While the Washington Redskins may focus on a quarterback, receiver, running back or nose tackle with their 13th overall selection, they can’t sleep on another gaping need – returner. And, one can be found cheaply in the middle rounds.
Think third or fourth round to find a dual player that can also be a reserve running back, receiver or cornerback. But, someone whose biggest contribution will be flipping field position. The Redskins really haven’t sported a returner who impacted the game since Brian Mitchell departed in 1999. Oh, Brandon Banks did a decent job in 2010-12, but most returners have been nothing special.
San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny could be a steal. He returned seven kicks and one punt for touchdowns over three seasons. Now his rushing stats are eye-popping – 2,248 yards with 23 touchdowns last season. And yet, he’s a second-day draft projection. Penny finished with five straight 200-yard games, but NFL scouts think he beat up weak competition. Still, Penny’s a solid returner and could help the backfield. He’s a third or fourth rounder.
Western Michigan cornerback Darius Phillips is a playmaker with 11 interceptions, but also five kickoff and one punt return touchdowns. He’s a projected fourth-rounder and could give the Redskins a secondary reserve as well as solid returner.
There is a first-round option, though. Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk not only led the Aggies in receptions three straight years with two 1,000-yard seasons, he also scored on six punt returns and a kickoff return. Now Kirk may be already gone when the Redskins pick 13th, but if not, he’d solve two problems. And, he keeps the Kirk name on the roster should a certain passer depart.
There will be no buzz on the Redskins looking for a returner, but with the expected loss of free agent Bashaud Breeland on kickoffs and Jamison Crowder looking ordinary on punt returns, Washington needs someone to energize field position.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.