About 10 days from now, the Washington Redskins will head into the 2017 NFL Draft with nine picks at their disposal, and a whole lot of needs to fill (even if the team did finish with a winning record last season).
Using Fanspeak.com’s (terribly addictive) “On the Clock” Draft Simulator (I upgraded to Premium and it was worth it), I mocked out what the Redskins could potentially do with each one of their picks. Even though the Premium version of the simulator lets you make trades with other teams, I stood pat for each one of the picks, and took the combination of the best player available — based on my draft board — while gauging needs and the depth of each position in the draft.
Here’s how it went down:
Round 1, Pick 17: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State — The Redskins coaching staff is believed to be very high on this year’s crop of running backs. While the team does admire the job that undrafted rookie free agent Robert Kelley — aka “Fat Rob” — did last season, they are still very much considering adding a more dynamic running back to the mix, and perhaps making Kelley more of a change-of-pace guy. There were few running backs in college football that were more dynamic than Dalvin Cook. He’s an instinctive, slashing runner who uses his incredible footwork and agility to wait for a crease to open, explode through the hole, and pick up big chunks of yardage very quickly. He also happens to be a very natural pass catcher, whom the Seminoles were more than comfortable with lining up outside as a wide receiver. There will be teams who value his agility and dual-threat ability enough to where they rank him as the best running back in the draft, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable. Point being, he’s a great fit for the Redskins offense, and should be a huge shot-in-the-arm to a running game that was inconsistent at times in 2016.
Round 2, Pick 17: Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Southern California — Pound-for-pound, Adoree’ Jackson isn’t just one of the best pure athletes in this draft class; he might’ve been one of the best pure athletes in all of college football last year. With elite speed, great body control, and the ability to stop on a dime and quickly reach full speed again, Jackson has the upside to be really good in the NFL, if a team helps him further develop all that raw talent that he has. On top of that, Jackson was also one of the most dangerous return men in the nation, returning eight kickoffs and punts for touchdowns while at USC. Jackson was not only the best player available on my draft board at this pick, but he also fills two major needs for the Redskins: he can come in and immediately contribute as a slot cornerback (where he’s best suited to play in the NFL), but can also return kickoffs from day one (the Redskins have tried a myriad of players as kick returners, with less-than-stellar results).
Round 3, Pick 17: Chris Wormley, Defensive Line, Michigan — As an aside, there’s still a ton of great value left on the board as i’m making this pick, speaking to how deep this draft really is (at least through the first 100 picks or so). I’m really excited to grab Wormley with this selection, considering I had a top-50 grade (mid-second round) for him. On an airtight Michigan defense filled with well-known players, Chris Wormley was one of the unsung heroes that made that defense as impenetrable as it was last year. He played all over the Wolverines defensive line last year, with a relentlessness that lasted all game long. He’s more of a technician than a brawler, but once he drops his anchor, he’s very difficult to move out of the way, even with two guys trying to block him. I love the idea of adding him to the current rotation of guys that the Redskins have along their defensive line. The Redskins brought in Terrell McClain and Stacey McGee via free agency, but both guys have a history with injures. Behind them, there’s only Anthony Lanier and Matt Ioannidis, two young and almost completely unproven players. They badly need depth at this position.
Round 4, Pick 7: Desmond King, Safety, Iowa — Desmond King is one of my favorite football players in this draft. People have questions about his playing speed (even though he reportedly ran the 40 yard dash in 4.51 seconds) and his ability to cover in space. But his combination of elite ball skills (14 career interceptions), willingness to tackle, and football intelligence reminds me so much of a poor man’s Earl Thomas. He played cornerback in college, but his future in the NFL is definitely at safety. The beauty of taking him with this pick is that he can enjoy a “redshirt” rookie season in the NFL, behind the current group of veterans that the Redskins have at Safety. But, none of those guys are long-term answers at either safety spot, meaning King could be groomed into a future starter.
Round 4, Pick 16: Demarcus Walker, Edge, Florida State — Even though Demarcus Walker would bring a similar skillset to Washington as that of Preston Smith (the team’s second round pick in 2015), as the saying goes in today’s NFL: you can never have too many pass rushers. Walker is the reigning ACC defensive player of the year, after finishing 2nd in the nation in sacks (16) and 6th in tackles for a loss (21.5). But, he’s not necessarily a pass rusher who beats you off the edge with an explosive first step and overall speed. Rather, his game is a combination of toughness, relentlessness, and intelligence. He’s a film junkie during the week, and a junk yard dog on game day. In a rotation with Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, and Trent Murphy, I love the depth that Walker would bring to Washington’s edge rushers.
Round 5, Pick 10: Malachi Dupre, Wide Receiver, LSU — When it comes to LSU, we know one thing for sure: nobody can doubt the level of freak athletes that come out of the school, especially at the skill positions. Malachi Dupre was a highly touted wide receiver coming into the 2016 season, but his draft stock took somewhat of a nose dive after the miserable quality of play the team had from the quarterback position last year. When Dupre got to the NFL Combine, he showed teams why he’s such an intriguing prospect. Standing just over 6’2, he ran the 40 yard dash in 4.52 seconds, and posted top-five WR results with a 39.5-inch vertical jump and a 11-3 broad jump. In other words, he’s going to join the group of redwood trees that the Redskins have at the wide receiver position, with Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson. I love the idea of developing him as a potential #4 or #5 wide receiver, behind Pryor, Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and maybe Ryan Grant. Plus, I love the fact that I had a borderline late 3rd/early 4th round pick on him, and i’m getting him in the 5th round.
Round 6, Pick 25: Tanzel Smart, Defensive Line, Tulane — It’s no secret that the Redskins rushing defense was a mess last year, mostly on account of the fact that the defensive linemen did a sub-par job at holding the point of attack against opposing offenses. Tanzel Smart from Tulane University can really help with that. A squatty but dominant bull rusher, Smart is a bit undersized (6-0⅝ and 296 lbs) but knows how to use his strength, hands, and quickness to disrupt opposing offenses and make plays in the backfield. He can play almost any position along the defensive line, including the nose tackle position. As another player in my defensive lineman rotation, Smart can definitely contribute on any down.
Round 7, Pick 2: Jessamen Dunker, Offensive Line, Tennessee State — Don’t let the pedigree (or lackthereof) of coming out of Tennessee State fool you. Once upon a time, Jessamen Dunker was a four-star recruit that played for the University of Florida. He left Florida due to a legal issue (theft), and during his last two years at Tennessee State, Dunker was named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference teams for his play at left and right guards (after his junior season) and left tackle (as a senior). He’s a phenomenal athlete for his position, but still needs a lot of refinement given the level of competition he faced for much of his college career. Still, as a zone blocking lineman, he can really move. He’ll serve as a depth player in Washington initially, perhaps playing at multiple positions if needed.
Round 7, Pick 17: Cole Hikutini, Tight End, Louisville — Washington might have signed wide receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency, but one of the biggest reasons why they let wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson leave town was because the team was so comfortable with what they had in emerging superstar tight end Jordan Reed. However, the one problem with Reed is that he has a penchant for getting injured (he’s missed at least two games in every season he’s played). While the team has some depth at the position with Vernon Davis, they would get another athletic move tight end in Cole Hikutini. He’s a raw prospect with great hands and feel for running seam routes through the middle of a defense.