Hatcher on the line in nickel right away— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 10, 2014
This is where Murphy's versatility will really prove valuable. The Redskins could show some looks with Murphy and Kerrigan aligned with their hands down, while Orakpo hovers behind as a standing, freelance blitzer.
Another option would be to slide Kerrigan inside next to new defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, while Murphy and Orakpo bookend the four-man line. Haslett tried some of these things with veteran Darryl Tapp last preseason, but the schemes never materialized in the real action.
With Murphy now on board and a new mantra to attack, the potential for creating heavy pressure from a variety of looks is awesome. I guarantee Romo, Manning and Foles have already thought about it.
Picking Murphy wasn't just about getting some insurance at the position. Although as The Washington Post reporter Mike Jones points out, Murphy's presence is coverage, while Orakpo plays under the franchise tag and Kerrigan is a year away from free agency.
Washington managed to not only strengthen depth at arguably the pivotal position in Haslett's 3-4 scheme, the team also earned an accomplished sub-package playmaker and future starter.
Worst Pick(s): Seventh-Rounders
It could be argued that the seventh and final round of the draft is the ideal place to acquire special teams help. But it's equally true that teams have unearthed hidden gems in Round 7 in the past, players who have then become surprisingly effective pros.
The worst part about Washington's business in this year's seventh round was the seeming unwillingness to even try and find a diamond in the rough. Instead, Allen stuck rigidly to his overhaul of the special teams.
There's no other way to explain selecting Bolser and kicker Zach Hocker with consecutive picks. Gruden was bold in his assessment of the qualities that drew the team to Bolser, per The Washington Times reporter Brian McNally:
Washington had the worst special teams unit in the NFL last season and returning with the same cast of players won’t cut it. Gruden said as much in another candid remark. It’s part of what appealed to the Redskins about Indiana tight end Ted Bolser, who they took in the seventh round.
"What kind of stuck out, [Bolser] runs down on kickoffs like a war daddy. He’s a fun guy to watch running down on kicks and obviously I’ve mentioned special teams on here a lot."
While the team certainly needs plenty of help on special teams, making it a priority seems to have left the roster bloated with players limited to that one area.
Instead of Bolser, the Redskins could have targeted additional depth along the O-line or an extra body for the front-line rotation on defense. Players such as Seantrel Henderson and Shamar Stephen fit the bill for both requirements.
But rather than look at those areas, Washington followed Bolser by using a pick acquired in a trade to take a kicker. If Hocker supplants incumbent Kai Forbath and becomes a clutch specialist, then it was worth it.
But surely Allen could've found a kicker in the undrafted talent pool.
Of course, the flip side of the argument about better players being available is that at least Allen and Gruden stuck to their own board. Many would consider that commendable, rather than stacking talent on top of talent.
Yet after getting Murphy and Moses early on, followed by finding Seastrunk in Round 6, finishing with two special teamers provided a rather flat ending.
Undrafted Free Agents
Washington stocked up on defensive line depth and additional pass-catchers in the aftermath of the 2014 draft. Here's who they got:
Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU
The Redskins quickly added big-bodied wideout Cody Hoffman, per Deseret News reporters Carter Williams, Brandon Judd and Amy Donaldson, citing an announcement from BYU.
At 6'4" and 223 pounds, Hoffman has the size Gruden often covets at receiver. But the ex-BYU standout faces a tall order to make the roster at a position loaded with talent.
Chris Davenport, DT, Tulane
Gruden declared his intention to use the undrafted market to bolster his team's D-line depth, according to The Washington Post writer Mike Jones.
The first-year head coach stayed true to his word by acquiring Chris Davenport, a move confirmed by The Times-Picayune reporter Tammy Nunez. The ex-Tulane product offers the rotation a 6'4", 334-pound behemoth who can compete for a backup role at nose tackle.
Robert Thomas, DT, Arkansas
Former Arkansas monster Robert Thomas confirmed he has joined the Redskins. Thomas is a pure nose tackle ideally suited for a two-gap, 3-4 scheme like the one used in Washington.
A leg injury damaged his stock during the draft process, but at 6'1" and 327 pounds, Thomas has the chance to make the roster as a reserve 0-technique.
Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame
CSNChicago.com writer JJ Stankevitz announced former Notre Dame passer Tommy Rees is headed to Washington. Stankevitz also noted that the cerebral quarterback was let down by feeble arm strength and poor move skills in college.
Expect Rees to battle Colt McCoy for third-string duties.
Silas Redd, RB, USC
CTPost.com writer Paul Devlin confirmed ex-USC running back Silas Redd has joined the Redskins. Credited with good skills for a zone-based system by NFL.com draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki, Redd fits the current ground schemes used in D.C.
However, like Hoffman, he faces a tough task making himself noticed in a crowded field. Alfred Morris, Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster and Seastrunk are all currently on the roster.
Bryan Shepherd, CB/KR, North Dakota State
Just in case anyone thought they might have forgotten about the special teams for a few seconds, Allen and Gruden grabbed cornerback and kick returner Bryan Shepherd.
The acquisition of the ex-North Dakota State gem was announced on the university's Twitter account. If Shepherd can prove his return skills are top-notch, he could make the roster, given the obvious weakness in that area.
J.R. Carr, LS, Tennessee
Knoxville News Sentinel writer Evan Woodberry tweeted that Tennessee long snapper J.R. Carr would join the Redskins. His addition is further proof, if any were really still needed at this point, that Allen is serious about fixing the special teams.
Justin Blake, S, Hampton
There are likely legions of Washington supporters who lobbied for the team to add some rookie help at safety. Former Hampton and Nassau Community College defensive back Justin Blake might not have been who those fans had in mind.
His arrival was announced via the NCC Lions Twitter page.
Rashad Lawrence, WR, Northwestern
Taking another wide receiver seems a baffling move, considering the existing numbers at the position. But former Northwestern flanker Rashad Lawrence has become the latest to join a group that was also supplemented by Ryan Grant during the draft.
The news was tweeted by Lawrence's college coach, Pat Fitzgerald. The player is described by NFL.com draft pundit Nolan Nawrocki as a "dependable inside, possession receiver with the size, toughness and hands to fight for a roster spot."
Surprisingly, given the special teams theme of this draft process, Nawrocki also cites the player's limited experience in this area.
Washington entered the undrafted free-agency period with a clear priority of adding bodies to the D-line and special teams. So far, the team has done exactly that.
This is a deeper, stronger roster than the one that finished last season 3-13. That is the primary accomplishment so far for the post-Mike Shanahan regime.
Allen and Gruden loaded up on marquee talent in free agency, with names such as DeSean Jackson and Jason Hatcher. But unlike many previous offseasons in Washington, the recruitment hasn't been solely top-heavy.
Gruden and Allen's first draft is best viewed as a companion piece to their work during free agency. Stockpiling special teams and reserve help is not as glamorous as adding a dynamic defensive playmaker, but the team signed one of those in Hatcher.
Filling roster spots is never going to excite fans the way the arrival of a quality wide receiver can. But fans had those moments when Jackson and Andre Roberts were brought on board.
After plucking stars from the veteran market, the draft became about filling out key positions with quality depth. Gruden was pretty brazen about that fact when discussing the selections of Moses and Long, via The Washington Times reporter Brian McNally:
We need some size in there and these guys will compete. But, moving forward, when I got the job here, I wasn’t as disappointed with the offensive line as I read about.
A lot of people had a lot of things to say about them, but any time you have the chance to add depth with some big kids like Morgan and Spencer, it can only help add to your depth, and down the road, young, good, big offensive linemen are hard to find.
Critics will chide the Allen-Gruden partnership for not addressing inside linebacker and safety. But really this shouldn't have come as a surprise.
The tip they were happy at inside linebacker came when the team signed three free agents at the positions. It's important to note that two of those free agents, Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton, each have experience playing in a 3-4 and both saw significant playing time in 2013.
As ESPN.com reporter John Keim points out, the new regime believes in its options at inside linebacker:
Not only do they like Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan, they also like how Keenan Robinson has (thus far) progressed. They have a special teams guy in Adam Haywardand a young guy they can still develop in Will Compton, who showed some toughness last summer.
If Allen and Gruden's scatter-shot approach to replacing the retired London Fletcher is a gamble, the outcome will be decided once the games begin. The same is true at safety.
Yes, it was perhaps the weakest position on the team a year ago. But once they signed Ryan Clark and made the effort to bring back Tanard Jackson, it was obvious Allen and Gruden were content with what they had heading into the draft.
How that decision plays out on the field will not only determine the success of 2014's defense but also the initial judgement on this regime's attempts to rebuild the roster.
That thought essentially strikes at what is next for Washington and its fans. Gruden and Allen made a lot of decisions during the draft that require a leap of faith.
If they fix the special teams, then all the picks expended in that cause won't seem like wasted ones. If Moses emerges as a rookie starter, the duo will be applauded for biding their time and coming away with a steal.
If Murphy adds an extra dimension to how this defense creates pressure, the bold decision to take him with the team's top pick will be vindicated.
Many had almost blind trust in the eventual success of the supposed youth-based vision of Shanahan, despite evidence to the contrary. Now it's time to endorse a regime that isn't making as many headlines but appears to be doing many of the little things right.