Here’s what the Redskins’ crop of rookies looked like when the April draft wrapped up:
Jonathan Allen, DT/DE — Round 1, Pick 17
Ryan Anderson, OLB — Round 2, Pick 49
Fabian Moreau, CB — Round 3, Pick 81
Samaje Perine, RB — Round 4, Pick 114 (From Jets)
Montae Nicholson, S — Round 4, Pick 123
Jeremy Sprinkle, TE — Round 5, Pick 154 (From Saints)
Chase Roullier, C — Round 6, Pick 199 (From Vikings)
Robert Davis, WR — Round 6, Pick 209 (From Texans)
Josh Harvey-Clemons, S — Round 7, Pick 230 (From Vikings through Eagles)
Josh Holsey, CB — Round 7, Pick 235
That’s 10 players, including four of the top five on the defensive side of the ball. On paper, it’s a strong draft class, both in quantity and quality. But the Redskins got very little out of this class, for a variety of reasons.
Allen, like so many of the Redskins players, played a truncated season due to injury, but he was fine when he did play. In his 159 snaps, per Redskins.com, Allen recorded 10 tackles and a sack over five games while competing with a crowded front seven for playing time. As John Keim noted for ESPN, Allen excelled at collapsing the pocket and opening the doors for others — Preston Smith recorded 4.5 of his then-6.0 sacks with Allen on the field.
When the Redskins selected Anderson, another front seven player from Alabama, with their second pick of the draft, it was clear they were focused on improving the defensive side of the ball. However, Anderson had little impact despite playing in all but two games for Washington, even though an unexpected opening presented itself when Trent Murphy missed the season with injury.
Anderson played just 193 snaps, or about 14 per game, on defense, but he did appear on six offensive snaps when he served as a lead blocker on a few run plays. Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Junior Galette played in all 16 games, which relegated Anderson mostly to a reserve role, but the second-rounder managed a disappointing 15 tackles without a sack.
The Redskins added Fabian Moreau in the third round with an eye toward the future — the cornerback out of UCLA was recovering from a torn pectoral muscle at the time of the draft, and he was quickly penciled in as Bashaud Breeland’s replacement should he leave in free agency in 2018.
Moreau played in all 16 games, recording 14 tackles and breaking up one pass, but he played just 59 snaps on defense and was unimpactful. If the Redskins were counting on him showing promise as a rookie to ease the pain of possibly letting Breeland walk, it’s tough to say they got that out of him.
Samaje Perine was the first offensive player drafted by the team, and while he was the most heavily-used rookie, he was fine at best. He carried the ball 175 times, by far the most of any back, for 603 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He was never billed as an explosive back, which the Redskins have in Chris Thompson (when he’s on the field), but he didn’t churn out enough yardage on his carries to warrant a fourth-round pick.
Perine outperformed Rob Kelley, who managed just 3.1 yards per carry, but Thompson (4.6), Kapri Bibbs (3.8) and Mack Brown (3.6) all got more for their money than Perine did, though in small sample sizes. Even Alfred Morris in his final season with the Redskins averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
Of the 34 backs with at least 150 carries, Perine finished with the fourth-worst yards-per-carry, and only he and Jay Ajayi finished without multiple touchdowns.
However, Perine was useful in the passing game, hauling in 22 catches on 24 targets for 182 yards and a touchdown. If he can continue to improve this element of his game, Perine will have value for this offense moving forward.
Montae Nicholson was a pleasant surprise, coming in as a fourth-round pick and being thrust into the starting free safety role after the whole Su’a Cravens debacle, but he was able to play in just eight games due to a variety of injuries. He made 24 tackles, broke up two passes and intercepted one in that time. If healthy, Nicholson could be a viable option at safety for the future.
Jeremy Sprinkle never made all that much sense as a draft pick, at least not immediately, as the Redskins have more tight ends than they know what to do with. Even though Jordan Reed is as questionable as they come with injuries, Vernon Davis and Niles Paul are both established veterans and were unlikely to be unseated in the depth chart.
Sprinkle appeared in 11 games and helped out on special teams, but he contributed just two catches (one for a touchdown) on three targets all season. He played 126 offensive snaps while Reed, Davis and Paul each played at least 100 more than that.
Center Chase Roullier was perhaps the best value pick of the bunch. He received significant playing time at guard and center due more to injury than his own performance, but he held his own when relied upon. Roullier broke his hand in the second half of the season, but he came back and played decently enough in his second stint.
Receiver Robert Davis was the pick that most intrigued some people, with his 6-foot-3, 219-pound frame and dominant Combine performance, but he didn’t play a single snap for Washington this season despite a woefully underperforming receiving corps. Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick were signed in the offseason with plans to play big roles (Pryor more so than Quick), but Pryor was a disappointment and fell out of favor with the offense and Quick played just 77 snaps all year.
Davis was inactive for most of the season and finished the season on the active roster, but he sat and watched as Ryan Grant and Maurice Harris played ahead of him.
Josh Harvey-Clemons appeared in 10 games and made 16 tackles while breaking up a pass, more than you can ask for from a seventh-round pick, but he didn’t make much of an impact beyond that.
Joshua Holsey played just nine snaps and recorded one tackle, a pretty standard line for a seventh-round rookie.
In total, the Redskins got 603 rushing yards, 195 receiving yards and three total touchdowns out of their offensive rookies, almost exclusively coming from Perine. On defense, they got one interception and one sack.
Injuries limited the rookies, and that should be accounted for, but when you add the production the 2017 draft class gave you with the so-far meager returns of the 2016 class (Josh Doctson, Su’a Cravens, Kendall Fuller, Matthew Ioannidis, Nate Sudfeld, Steven Daniels and Keith Marshall), it makes for a less-promising future than the team would hope for.
Allen shows promise, and Nicholson looks like a steal. Moreau and Anderson need more opportunity to show their worth, which they should get to do in 2018. Roullier and Perine each proved capable, if nothing else, and Sprinkle could end up being useful if the Redskins make changes at the top of the depth chart.
Doctson showed signs of life in his second season, and Ioannidis led the entire defensive line in snaps this year. Fuller tied Swearinger with a team-high four interceptions, but Cravens is a glaring question mark, Sudfeld is on the Eagles, and Daniels and Marshall were both waived.
That’s basically two picks you’re thrilled about in Ioannidis and Nicholson, and two others you’re pleased with in Roullier and Fuller. Doctson, Cravens, Allen and Anderson — four picks in the top two rounds — have so far shown very little that you can bring into 2018 with glowing confidence.
Perine is doing enough to be useful, but you don’t know what you’ve got in Moreau, Sprinkle, Davis, Harvey-Clemons or Holsey. Sudfeld, Daniels and Marshall are all non-factors.
That’s bad. That’s the kind of drafting that can cripple a team for years to come. Maybe Doctson breaks out next season, and maybe Allen proves to be a game-changer on the defensive line, and maybe a healthier offensive line allows Perine to produce a bit more, and maybe Moreau thrives in real action, and maybe Cravens returns to the Redskins and becomes the dynamic modern athlete Scot McCloughan envisioned him to be.
One of those things is likely to happen. Possibly two. But the potential for two massively disappointing draft classes in a row is certainly there, and if the Redskins don’t get some genuine game-changing production out of at least one or two of them, things could start looking ugly in 2019 and 2020.