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May 02, 2018

NFC East 2018 draft grades: Redskins edition

Eagles NFL
050218DaRonPayne Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Alabama DT Da'Ron Payne should help the Redskins stabilize their horrendous run defense.

After focusing on the Philadelphia Eagles' draft since last Thursday, let's take a look around at the rest of the NFC East, one team at a time. On Tuesday, we started with the cellar-dwelling New York Giants' draft. Today we'll look at the Washington Redskins.

Round 1: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: You could maybe quibble here and say that the Redskins should have drafted Florida State safety Derwin James, but Da'Ron Payne is a really good player worthy of this draft slot. He also fills a huge need, as the Redskins' run defense has been horrendous the last few years. (We'll get to that at the end.) 

He is a strong defensive tackle who will do the dirty work on the interior, making life easier on the back seven behind him. Unsexy, but solid pick.

Round 2: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: This is one of those picks that looks amazing on paper. Guice averaged 7.8 yards per carry during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Obviously, that is excellent. His 5.3 yards per carry average in 2017? Not nearly as impressive, though Guice battled through some injuries. Additionally, in three seasons, Guice had just 32 career receptions, although that could be a symptom of LSU not using their backs much in the passing game. Guice is a violent runner with good cutting ability in the hole, as well as great balance and change of direction at top speed. In my view, he was the clear-cut No. 2 running back in the draft, talent-wise.

Guice would have been a slam-dunk first round pick, if not for personality concerns. For him to have fallen all the way to pick No. 59, a lot of teams shared the opinion that he is not worth the trouble. The Redskins could either have an absolute steal here, or fool's gold. 

That's a fair point. We'll see. If it is a steal, the Redskins could instantly have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, as their offensive line is a talented run blocking unit that previously didn't have anyone compelling to block for.

Round 3: Geron Christian, OT, Louisville: There's an argument to be made that the Redskins have the second-best pair of offensive tackles in the NFL in Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, both of whom are signed through at least 2020, so why would the Redskins draft an offensive tackle this high? 

Well, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are great examples of why offensive line depth is so important. When Jason Peters went down last season, Halapoulivaati Vaitai filled in and played well enough to keep the offense afloat. When Tyron Smith went down, the Cowboys didn't have a capable replacement and their offense went into the toilet. Christian is a LT-RT versatile tackle who can be a backup at either spot, and I believe that swing tackles are undervalued pieces to the puzzle. 

Round 4: Troy Apke, S, Penn State: Apke is fast. That's about it.

Round 5: Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech: At 6'3, 329, Settle was a a great run-stuffer for the Hokies, but also caused disruption in the passing game. Many wondered if Settle might slip into the first round, but after a bad Combine, his stock cooled off. In 2017, Settle had 36 tackles 4 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but Settle's game tape is more impressive than his stats or his Combine numbers. The fifth round is excellent value for him. Switch his and Apke's draft slots, and I'd be fine with both picks.

Round 6: Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB, Alabama: Aaaaand this is the fourth player from Bama's defense that the Redskins have selected in the past two years. In 2016, Hamilton tore an ACL. In 2017, he fractured his kneecap. Both injuries ended his season. Durability and size (6'0, 228) will be big concerns, as will his ability to regain his athleticism pre-injuries. Still, the sixth round is a reasonable place to take a player like Hamilton, who is thought of as a smart and instinctive linebacker. 

Round 7: Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech: The Redskins traded a really good slot corner in Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the Alex Smith trade, and they'll try to help offset his loss with the addition of another VT corner. Stroman is a good cover guy with ball skills (4 picks in 2017), and doubles as a punt returner. In fact, he had four career punt returns for TDs at VT. Good value pick again.

Round 7: Trey Quinn, WR, SMU: Quinn had 114 catches for 1236 yards and 13 TDs in 2017. By comparison, SMU WR second round pick Courtland Sutton had 68 catches for 1085 yards and 10 TDs. Quinn is certain to draw comparisons to Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, if you catch my drift. It's almost shocking that the Patriots didn't draft him before the Redskins could.

Conclusion

The NFL is a passing league, however, if you can't stop the run defensively you're going to be at a big disadvantage. Over the last two seasons, the Redskins hadn't offered much in the way of resistance against the run:

Redskins rush D20162017
Rush yards/game allowed119.8 (24th)134.1 (32nd)
Rush yards/attempt4.5 (27th)4.5 (29th)
% of rushes resulting in 1st downs25.8% (31st)22.2% (21st)
Rush TDs allowed19 (28th)13 (T-19th)
Rushes of 20+ yards  12 (T-21st)14 (T-29th) 


They went a long way toward fixing that problem with the selections of Payne and Settle. Meanwhile, Guice is going to feel slighted by the rest of the league after he fell all the way to pick No. 59, when many respected analysts had him as a top 15 talent. If he can prove the NFL scouting community wrong about his personality concerns, he will be a phenomenal value at the end of the second round.

Grade: B+


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