Report Card Grades for Washington Redskins' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2014

Report Card Grades for Washington Redskins' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings

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    After selecting eight prospects in the 2014 NFL draft, the Washington Redskins have snared 11 players from the undrafted free-agent talent pool.

    The headline additions include a physical wide receiver, a natural two-gap nose tackle and a smart and productive running back. The team also managed to add some defensive backs to one of the thinnest position groups on the roster.

    Here are the initial report grades for these signings, based on need, value and fit.

Silas Redd, RB, USC

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    The Washington offense is not short of running backs, but you get the feeling new head coach Jay Gruden wants to stamp his own mark on a position defined by the schemes of the previous regime.

    That helps explain the addition of Silas Redd, reported by CTPost.com writer Paul Devlin. Redd is certainly joining a crowded field.

    The Redskins already boast two-time 1,000-yard rusher Alfred Morris. He is supported by 2011 draftees Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster, while the team used this year's sixth-round pick to take Lache Seastrunk.

    The interesting thing about Redd is his fit for the team's current zone-based ground schemes. NFL.com draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki dubbed him a "one-cut, inside zone runner."

    There might be a place for a player who is scheme suitable and rushed for 905 yards in 2013, per cfbstats.com. After all, Gruden has courted several running backs this offseason.

    He pursued Darren Sproles, per Bleacher Report columnist Mike Freeman, as well as rookie prospect Charles Sims, according to ESPN.com reporter John Keim.

    Washington also had keen interest in third-rounder Tre Mason, per ESPN 980 reporter Chris Russell:

    Heard #Redskins were hoping RB Tre Mason (#Rams) out of Auburn would be there for #78 pick after Charles Sims (#Bucs) went off board.

    — Chris Russell (@Russellmania980) May 10, 2014

    It certainly seems as though the first-year head coach wants fresh options at the position. It's also hard to believe there isn't something he really likes about Redd, otherwise, why target a player at such a loaded position?

    Grade: C

Rashad Lawrence, WR, Northwestern

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    Rashad Lawrence is one of three undrafted wide receivers to join Washington in the wake of the draft. His college coach at Northwestern, Pat Fitzgerald, tweeted congratulations to Lawrence.

    Similar to the deal for Redd, Lawrence's arrival is strange, given the ample numbers already at the position. The Washington roster is bloated with receiving talent like Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.

    There is also room for Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson and fifth-round draft choice Ryan Grant. So Lawrence certainly faces a tall order to make the final team.

    In terms of his physical attributes, the 6'2", 190-pounder fits the mold of a big, physical wideout. That was something Gruden often favored as offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    But he has taken a flier on a player who had only 31 catches and one touchdown in 2013, per cfbstats.com.

    Grade: D

Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame

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    Tommy Rees is another curious signing, considering the team is not in desperate need for a quarterback. Robert Griffin III is the clear starter, Kirk Cousins is his obvious backup, while Colt McCoy is third choice.

    Yet that didn't stop Washington from agreeing a deal with former Notre Dame starter Rees, per writer JJ Stankevitz. It's difficult to see this intelligent, yet physically limited passer earning a roster spot, unless he can supplant McCoy.

    Grade: F

Robert Thomas, DT, Arkansas

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    At the conclusion of the draft, Gruden told reporters his team would add depth to the defensive line from the undrafted ranks, per Mike Jones of The Washington Post.

    That plan was put into action with the acquisition of ex-Arkansas space eater Robert Thomas. The former Razorback tweeted he is headed to Washington.

    Thomas is an excellent fit for the 3-4 defensive scheme run by coordinator Jim Haslett. He has the size to play over a center and absorb double-teams.

    The 6'1", 327-pound behemoth also represents decent value. Only a broken leg harmed his draft stock, preventing him from impressing at the combine, per NFL.com College Football 24/7 scribe Chase Goodbread.

    At full strength, Thomas should make the team as a reserve nose tackle.

    Grade: A

Chris Davenport, DT, Tulane

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    Thomas isn't the only mammoth defensive tackle Gruden and Allen added to their roster. Chris Davenport will bring his ample frame to D.C., per Tammy Nunez of The Times-Picayune.

    A former offensive lineman at LSU, Davenport switched both college and position in 2013. The 6'4", 334-pound trench warrior joined Tulane as a 0-technique nose tackle.

    He should compete with both Thomas and 2011 seventh-round pick Chris Neild to provide cover behind starter Barry Cofield. Given his height, Davenport could also see some time at 5-technique end.

    Grade: C+

Lee Doss, WR, Southern

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    Lee Doss is listed by the NFL.com undrafted free-agent tracker as a new arrival for the Washington Redskins. Like Rashad Lawrence, the former Southern wide receiver offers good size for his position, but faces a fight to make the team.

    The 6'1" flanker will likely compete for a role on special teams. Improving that unit has been a central theme of Allen's offseason rebuilding plan.

    Doss is just one of many thrown into the mixer to see what sticks.

    Grade: D

Bryan Shepherd, CB, North Dakota State

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    Sticking with the special teams theme, the Redskins took a punt on ex-North Dakota State cornerback Bryan Shepherd, who can also return kicks. His college Twitter account declared Shepherd will join the team.

    Adding a potential playmaker in the return game is no bad thing for a team that has been weak in that area for too long. It also doesn't hurt that Shepherd could provide depth in a cornerback rotation in need of extra bodies and fresh talent.

    Grade: B

Cody Hoffman, WR, Brigham Young University

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    The third and final undrafted wide receiver signed by Washington, Cody Hoffman is probably the one to get most excited about. His arrival was announced by BYUCougars.com.

    At 6'4"and 223 pounds, Hoffman is a physical flanker who can win over the middle and also outjump defenders for the ball. His level of production in 2013 also provides plenty of encouragement.

    Hoffman averaged 15.68 yards from 57 receptions, per cfbstats.com, ample evidence of his knack for the big play. Perhaps just as important, Hoffman has credible experience as a punt returner.

    The numbers on the roster are stacked against him, but if Hoffman makes a strong first impression, he could easily usurp Hankerson and maybe even Robinson.

    Grade: A-

L.J. Jones, CB, Fresno State

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    The NFL.com undrafted free-agent tracker lists L.J. Jones as a new member of the Redskins. The former Fresno State cornerback had his draft stock wrecked by a season-ending knee injury.

    But at full health, the 5'10", 197-pounder is a versatile speedster who can also operate at safety. Since the Washington secondary needs depth at both positions, signing Jones is a risk worth taking.

    The team could also find use for his field-stretching speed on special teams. Jones has run the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds, according to National Football Post reporter Aaron Wilson.

    Grade: C

J.R. Carr, LS, Tennessee

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    Washington should just have "get better on special teams" as its team slogan for 2014. The trend of stockpiling bodies at football's third phase continued with the arrival of ex-Tennessee long-snapper J.R. Carr.

    Knoxville News Sentinel writer Evan Woodbery tweeted Carr will take his particular set of skills to Washington. A new long-snapper could rate as the most uninspiring addition of this offseason.

    But in fairness, there is no harm in the team exploring all options for improving the kicking game. If Carr can help, great. If not, no problem.

    Grade: D+

Justin Blake, S, Hampton

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    Allen and Gruden finally added a safety in former Hampton and Nassau Community College defensive back Justin Blake. The Nassau Community College Lions Twitter page featured congratulations for the institute's former player.

    Blake faces a challenge providing help at the position which has provoked the most debate this offseason. Safety was the weakest area on last season's roster, but the widely anticipated overhaul hasn't happened.

    Instead, Allen has turned to veterans like Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather to steady the ship. Perhaps Blake can push for playing time in the rotation.

    He is a natural free safety who should at least give himself the chance to learn behind Clark.

    Grade: D

     

    Of course, most teams don't really expect much from their undrafted free-agent haul, and nor should fans. However, the Redskins have at least targeted players who can compete in obvious areas of weakness.

    The D-line needed some more depth and got it. It's also good that three defensive backs were added to the mix, since the secondary received minimal attention during the draft.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, the main focus of these signings has stayed on revamping last season's dire special teams. It's difficult to remember another offseason where football's often overlooked third phase received this much attention.