Friday, July 01, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Washington Redskins

Jesus, finally here! Apology's about the delay.

So, the Washington Redskins eh? Notorious throughout the land for basically two things; 1) over spending on unworthy free agents, 2) semi-bad drafting.

In a bid to rectify this unfortunate reputation the Redskins approached the draft with a strategy unusual for them in that they traded about a bit and with the help of compensatory selections ended up with twelve picks in this years draft. What's even more surprising is that they actually made some good picks.

Starting in round one with Ryan Kerrigan, defensive end, Purdue.

Admittedly Kerrigan was a defensive end in college whereas for the Redskins he'll have to take on the role of a 3-4 outside linebacker, but the transition shouldn't be too painful. He even played a few snaps standing up in college and it didn't seem to effect his game much.

Now generally speaking I like Kerrigan. There is the odd issue here and there, like I'd like to see him work a bit more on his strength, but these tend to be in the category of "minor complaints". Those things aside, Kerrigan has bags of potential as an NFL pass rusher.

Speed is good and the thing I like most is the use of the hands. Too many players come into the NFL hoping to be the next Dwight Freeney or Jared Allen, but lacking the technical understanding of how to use their hands in various ways to get off blocks.

Kerrigan strikes me as being one of the better prepared players to take on the challenge. He's shown great leverage and great technique, plus buckets of determination to get into the backfield, chase plays down and get after a quarterback in trouble. All these things should help Kerrigan succeed at the next level.

Talking of next levels, its round two and Jarvis Jenkins, defensive tackle, Clemson. With the Redskins taking a tackle it's almost like they're expressing disappointment in Albert Haynesworth....

They might end up expressing disappointment in Jenkins too. I just don't see a lot in the kid. Pretty plain, average tackle who doesn't show any of the glints of promise that some others have. Maybe that's all the Redskins were looking for? Just a guy to plug the middle? I strongly doubt that, which is why I find this an odd pick. Just a bit flat.

In round three the Redskins went with Leonard Hankerson, wide receiver, Miami (Florida).

Now I'm a big Hankerson fan. Anytime a player forgoes the chance to come out of college in their junior year and stay on for another year to get their education, that always counts as a plus in my book. He also spent a lot of time in the last two off seasons seeking help from a former Dolphins receiver in order to develop himself a little more as a receiver, which can only speak highly of his work ethic.

On the field Hankerson has a number of great traits. He's a big guy (= big target), he's pretty quick, his route running has improved a lot and he has great hands. He falls very much into the scope of being a down field target man, though perhaps the best comparison I could give would be that he reminds me a lot of Andre Johnson.

As always with such comparisons I should stress that I'm not saying he'll walk into the league day one and be that good, just the style of play strikes me as being very similar. With time however? If receiver from this draft class is going to go on and emulate a guy like Johnson, then Hankerson could be the one to do it.

Round four now and it's Roy Helu, running back, Nebraska.

Since the draft, Helu has gone up in my estimation. He has obvious strength and is not afraid to put his head down and plough through defenders, but previously I questioned somewhat his vision and speed. Having taken a much deeper look I'm now satisfied that I was previously talking out of my arse.

Helu may not be blindingly quick, but there is a difference between the required speed to break away from defenders, leaving them in your dust trail, and the speed needed just to stop people catching you before you reach the end zone. Helu has the second. His vision and cutting ability also appear to be more than adequate.

At this juncture you could be forgiven for thinking that I'm about to go off on a starry eyed jaunt praising Helu to the ends of the time and predicting pro bowls and Super Bowls a plenty. Well... it's not quite that far. I just wanted to rectify my initial assessment that was quite down beat, when in fact I think Helu deserves more.

Round five and the Redskins went with Dejon Gomes, safety, Nebraska.

Good safety? Bad safety? Meh. Not really a lot to see to be honest. A few highlight reel plays here and there but spends most of the game not really doing a lot. Coverage can be reasonably good against tight ends and third string receivers, but there's just not a lot to show. Against someone like Dallas Clark etc, I can see him struggling.

Still in Round five, Niles Paul, wide receiver, Nebraska. I get the feeling someone in Washington watched a lot of Nebraska film in the run up to the draft.

If they did, then I'm not sure what it is they really saw in Niles Paul. He's not bad with the ball in his hands, but again I would protest that there were other, clearly better receivers out there on the board when the Redskins made this pick.

Not least because almost every other receiver still on the board at the time must have had more catches than Paul. Part of that is down to the fact he wasn't targeted all that often, part of it is because (and may have caused reason one) he has quite dead hands, seemingly dropping more passes than he actually catches.

Moving to round six and the Redskins still have six picks left! The first of these was Evan Royster, running back, Penn state.

First of all, you have to pat Royster on the back for setting a new career rushing record with Penn State. But at the same time... eh, I'm just not a huge Royster fan. I think blocking schemes had a hell of a lot to do with explaining Roysters success and I just don't see the combination of attributes that will produce a good running back at the next level.

Next up, Aldrick Robinson, wide receiver, Southern Methodist. No film. No comment. Next.

In to round seven and Brandyn Thompson, cornerback, Boise State. Not a huge fan if I'm honest. Like a lot of corners he gets those odd moments when a quarterback over throws a pass and he makes a pick, but generally speaking a little suspect. Very loose coverage.

Next up is offensive tackle Maurice Hurt, Florida. I'm indifferent to him. Doesn't strike me as anything more than a filler for training camp.

Second from last we have Markus White, defensive end, Florida State. Hard one to gauge. Against weaker opposition he can often find a way past the sub standard right tackles, but up against top drawer opponents White often gets brutally man handled. Lack of technique and lack of strength will cripple him at this level.

That just leaves Nose Tackle Chris Neild, from West Virginia. Again, another prospect who is ok, but really lacks anything that would suggest he's going to succeed at the NFL level. The main problem is that while he's strong enough to hold his own up the middle, he really doesn't have the extra speed or strength to make much of an impact beyond occasionally tackling a mid line runner.

So, there's your 2011 Washington Redskins. A mixed bag. A lot of players in there who I think will just kind of mill around and not do much, but some good ones as well. Ryan Kerrigan is notable for example for the fact he'll be playing opposite Brian Orakpo. If Kerrigan can live up to his potential then the Redskins will have a double sided pass rush to take notice of.

Hankerson and Helu are also good picks due to what they bring to the table. Hankerson is in the bizarre spot where he may just walk on to the field at training camp and be the number one guy. Santana Moss is up for free agency and the Redskins depth chart at that position isn't exactly brimming with threats to someone as good as Hankerson.

Helu meanwhile is in the position of being behind a pretty good O-line from a run blocking perspective. He might have to fight a bit harder than Hankerson to keep a spot and then get on the field, but he has talent and Washington might be a good place to help him exploit it.

Right, that's the NFC East finally done and with it the whole conference.

The plan is next to start the AFC, beginning with the AFC South, but I should just throw out a warning right now to those of you who drop by all the time. Basically, it takes absolutely ages to do these posts and unfortunately that really cuts into my time. I don't get paid at all for doing this, except on the odd occasion when someone clicks one of the adverts.

Now that's not so much of a problem, I mean I love football, but to be honest readership is sparse. There appears to be a hardcore group of you, mostly from the US as can be expected but also Italy, Denmark and Canada. However a hardcore group is, never the less, still just a small group of people and it is kind of disheartening to pour so much time into the project for so little exposure.

If my posts become as infrequent in general as they have been the last week or so (at least until the season proper starts) then forgive me, but I'm having to prioritise other things, like adequate sleep, thus forcing me to stretch my writing time for these posts out over the course of multiple days.

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