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Washington Redskins Rookie Spotlight: Expectations for Leonard Hankerson

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson #85 of the Miami Hurricanes breaks away for a big gain against Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Land Shark Stadium on September 17, 2009 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images
James DudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2011

When the Washington Redskins selected University of Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson in the third round, many lauded the pick as a steal.

Hankerson is touted as a player who can have an immediate positive impact on the Redskins' lacklustre passing game. But what are realistic expectations for the tall and talented flanker in his first pro season?

The 6'2", 209 pound wideout has the potential to become a useful weapon in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme.

A highly consistent and productive pass catcher, Hankerson offers a multiple threat to the Redskins offense.

Hankerson is a physical target who excels at using his size and strength to gain separation. He has decent hands and will reach out to snare a pass rather than simply waiting for the football to come into his body.

Hankerson has good speed and excellent leaping ability enabling him to stretch the field. But his biggest strength is his ability to make plays after the catch in the underneath and intermediate zones.

Hankerson benefits from an excellent understanding of zone coverages and a tremendous appetite for going across the middle.

The one drawback to Hankerson's game is his lack of elite initial quickness off the line of scrimmage. This makes him too reliant on using his physicality to defeat defensive backs.

Another disadvantage for Hankerson heading into his rookie season is the Redskins' suddenly crowded wide receiver unit.

After re-signing leading wideout Santana Moss, Washington quickly moved in free agency to secure the services of veterans Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney. Hankerson will have to work hard to establish himself as a credible option amongst the rotation.

There is no guarantee that all of the veterans the Redskins have added will make the final roster.  A strong camp showing from Hankerson will endear him to Mike Shanahan and his staff.

Shanahan quickly made room for rookie Rod Smith during his first season in charge of the Denver Broncos. Hankerson is in a similar mold to Smith.

His leaping ability, strong hands and proficiency in the slot means that Hankerson possesses the playmaking skills the Redskins desperately need to add to the offense.

Hankerson's ability to go up and make a play on the ball will be invaluable given the precarious state of the Redskins' quarterback situation.

Given the dubious track records of front runners John Beck and Rex Grossman, pinpoint accuracy in the passing game is very unlikely.

Look for Hankerson to make a promising start to his career in D.C. About 40 to 50 receptions and five touchdowns is a reasonable target for an athlete of Hankerson's talent to aim for in his first season.

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