With the 18th selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select . . . running back . . .
Well, the name won’t come until after the college bowls, scouting combines and lots of debate. But if the Redskins don’t focus on a running back with their first-round pick, they’ll be sorry.
The Redskins haven’t enjoyed a decent running game since 2014, when the last of Alfred Morris’ production was squeezed dry. It has since been three straight years of nothing, and this year is simply a series of second-and-eights and too many failed third-and-ones.
Robert Kelley is probably out for the rest of the season with a high ankle sprain and a sprained MCL, and could even be placed on injured reserve this week. Oh, he might be healthy for the last couple games, but by then what’s the point — given Kelley has been awful all season. Kelley inherited the job from Matt Jones this season despite not really earning it, and produced 194 yards and 3.1 yards per carry.
It’s time for real change at running back. Unfortunately, rookie Samaje Perine has proven only a short-yardage back at best, and Chris Thompson is a third-down back. The Redskins will muddle through the final weeks with Perine and Thompson, but it won’t be pretty.
The tougher task is hitting on a first-round running back. The Redskins haven’t drafted one since Ray McDonald in 1967, and he only lasted two years.
For every Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott success story, there are plenty of busts and borderline players. Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey has only 183 yards rushing with 2.9 yards per carry, though he also has a team-high 54 catches. Still, not the running punch Carolina hoped with the eighth overall pick.
But that’s the type of player the Redskins can expect available when probably drafting in the high teens. After Penn State’s Saquon Barkley likely goes in the top three picks, there’s a long drop to Georgia’s Nick Chubb, LSU’s Derrious Guice and Alabama’s Damien Harris.
But one of the trio will definitely be there for the Redskins, and for all the talk of choosing best player available versus need, the Redskins typically do the latter. And there’s nothing this team needs more than a good running back. If it’s not obvious now, the rest of the season will prove so.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.