Mel Kiper's Grade A mock draft helps the Washington Redskins fill two holes. But it's hard to say he did it with the right players. Kiper made the choices based on what he would do for each team rather than what he's hearing from those around the league.
That's how the Redskins ended up with a defensive lineman and a running back in this Insider piece. Both are potentially good players. Whether they're the right picks is debatable.
Defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne: It’s hard to imagine defensive lineman Vita Vea falling all the way to 17 as he does in this draft. Some think Vea could go top 10 and others feel Oakland will take him at 10. If teams feel Vea could develop into an excellent pass-rusher then it makes sense he’d go higher. One scout considered him a better version of Danny Shelton, the 12th overall pick in 2015. And another defensive coach who has scouted both likes Vea more and viewed Payne more as a two-down player. That coach did say if Vea got past Oakland he could last until the middle of the first round. The Redskins like both players, though to say which one they favor more can require sifting through the smoke. Still, if what others say is accurate about which one is better, it would be surprising if the Redskins went in this direction.
Payne certainly would help the Redskins’ desire to stop the run. He’s a strong force inside who can take on double teams. And, yes, he played with Jonathan Allen at Alabama. That helps, but it’s not as if Allen can’t develop similar chemistry with others and, in fact, did so during the five games he played. So grab the best player, not the one with ties to someone else. If they think Payne can develop into a pass-rusher -- he’d have an excellent line coach in Jim Tomsula to help -- then he should be in play. He’s agile but showed limited pass-rush moves. At times his first step was good, but he’d be too upright on his second or third step and would be stopped.
Keep in mind that some other players Washington would like: safety Derwin James; corner/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, were off the board when Kiper made the Payne selection. The Redskins want to improve their defense with this pick and Payne would help the run. Whether he’s viewed as a two-down guy or three-down will be answered on if the Redskins actually pick him here.
Running back Sony Michel: Redskins coach Jay Gruden has mentioned he wants a thumper, but also has said he wants the best back possible. It does seem like there’s a group at Redskins Park who favor more powerful backs -- Derrius Guice, Nick Chubb, Rashaad Penny -- and others who like backs such as Ronald Jones II and Michel, the slightly smaller but perhaps more explosive guys. There's a reason team president Bruce Allen attended the makeup pro day at USC last week (and why Jones was at Redskins Park on Monday). So it’ll be interesting to see what direction they go. In Kiper's mock, Michel was the fourth running back chosen behind Saquon Barkley, Guice and Jones.
Michel was highly productive at Georgia and, at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds he’s not exactly small (just smaller than Chubb). Georgia’s run scheme and overall blocking was excellent, which helped both Chubb and Michel. The latter runs well out of a spread formation and shows good vision and an ability to quickly cut in space. That makes him dangerous once he reaches the second level. He catches the ball OK and protects well, so he could be used in the pass game. That’s pivotal. He can run with power, though not as much as some others. With Michel and Thompson, the Redskins would have two backs who could operate at a high level out of a three-receiver look, but would Michel be durable with 15 to 20 carries a game? That’ll be the big question. Of course, if they draft him it means Samaje Perine would be counted on to provide more muscle, especially in short-yardage situations (which didn’t happen in 2017, not all of which was his fault). Perine wasn’t great as a rookie; he also showed signs of improvement to where he could help as a solid backup.