Breaking down the Washington Redskins' 2018 draft class.
Round 1, No. 13 overall: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
My take: For the first time in franchise history, the Redskins have used back-to-back first-round picks on a defensive lineman. Da'Ron Payne will join his former Alabama teammate Jonathan Allen along the Redskins’ front. They needed a boost up front; players and coaches talked about this even before last season ended. The Redskins received good production from Allen and Matt Ioannidis in 2017, but the former only played five games and the latter was hurt for a good part of the season. The run defense suffered. Adding Payne gives the Redskins the necessary depth to withstand a brutal injury. Considering they’ll face running backs Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott a total of four times a season, having that depth up front will help.
Investing in defense: The Redskins understand they need to improve their defense. Including Payne, the Redskins have drafted seven defensive players in the first four rounds since 2016; they’ve selected two offensive players in the same rounds during that time. The problem is, of those six picks prior to Payne, only one is projected to start this season: Allen. Payne clearly will play a key role and, considering he was the 13th pick, should become an immediate starter. But they also should get more contributions from two high picks last year: second-round linebacker Ryan Anderson and corner Fabian Moreau. If that’s the case, then the Redskins will have their best young group of defenders in a long time.
The question mark: With Payne, it's his pass-rush ability. Some teams did not think he would become more than a two-down player. He only had three sacks and five tackles for a loss at Alabama. But the Redskins think he can help versus the pass. If that’s the case, then he should be an excellent pick. If not, they would have passed on every-down players such as safety Derwin James. But Payne did finish strong as a pass-rusher for Alabama, with an excellent showing inside against Georgia in the national championship game.
“He’s not just a run stopper. I know he didn’t have a lot of sacks, but he can disrupt the passing game," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "If you watched him against Georgia, you might say he’s the best defensive lineman in football. He was very disruptive in the running game and the passing game and it’s going to be hard to move those guys. Pro football is about being able to run the ball and stopping the run. We have to stop the run better and Da’Ron Payne will help us do that.”
Payne did show a good initial step at times and would be the first off the ball. But then he would stand too upright and lose his push. If he can learn to stay lower consistently, Payne could turn into a good interior rusher. It won’t be about sacks; it’ll be about the ability to collapse the pocket and set up the edge rushers. When Allen and Ioannidis were out with injuries, the Redskins did not pressure the passer. Playing next to Allen, Redskins linebacker Preston Smith recorded 4.5 sacks in the first five games. Without Allen, Smith posted 3.5 sacks over the final 11 games. A consistent push inside will help players such as Smith.
Round 2, No. 59 overall: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
My take: The Redskins wanted a running back with power and explosiveness. They did a lot of work on Guice throughout the process -- going to dinner with him before his pro day and then hosting him in Washington. There were a lot of whispers about Guice before this weekend and those continued until he was selected. That will be worth monitoring, but he has first-round talent, so if off-field concerns are alleviated, then the Redskins will greatly benefit with perhaps their best all-around running back since Clinton Portis.
How he fits: The Redskins weren't going to pick a running back unless he was a clear upgrade over the current backs, including Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. Chris Thompson will remain as their third-down guy. But they selected Guice here for a reason: They want a full-time starting back. Guice becomes the Redskins' highest running back selection since they took Ladell Betts at No. 56 in 2002. Guice ran for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016 and 1,251 yards last season, despite playing hurt. He'll have to prove he can help in the passing game, either as a blocker or pass-catcher. But he runs with violence and should get yards after contact -- or create openings with his patience and vision.
Round 3, No. 74 overall: Geron Christian, OT, Louisville
My take: Offensive tackle Geron Christian is an athletic, intriguing pick for the Redskins. He’s a former basketball player, so footwork won’t be an issue for him. At 6-foot-5, 298 pounds, he has good size for playing tackle. There’s no doubt the Redskins were stung by all the injuries they had up front last season, having to play nearly three dozen offensive line combinations. Christian was a three-year starter at Louisville and coach Jay Gruden called him an exciting prospect. It’s not just his athleticism, he also has the arm length that teams covet. He played both tackle spots at Louisville.
How he fits: It’ll be interesting to see how the Redskins work their tackles. They have two starting tackles in Trent Williams and Morgan Moses who are coming off injuries and won’t be ready until after spring workouts. Swing tackle Ty Nsekhe also is coming off an injury-filled season. They had not talked with Nsekhe before the players returned on April 16 about a possible switch to guard. But after drafting Christian, they could revisit that possibility. However, he’s not able to practice yet either, so that scenario won’t be known for a while. It also will depend on how Christian develops and how close he’d be to contributing as a rookie. However, he provides insurance should anything happen again like in 2017, when they were unable to withstand the heavy dose of injuries.
Round 4, No. 109 overall: Troy Apke, S, Penn State
My take: The Redskins picked a player with only one year starting experience but one who provides speed, and that's always worth developing. Apke ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at the combine. He also has good size at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. The Redskins do not need him to play much as a rookie so that should allow him a chance to develop. Apke went higher than most anticipated, but the Redskins found someone they can groom into a capable backup if nothing else.
How he fits: The Redskins needed more depth in the secondary behind starters D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson. Don't forget, Nicholson was a fourth-round choice last season who impressed. But they don't have a lot of depth behind those two, save for DeShazor Everett. Apke will fit mostly as a special teamer, another area they needed to fix. With all the injuries last season the Redskins' special teams were weakened, so they need to find players who could develop into fixtures within the unit.
Round 5, No. 163 overall: Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
Prospect Profile: Tim Settle
Former Virginia Tech DT Tim Settle is a versatile lineman with sneaky speed who could be a long-term starter.
My take: Landing Settle in the fifth round is excellent value for Washington. He was rated by some as a third rounder. The Redskins did not have to add another defensive lineman, but if Settle continues to develop -- as he did last year at Virginia Tech -- he could become a part of the line rotation. Settle, from nearby Manassas, Virginia, struggled with his weight before last season, but got that under control and flourished and finished with 12.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2017.
How he fits: At 6-foot-3 and 329 pounds, Settle can play nose tackle, a long area of need for Washington. They do have Phil Taylor and first-round pick Da’Ron Payne to handle that spot. But like Payne, Settle can help as a tackle in nickel as well. There will be solid competition along the defensive line this summer, with nine players having a legitimate shot at roster spots; the Redskins typically keep six linemen. With Settle and Payne coming, some veterans will be expendable. That includes Terrell McClain, who struggled last season and does not have a guaranteed base salary this season.
Round 6, No. 197 overall: Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB, Alabama
Prospect Profile: Shaun Dion Hamilton
Despite knee injuries in 2016 and 2017, LB Shaun Dion Hamilton was a force on the Alabama defense.
My take: The Redskins love defensive players from Alabama. Inside linebacker Hamilton is the fourth Crimson Tide defensive player drafted in the last two years. Hamilton has been productive when healthy. But staying healthy has been the problem, with his last two seasons having ended because of knee injuries. He tore his right ACL in 2016 and then suffered a broken right kneecap last season. But he’s a smart player and can call signals. Hamilton was third on the team with 5.5 tackles for a loss when his season ended last year.
How he fits: He’s a good pick for the future. Hamilton said his knee is 85 percent healthy and he expects to be ready for training camp. But that still means he’ll be behind when camp begins -- and that means prepping him for special teams and perhaps that of a future starter. The Redskins are set at starting inside linebacker with Mason Foster and Zach Brown. Hamilton gives the Redskins someone who could take over a year from now if they want to part ways with one of the starters.
Round 7, No. 241 overall: Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech
My take: The Redskins lost a Virginia Tech corner this offseason when they traded Kendall Fuller to Kansas City. Stroman isn’t as talented as Fuller, but he can play the position. It’s a smart idea to draft corners every year, just because of their importance and the fact you need three good ones. Stroman played high school ball and college ball with defensive lineman Tim Settle, whom the Redskins drafted in the fifth round. Stroman also played two years under Torian Gray, now the Redskins secondary coach.
How he fits: The Redskins needed more competition at corner. After Josh Norman, it’s uncertain who will start. They do have Orlando Scandrick, Fabian Moreau, Quinton Dunbar and Josh Holsey. So, there are potential good choices, but what direction it takes remains to be seen. It’ll be hard for Stroman to break into that group, but Holsey made it as a seventh-rounder last year. Stroman, who intercepted nine passes at Tech, also can return punts; he averaged 11.3 yards per return last season. He weighs around 190 pounds, so he might have to add some strength.
Round 7, No. 256 overall: Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
My take: The Redskins grabbed a guy who will have a lot to prove as Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick in the draft. It’s a safe bet that any receiver who has 114 catches and 13 touchdowns in one season doesn’t want to be called irrelevant. Quinn started nine games in two seasons at LSU, but wasn't getting a lot of targets, so he transferred to SMU. The Redskins like how well he runs option routes, which will be helpful if he plays in the slot. Gruden said Quinn has strong hands, so drops have not been a problem.
How he fits: The Redskins needed more receivers, just for competition beyond the top three or four. Their first three are set: Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson. But after that there are questions, with Brian Quick, Robert Davis and Maurice Harris. They need more bodies just in case something happens – or if someone doesn’t develop. Quinn can also help as a returner if he makes the roster. Crowder has struggled in two of his three years as a punt returner, but the Redskins rarely have had a good alternative.