The moves make sense: The Washington Redskins absolutely must improve against the run, and that starts with adding youth up front. At least that’s the opinion of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who played general manager for all 32 teams in his latest Insider piece.
And if McShay were the Redskins' general manager, he would opt for defensive linemen with his first two choices. Unlike previous mocks, McShay selected players he would take if he were every team’s general manager rather than just projecting where he thinks a player will land.
For Washington, McShay chose Alabama defensive tackle Jarran Reed at 21 and Illinois defensive end Jihad Ward in the second round, 53rd overall. McShay’s third-round choice was UCLA receiver Jordan Payton at No. 84 overall.
McShay’s rational is correct as far as what the Redskins must do: stop the run. They have enough defensive holes that there are other positions they could take and it would make sense. Reed is a premier run-stopper and would help in base or nickel -- teams averaged 5.85 yards on 197 carries vs. Washington out of three-receiver sets last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Redskins ranked 31st against the run overall at 4.8 yards per carry allowed. Pass rushing is of prime importance, but it starts with putting teams in bad passing situations.
The point is, do not look at a player such as Reed as having less of an impact because he's a nose tackle. He can help in their nickel as well, but his pass-rush skills were lacking in college and too often he was removed on passing downs.
Reed also has overcome some adversity, having gone the junior college route and transforming himself from a player only looked at by Division II schools into a top player on a national championship team. Stuff like that goes over well with Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan. But Reed is also best suited for a two-gap 3-4 defense; the Redskins run a one-gap. Still, his run stuffing makes him a good fit for any team wanting to stop the run. If he had legit pass-rush skills, the Redskins wouldn’t be anywhere near a position to draft him.
As for Ward, he’s described as more of a developmental player, albeit one with enough talent to warrant second-round consideration. But a couple draft experts also worried about things like effort or meanness; McCloughan favors players with a lot of passion for the game. But drafting another defensive linemen would accomplish one offseason goal of wanting to get younger and more athletic up front.
Payton was a productive receiver at UCLA -- 145 catches the last two years combined. And the Redskins have two wideouts entering the final year of their contracts in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. The Redskins like both, but can they keep both around?
Drafting someone such as Payton would allow them a year to decide while possibly having a replacement ready. Payton is not a burner, so it’s hard to imagine them letting Jackson walk for him. Payton will block, which to me signals a hunger in a receiver (Garcon). I wouldn’t mind a corner or safety picked somewhere in the first three rounds, so third round is probably the highest I’d take a receiver this year. Running back remains a need, but there are intriguing options after this round.
But McShay is not off in his assessment of what Washington needs to address.