The Washington Redskins knew they couldn't count on a draft pick starting immediately, not without a first-round pick. If it happened? Great. So they filled their perceived immediate needs in free agency and hoped several in the draft class could fill roles, some more prominent.
Coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins' free-agency signings should allow the rookies to develop without needing to start immediately. I'll take a look at how the rookies fit in and when they might be needed to play bigger roles.
Player: TE Ted Bolser
Future role: Backup/special-teamer. He’s not a pass-catching threat like Jordan Reed, nor is he a blocker like Logan Paulsen. He’s a move tight end comparable to Niles Paul, though he’s not as fast as the former receiver. But Bolser’s ability to contribute on special teams is a plus; it's how he'll earn his keep in Washington.
Why they don’t need him as a starter: Because they have three players ahead of him who are all better in Reed, Paulsen and Paul. If they had selected a tight end earlier in the draft, then perhaps that player could have challenged for a bigger role earlier on but it’s hard to imagine Bolser being anything other than a fourth tight end or practice-squad player, which is about what you'd expect from a sixth-round choice.
When he might need to be ready: 2015, for a No. 3 role that is. Paul is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Paulsen is signed through 2015 while Reed is signed through '16. Bolser would play a different spot than Paul on special teams, but, again, his role on offense would likely be as a tight end who is best away from the line – either in the backfield or split – at least until he bulks up. He lacks the creativity of Reed running routes or after the catch. But Bolser appeared to know where to settle against a zone. Could be a good route runner down the seam as well.
What he must work on: Bolser must get stronger so he can help as a blocker if nothing else. Some of that is technique oriented, too. He was better blocking from a move position rather than along the line, in part because he lacks the strength to handle the bigger players. He was willing, but he too often lowered his head, bent at the waist and didn’t use enough lower body strength to sustain blocks. Saw that on tape and again at the rookie minicamp. Keep in mind, though, that Reed was a terrible blocker in college yet quickly improved in Washington (though not consistent enough) because he added strength. Bolser will need that strength to block on the move as well, though technique and quickness helps here, too. Bolser’s 40-yard dash time isn’t far off from Reed’s a year ago, but the latter is much better after the catch because of quicker feet and agility.