WASHINGTON — There were no major trades and no shocking surprises for the Redskins during NFL draft weekend.
They entered the draft with 10 picks and they left with 10 players. If that seems like a big class, it won’t be by the end of training camp. Washington lost two draft picks last summer to season-ending injuries. The contributions these picks make are hard to quantify in May. No one at this time last year thought an undrafted free agent like Rob Kelley would be the primary back by the end of last season. In that vein, here are five bold predictions on this Washington draft class:
Samaje Perine will be the starting running back by October
All credit to the Redskins scouting staff for even finding Rob Kelley last year. He had a pedestrian career at Tulane and wasn’t even drafted. Turns out, he can play. But Perine’s college resume suggests he has a higher ceiling. This is a player good enough to garner more carries even than Joe Mixon at Oklahoma. Kelley excels at yards after contact and the coaches like that. But Perine is among the most powerful backs in this class and will create yards after contact, too. Given the coaches’ lack of trust in Matt Jones, Perine has a chance to see the field quickly and should take advantage of a quality offensive line.
The Redskins won’t get much of anything this year from third-round pick Fabian Moreau
Here’s the one problem for Washington’s draft class: It took three players with medical concerns, two of them acute. Maybe Jonathan Allen’s arthritic shoulders hold up fine. His talent was worth the risk as he fell in the first round. But Moreau tore his pectoral muscle at UCLA’s Pro Day. At best he returns sometime in August. The Redskins have seen this injury before, though. Former Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo tore his left pectoral muscle twice and his right pec muscle once. This is not an easy injury to shake off. Former Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson tore his right pectoral muscle during his rookie season in 2012 and the left one early in 2013 training camp. There’s a mental hurdle to overcome when tackling. Moreau is a cornerback and in a deep position group was considered a solid choice. But expecting him to be fully ready to go by the start of the season is wishful thinking. And even then you’re left with a rookie who had zero offseason work.
The Redskins will regret taking Michigan State safety Montae Nicholson
Washington targeted safety as a position of need. That’s understandable. There is no obvious young player on the roster with a true free safety skillset. And the way the draft played out, it had to take defensive end Jonathan Allen at No. 17 in the first round and six of the top safety prospects were gone by No. 49 in the second round. They liked outside linebacker Ryan Anderson better than either Texas A&M’s Justin Evans or UConn’s Obi Melifonwu or N.C. State’s Josh Jones at safety.
The Redskins liked UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau as a value pick at No. 81 in the third round since he was considered a second-round talent who only dropped because of injury. When Boston College’s John Johnson was off the board late in the third round, the consensus top 10 safety prospects were all gone. Then there was another run on safeties before Washington picked early in the fourth round at No. 107. There were 14 safeties chosen before that Redskins pick, including the three immediately preceding it. They went running back (Samaje Perine) there and with a second fourth-round pick finally reached for Nicholson at No. 123. He has the athletic traits to be a starter, but his production in college was weak and he showed limited instincts for the position. You’d like more from a fourth-round pick than taking a flyer on a good athlete. That’s what the fifth and sixth and seventh rounds are for.
Jeremy Sprinkle will cost a veteran tight end a job in training camp
Teams aren’t in the business of cutting fifth-round picks outright. The Redskins did it last year with defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and it was a bad look. He was signed to the practice squad and eventually played in some games, but that could have been an outright waste. That means Sprinkle will be given a long look in camp. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are the established players and Niles Paul is a key complimentary piece. He had 39 catches in 2014, after all. But he’s also played in just eight games since then after two major injuries so you wonder if the Redskins are preparing for his departure. Certainly, Derek Carrier has to be worried. Washington probably keeps four tight ends given Davis’ age and Reed and Paul’s injury history. That means Sprinkle is a direct threat to his roster spot.
Josh Holsey will make the roster and be a contributor in coming seasons at cornerback
Cornerback depth is an issue for Washington. Bashaud Breeland is entering the final year of his rookie contract and while Fabian Moreau was selected in the third round, you can never have enough solid corners. Holsey is a rare commodity for a seventh-round pick. He was a four-year starter in the SEC at Auburn and had a nice career there. Is he a star? No. But if you can get production from the No. 235 pick overall, the scouting staff deserves kudos. Holsey will make the 53-man roster and work his way into the mix at nickel corner, where Kendall Fuller struggled last year. He dropped lower than his talent level because of a twice-torn left ACL in college, but Holsey will stick in the league for a while.
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