It hasn't been a good offseason for the Washington Redskins. After blowing a chance to advance to the playoffs for the second straight season in Week 17 last year, the Redskins suffered a series of indignities.
There were the reports that franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins wanted out of D.C.
The ugly parting of ways between the team and general manager Scot McCloughan.
And a free-agency period that saw the Redskins become the first team in NFL history to lose a pair of 1,000-yard wide receivers from the prior campaign.
In short, Washington entered the 2017 NFL draft badly needing to stop the bleeding. To get the offseason equivalent of the win that stops a four-game skid and saves a season.
Well, the Redskins got that win. The team's solid showing in Philadelphia might not have solved all that ails them, but Washington added talent, filled needs and appears to have gotten back on track.
The draft started out like Christmas morning for Washington—with a gift under the tree.
And what a gift it was. Leading up to the draft, many pundits considered Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen a top-10 prospect. Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBS Sports slotted the 6'3", 286-pounder fourth overall. Bleacher Report's own Michael Felder stated on B/R's Facebook Live draft coverage that he had Allen three spots higher—at No. 1.
However, presumably due to concerns about Allen's surgically repaired shoulders, the big man wasn't a top-five pick. Or even a top-10 pick. He fell all the way into Washington's lap at 17.
And with him fell the best value pick of the entire draft in the opinion of Charley Casserly of the NFL Network:
It isn't just that Allen is a wildly talented and productive lineman equally adept at stuffing the run and collapsing the pocket. It isn't just that he can play end for Washington in base sets and then kick inside to make quarterbacks cry in passing situations.
It's that with Chris Baker's departure, that spot was one of the Redskins' biggest needs entering this draft.
Um, Chris who?
Frankly, if Washington drafted Allen, three punters, two nacho vendors and a parking lot attendant, their draft haul would rate a B-minus. But Bruce Allen was just getting started.
The Redskins went the Crimson Tide route again in Round 2, settling on outside linebacker Ryan Anderson at No. 49. The 6'2", 253-pound Anderson, who tallied 61 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 2016, wasn't shy about sharing his plans for his new home with Brian McNally of CBS Washington:
I’m a playmaker, man. I’m a game changer. I’m a good teammate, man. I’m a good dude to have in the locker room. I’m the ultimate football player, man. I’m not a Combine warrior, I’m not a workout warrior, I’m a football player. At the end of the day, that’s what it boils down to. It boils down to ‘See ball, get ball’ and striking the man in front of you. That’s what I bring to the table. Right now I’m working to set my own mold, to break that mold. I’m going to be the best outside linebacker in the game. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be the best Ryan Anderson I can be.
Combining Allen and Anderson with holdovers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy gives Washington the makings of both an improved run defense and a fearsome pass rush.
But wait, there's more!
In Round 3, the Redskins were able to land a first-round talent. UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau has the size (6'0"), speed (4.35-second 40 time) and ball skills NFL scouts drool over. But a torn pectoral muscle at his pro day precipitated a dip into Day 2.
As Redskins beat reporter Lake Lewis tweeted, Moreau is expected to be ready at or near the beginning of the regular season. And he intends to show that the teams who passed on him made a mistake:
The NFL Network's Mike Mayock believes the Moreau pick, like Allen, was draft-day larceny. "I love this pick," Mayock said. "I had him as a first-round corner before he tore his pec bench-pressing at his pro day. He's got speed, length and ball skills. He just needs to be more consistently physical and needs more snaps to understand the game a bit better."
Added to a secondary that includes veterans Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland and youngster Kendall Fuller, the Redskins would appear to have that which every team in the league craves like a Philly cheesesteak with the whiz...
Depth in the defensive backfield.
The Redskins didn't forsake the offense either, just in case you were wondering.
Admit it, you were wondering—just like you were wondering what the heck "the whiz" is.
True Philly cheesesteaks have Cheez Whiz on them, not provolone.
In the fourth round, Washington snagged one of the more underrated tailbacks in the 2017 draft. Oklahoma's Samaje Perine toiled in the shadow of Joe Mixon, and it's true the 5'11", 233-pounder doesn't have Mixon's speed or explosiveness.
However, Perine also doesn't have Mixon's character red flags, and the hard-nosed, physical downhill grinder also has one thing Mixon most assuredly does not: the NCAA's single-game rushing record.
is 427 yards in one game a lot? It sounds like a lot.
I can't sit here and tell you that Perine will be the lead back in Washington in 2017. I also can't tell you he won't be. At worst, he'll provide Washington with a more physical pounder for short-yardage and clock-killing situations. At best, he'll rise to the top of a muddied cadre of backs in D.C.
To be fair, it wasn't all pretty. Later in Round 4, the Redskins added Michigan State safety Montae Nicholson, a banged-up size/speed prospect whose tape isn't nearly as impressive as his measurables.
The tape does not lie, folks.
However, that was really Washington's only reach of the draft. In Round 5, they added depth behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis with Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. Round 6 brought a versatile offensive lineman in Wyoming's Chase Roullier and wide receiver depth in small-school standout Robert Davis of Georgia State.
The Redskins closed things out in the final round with even more depth in the secondary, choosing Louisville safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and Auburn cornerback Josh Holsey.
Now, there's no guarantee that any of these players, from Allen right on down the line, will live up to expectations. And the 2017 draft didn't solve all of Washington's problems. There's still the matter of Cousins' long-term contract status, and even with the addition of Terrelle Pryor in free agency, it remains to be seen what impact losing Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson will have on the receiving corps.
But the Redskins look to have made big strides in the front seven (their most glaring need) and secondary while shoring up an iffy backfield—all while getting a couple of significant values along the way.
Perhaps most importantly, the Redskins flipped the narrative surrounding the team. A month ago the talk was all about free-agent departures, front office discord and an unhappy signal-caller. Now the pessimism born of that brouhaha has swung to optimism after arguably the best draft of any team in the NFC East.
And that's the most welcome change in the nation's capital this side of Congress actually accomplishing something.
Hey, anything's possible, right?