The Future Sons Theory of Mike and Bruce’s Draft Gerontophilia

The other day I found myself talking with the contributors at the Extreme Skins draft thread and stumbled upon the fact that Mike and Bruce have not drafted a single underclassman with their 18 selections the past two drafts. That’s right, every one of their draft picks since they’ve come in to power has been a senior. This despite the fact that 2010 saw a record tying 53 early entrants (2008 also had 53) and 2011 established a new record 56 early entrants. In short, the two drafts that Allen and Shanahan have presided over had the largest group of early entrants to choose form in NFL history. By and large, most early entrants get drafted, and if the average draft class is about 255 players, then that means almost one in five players drafted is an underclassman.

Thus it’s peculiar that the front office has managed to make 18 selections without selecting a single one. That speaks to a trend and drafting preference on the part of Allen and Shanahan. Much has been said about their preference for drafting so many former team captains. Well it looks like we can add a new wrinkle to that theory: this front office also prefers drafting seniors.

But not just any seniors mind you. They need to be seniors with a long history of starts, and preferably lots of individual awards and statistical milestones on their resumes. For the positions that accumulate mainstream statistics, an Allen and Shanahan draft pick has ideally finished high on his school’s career lists. For example:

- Terrence Austin produced the first and third ranked seasons for All Purpose yards in UCLA history in 2008 and 2009 with 1,878 and 1,818 respectively.
– Aldrick Robinson finished second in SMU history with 3,314 career receiving yards.
– Leonard Hankerson set Miami single season records for yards and touchdowns in 2010; he finished third in Miami history in receiving touchdowns (22) behind Michael Irvin and Lamar Thomas.
– Niles Paul ranks sixth in Nebraska history in receptions (102) and fifth in receiving yards (1,532).
– Roy Helu finished fourth on Nebraska’s career rushing list with 3,404 yards.
– Evan Royster is Penn State’s career rushing leader with an astonishing 3,932 yards and is distinguished as the only Penn State back to every rush for three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Wow.

These are some highly accomplished football players before they’ve even arrived at training camp. But even the non-skill position draft picks came with a variety of accomplishments:

- Selvish Capers and Eric Cook were three year starters with over 30 starts each.
– Trent Williams started 39 of 50 games played at Oklahoma with plenty of awards and honors to put in his trophy case: two time first team All American from four different sources, two time first team All Big 12 selection, and a Freshman All American second team selection.
– Maurice Hurt only started 6 games in his career at Florida, but managed to play in 29 total as a dirty starter you just couldn’t keep off the field.
– Dennis Morris was a four year letterman that played in every game of his career, he was named an All American and All WAC performer in 2009.
– Ryan Kerrigan finished his career with more awards and achievements than can be listed, but some notable highlights are tying the FBS record for fumbles forced (14), finishing second in Purdue history in sacks (33.5) and fifth in tackles for loss (57), unanimous All American selection his senior year, second team All American his junior year, two time All Big Ten performer, and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
– Jarvis Jenkins was a three year starter at Clemson with 37 career starts in 48 games played. A nifty little tidbit? He’s also Clemson’s career leader in blocked kicks.
– Perry Riley played in 42 games at LSU with 22 starts, won the Chick Fil-A Bowl Defensive MVP and was a finalist for the 2008 Butkus award.
– Brandyn Thompson was a three year starter for Boise State and two time All-WAC performer, winning the 2008 Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP Award.
– Markus White was a top, award winning JUCO transfer to Florida State, where he finished his career as a two year starter.
– Dejon Gomes was a JUCO transfer that ended up playing 23 games at Nebraska as a key reserve, earning All Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.
– Chris Neild was a three year starter at West Virginia and was an All Big East selection his senior year.

So basically everyone the Redskins drafted in 2010 and 2011 has some individual awards on their shelves or several years of collegiate starts to look back on. What that means is that the prototypical Allen and Shanahan draft pick has been,

1.) Experienced
2.) Productive
3.) Mature

I didn’t even delve into all of the academic awards that some of our draft picks such as Ryan Kerrigan have won. Certainly that seems to be another factor that the front office considers and prefers. So add a fourth consideration,

4.) Heady

to the list.

That’s not a bad set of criteria to draft by at all. It’s essentially the same one the Patriots seem to use and I think it’ll end up ensuring that most of these players will stick because they’ll be professional and they each have an established history of translating their talent and athletic ability into real production on the field. It seemingly limits the risk of picking busts.

One of the regular contributors suggested this method of only drafting productive senior prospects could be a temporary strategy adopted to build a solid foundation for their roster as they reshape the team in their image. Having largely completed this process by now, this fellow thought that the front office would start swinging on sketchier but talented prospects from the early entrant pool. There could certainly be something to this line of thought. But I think that Allen and Shanahan have demonstrated a clear preference for the type of players they like to draft with these past 18 picks. I think they’re bound to draft at least one junior player eventually because the odds of never doing so seem extremely remote. But I also wouldn’t bet on them picking an underclassman until they actually do it.

So if you’re trying to figure out who the Redskins will draft in this season’s class, perhaps it’s best to look away from the highly talented juniors who’d be early entrants like Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, and Andrew Luck. Instead look for the senior captains with those big career numbers and All Conference/Academic All Conference awards.

- Andrew

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Offseason Observations by Andrew, Part II

Earlier I outlined my thoughts and reactions to our draft and undrafted free agent class here. The tone was fairly negative on the whole. Today I’ll give my observations on our trades and free agency acquisitions.

The Redskins started the FA period with the release of Derrick Dockery and the acquisition of O.J. Atogwe before the lockout in early March. Dockery was released ostensibly because of his poor fit in our zone blocking scheme. The writing was on the wall for the move after he lost his starting job last season. Atogwe’s acquisition left me feeling ambivalent and unsure about our FO’s commitment to rebuilding the roster through youth. Atogwe is 30 and unlikely to play at a high level for many more seasons. However, Atogwe also filled an immediate need with a familiar face for Jim Haslett and so he’s likely to help us win and get production from our other safety spot in the immediate future. It turned out that Atogwe was one of the only long term contracts we offered to a player over 30–a good sign for our long term health. And his short term impact should be positive. He’s a heady ballhawk who’ll help get our defense lined up correctly and he lets us run our full defense without worrying about our second safety (usually the deep one) being a liability.

Nevertheless, safety will probably remain a long term need to be addressed in subsequent offseasons. Given how demanding the position is in our defense, it’s a position that could eventually require a high draft pick to fill.

After the lockout was lifted at the end of July, a very productive free agency period followed. The Front Office’s first move was to trade Jeremy Jarmon for Jabar Gaffney. This was a dubious trade at the time, it swapped one of our few talented pass rushing defensive linemen for a 30 year old receiver who was never more than a second or third option in Denver. Then the loss of Jarmon was more than replaced three days later by the simultaneous acquisitions of Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen from our division rivals New York and Dallas.

Cofield and Bowen are exactly the kind of free agents that smart organizations give multiyear deals to. Both are only 27 years old. And both are underrated players who produced at a high level for their old teams. The big buzz around the Redskins concerned the acquisition of Cullen Jenkins. In signing Cofield and Bowen instead, the Redskins acquired two better players who are younger for cheaper.

Profootball Focus had lots of good things to say about each. First some tidbits about Cofield:

From their Free Agency preview of the NFC East: http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2011/02/18/your-guide-to-free-agency-nfc-east/

Please Don’t Go: Barry Cofield does everything, and to a high quality too. The Giants clearly value his contribution highly, considering only ten defensive tackles in the league played more snaps. He’s just entering his prime, so could prove expensive, but there’s no doubting his talent.

From their ranking of the top ten free agent interior defensive linemen: http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2011/02/26/ranking-the-free-agents-defensive-tackles-and-3-4-ends/

4. Barry Cofield, New York Giants

Age as of 1st September 2011: 27

2010 Grade: +16.3

Key Stat: Had more QB hits (10) than any DT not named Shaun Rogers.

Behind The Numbers: After his 2009 we didn’t have much faith in Cofield. He showed us. A real turnaround season, the defensive tackle got plenty of pressure but was even more of a nuisance defending the run. Second half of the season lacked consistency, but the whole year was enough to suggest Cofield is back.

Further down in that same article you’ll notice Stephen Bowen’s name. Bowen finished third in PFF’s 3-4 defensive end rankings for 2010 despite the fact that he played mainly in reserve in third down packages for much of the season.

7. Stephen Bowen, Dallas Cowboys

Age as of 1st September 2011: 27

2010 Grade: +15.0

Key Stat: Finished third in our 2010 3-4 end rankings.

Behind The Numbers: When someone goes down on IR it means someone needs to step up. Stephen Bowen was that guy. He didn’t just step up when Marcus Spears’ season ended, he surpassed anything Spears had done, and built on his own success in nickel situations. Having proven he can start in the NFL, Bowen just needs an opportunity now.

Signing both players gives the Redskins several outstanding pass rushing linemen for the season. Bowen’s workload figures to become even larger, and his role even more critical now that Jarvis Jenkins will be out for some time after tearing his ACL in the preseason. I think Bowen and Cofield were two of the heists of this free agency period. Bowen signed a five year contract with 12.5 million dollars in guarantees. Cofield signed a six year deal with 12.5 million dollars in guarantees. Both contracts are a pittance compared to the type of contributions they can provide here, especially when you consider the fact that a 30 year old Cullen Jenkins got a five year 25 million dollar deal from the Eagles. These two acquisitions by themselves ensure the Redskins had a highly successful free agency.

Yet the front office didn’t get complacent after that. They signed both Jammal Brown and Santana Moss to modest extensions and traded Vonnie Holliday and an undisclosed draft pick to Arizona for Tim Hightower. The Jammal Brown extension was an utter necessity. He’s a 30 year old tackle and history shows offensive linemen with a history of injuries decline sharply in their thirties. But there were no other better starting options available this offseason and you cannot go into a season with chopped liver starting at one of your tackle spots. Brown is a good run blocking tackle who should be more effective this season than he was last after further distancing himself from injury. He also maintains continuity on the offensive line that was built towards the end of last season.

Santana is among the franchise great receivers and, as a fan, I was happy to see him signed. He’s still very much a great and productive receiver, finishing last season in the top five in receptions and top ten in receiving yards. He’s also a highly important veteran influence on an otherwise extremely young positional group composed almost entirely of rookie and sophomore players. The roster badly needed his influence and the example of professionalism and steady production he offers.

And the trade for Tim Hightower was absolutely brilliant. An utter steal considering the price we paid for him. As a Richmond alum who matriculated and graduated with Tim, I’ve been rooting for his success since day one. Having him on the Redskins has me more excited about the franchise than I can ever remember. And that’s not just the Richmond homer in me. The ZBS running game loves a big, heady running back and Tim is nothing if not those things. Redskins fans have started to embrace him already after a set of sensational performances in the first three preseason games. This is what the guy looked like in college. Powerful, consistently productive running, excellent blocking, catching, and pattern running, and legit breakaway potential for busting huge gains without ever selling out to get them. He’s a terrific ZBS back who offers a much better fit for us than Ryan Torain, who, while also a big play back, created far too many negative plays to be acceptable in our scheme. The cherry on top of acquiring Tim was his wonderfully low cost. In 2004 the Redskins traded Champ Bailey and a second round draft choice to Denver for Clinton Portis. This year we traded a player we were planning to release and what’s rumored to be one of the sixth round picks we acquired from trading Donovan McNabb to Minnesota to acquire a player who could be similarly productive to Portis. How were we able to get Tim at such a price you ask? Because he didn’t look all that special playing his first three years in Arizona, the place where talented running backs go to languish (Edgerrin James, Beanie Wells, now Ryan Williams? — each among its recent victims).

Speaking of that Donovan McNabb trade, both it and the Albert Haynesworth trades count as offseason successes if you ignore last season’s failures. In the end, it was good of the front office to set their pride aside and get out of losing situations now, and get some draft value in return. I thought for sure we’d never get anything in return for McNabb. Adding all of these fifth and sixth round selections really adds up if we can continue finding late gems like Terrence Austin, Brandyn Thompson, Evan Royster, Aldrick Robinson, and Dejon Gomes.

Wrapping up our notable new acquisitions was the savvy addition of cornerback Josh Wilson, signing punter Sav Rocca, claiming linebacker Thaddeus Gibson off waivers, Signing linebacker Keyaron Fox, and signing reserve offensive linemen Sean Locklear and Donovan Raiola. Josh Wilson played well in spot duty for the Ravens last season and has a chance to start for us this season if he gets healthy and picks up the scheme quickly. His deal was modest and he’s only 26, it was another nice addition. I acknowledge that the punting position is important, and it’s been a revolving door here for a while. But I don’t really know what to tell you about Rocca though, he’s a punter. However, I do like the fact that he potentially upgrades our roster while simultaneously downgrades Philadelphia’s. That’s something positive to take away I suppose. Finally, the acquisition of Gibson is interesting if he can make the roster this season. He’s a freak athlete with a starter’s pedigree if he ever develops. He could be one to watch as a fourth or fifth rush linebacker with the potential to advance. Fox has looked comfortable in the defense early and has been the most impressive inside linebacker after London Fletcher during the preseason. I imagine he’ll start opposite London sometime early this season.

Some key players from last season were also released, some retained. Among those released were Robert Henson, Casey Rabach, Phil Daniels, Maake Kemoeatu, Sam Paulescu, Chad Simpson, James Davis, Andre Brown, and Roydell Williams. All prudent moves, save for maybe the release of Phil Daniels and Robert Henson. Daniels might be a necessary re-acquisition now that Jarvis Jenkins is set to miss extended time recovering from his ACL injury. Inside linebacker has looked like a vulnerability this preseason with London sidelined and Fox the only other linebacker providing solid play. It might have been prudent to let a plainly out of shape H.B. Blades walk instead of Henson, but I understand Henson was released early as a measure of respect in order to allow him a chance at finding another team before the season.

Carlos Rogers was blessedly allowed to walk in free agency, replaced on the roster by Wilson.

Small extensions were also given to Kedric Golston, Blades, Rocky McIntosh, Phillip Buchanon, and Reed Doughty. All have struggled at times last season, and for some, this preseason as well. Buchanon is currently serving a four game suspension and will rejoin the team as nickle and dime package depth once it’s over. McIntosh has struggled to cope with his new role in the 3-4 defense since last season and doesn’t look appreciably more comfortable this year. Blades has been a bit of a mess this preseason and doesn’t seem to have a place on the team any more. He’ll probably be released before the season starts. Golston provides veteran depth along the DL as a big, strong lineman who won’t crap his pants when you throw him out there. Doughty offers pretty much the same at safety, although our taxing scheme strains his ability to the point where you pray we don’t lose LaRon Landry or Atogwe for any extended periods of time this season.

This wraps up my Redskins Offseason Observations, the first part of which can be found here. In summation, the free agency period was highly productive for the Redskins, as the front office was able to add several starters entering their primes at reasonable contracts as well as cut losses on past failures for draft compensation. Mike Shanahan’s and Bruce Allen’s acquisitions this offseason have a very distinct “moneyball” feel to them. In the end we’re left with what very much resembles a winning team this season with a nice long term future in the prudent hands of a clever general manager and head coach with a great pro player personnel department at their disposal.

- Andrew

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Offseason Observations by Andrew, Part I

The lockout is over, the hectic period of free agency is largely complete, and Future Sons has come out of hibernation. The offseason is the time for team-building and team-building is ultimately what we’re concerned with here on our blog. Here are some of my observations on what the Redskins’ front office managed to accomplish since February.

- I came away extremely impressed with Bruce Allen’s and Mike Shanahan’s remarkable ability to evaluate pro player personnel, contract and trade negotiation, and cap management–each very important team-building skills.

- I came away fairly impressed with their ability to execute draft day trades to increase their number of selections.

- I came away disappointed in their ability to evaluate college player personnel and get as much value as possible from those draft selections.

Starting with the draft, their strategy to increase draft selections by moving down was a fundamentally sound method for team building recently proven effective by teams like the Eagles and Packers. However, the problem with our class is the players and position groups we spent our picks on. I felt the FO got fairly poor value from most of our selections and failed to manipulate the draft well, missing lots of opportunities to make best player available (BPA) selections at positions of need.

First of all, I was very disappointed when we didn’t draft Blaine Gabbert. He was my top ranked quarterback, and as such, the top ranked player on my Redskins’ need adjusted big board. The most widespread justification I’ve seen among Redskins fans in response to passing on Gabbert is a sort of reflexive, go for broke trust in Shanahan’s ability to evaluate and choose college quarterbacks: “Shanahan must not think much of Gabbert if he didn’t draft him, Gabbert must not have been a very good prospect.” I don’t believe that for a second because I saw all of Gabbert’s great qualities as a prospect with my own eyes. Beyond that, other quarterback experts and talented draft analysts were plain in their projection that Gabbert was a great prospect/would probably be a successful player (Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock).

I believe the quarterback is the central piece of any team-building effort, so passing on a potential difference making solution at the position for what ended up being a handful of mid to late round skill position selections didn’t seem like adequate return value at the time. Unfortunately, the trade down felt even worse when Christian Ponder, my second favorite quarterback prospect (15th overall on my board), along with other highly ranked prospects like Nick Fairley (2nd), Robert Quinn (4th), and J.J. Watt (10th) all went just before our selection at 16 came.

However, one thing that’s become increasingly clear over the course of the offseason is that the front office did not view QB as the need most of the rest of us did. Mike Shanahan is far more serious about John Beck as his handpicked quarterback than almost all of us could have imagined on draft day. He’s comfortable enough with Beck to entirely pass on the position in both draft and free agency, choosing only to sign Kellen Clemmens and extend Rex Grossman (presumably for the backup roles) and sign camp body undrafted free agents Ben Chappell (Indiana) and Mark Verica (UVA).

Most are skeptical of Shanahan’s plan to start Beck. The skepticism is certainly justified based on Beck’s career history to date. I’m not willing to write Beck off entirely since he definitely has talent and lots of talented, former second round quarterbacks get lost in regime changes through no real fault of their own. Plus father and son Shanahan are both great teachers of the quarterback position with track records of squeezing the most from their quarterbacks. But I do think relying on Beck as our long term solution is a bit of a Hail Mary since the odds of former second round pick quarterbacks who got lost in regime changes finding success with new teams are extremely low. I can’t really come up with a precedent here. Our investment in Beck is minimal, let’s say Beck struggles next season and our team finishes high enough in the draft to be in striking distance of some of these talented potential 2012 first round QBs (Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Lindley, Robert Griffin III, etc.). It would then be very tempting to scrap the Beck plan and start over with a first round rookie, in which case we might as well have just drafted a rookie this year since we’d have blown a year of quarterback development in the system.

And no matter how good John Beck ends up being, he’s turning 30 before the season and won’t have the kind of career window a successful rookie draft selection would have had.

Moving on to who we actually drafted, I’ve managed to move from disappointed to ambivalent on the selection of Ryan Kerrigan in the first round. First and foremost, I don’t consider the Kerrigan selection a high draft value selection because he wasn’t the BPA. I thought both Prince Amukamara and Cameron Jordan were much better prospects that filled important positions of need for us, and had hoped for either to be the pick once we went on the clock at 16. However, it’s clear the front office wanted an outside linebacker at that pick. That suggests to me that they value the OLB position as disproportionately more important than the defensive end and cornerback positions for our specific defensive scheme. I don’t necessarily disagree with that line of thinking because I think quality edge rushers are extremely important to most schemes and also extremely difficult to find outside the early rounds of the draft. But, you can say the same about 3-4 DEs and CBs. I question the wisdom in placing OLB so much higher in value above DE and CB that you’ll ignore BPA when each are a need for your team. After all, the New York Jets have proven the past two seasons that you can field a dominating 3-4 defense with elite corners and DL play and ho hum OLBs.

Beyond that there are questions of scheme fit for Kerrigan at OLB. I had Kerrigan ranked low in my top 50 because I thought him to be a 3-4 tweener and poor scheme fit at the time. I’ve warmed up to him a bit since players of his type have recently achieved spectacular NFL success as 3-4 OLBs (Tamba Hali). If you’re a Redskins fan, that’s what you’re hoping Kerrigan becomes. It could certainly happen, but too many question marks surround the Kerrigan selection for my comfort level. I’m not yet convinced we wouldn’t have been better off selecting Cameron Jordan at 16 and then selecting Justin Houston late in the second or early third round.

I was also frustrated by the Jarvis Jenkins selection at 41. Jenkins is a good player and should probably become a long term contributor. But he was a poor value selection and reach according to most draft websites as there were a lot of other candidates for BPA when Jenkins came off the board. Jenkins offers little as a pass rusher, which is the moneymaker skill set for defensive lineman of all types. QB pressures are what get guys big contracts and drafted high. Pure run stoppers tend to slip into the middle and late rounds of the draft because their skill set is more common. The two guys I really wanted at that 41st selection were Rodney Hudson or Stephen Paea. C’est la vie I guess. Unlike Kerrigan, Jenkins is an obvious and natural scheme fit. Plus if he settles in as a long term starting solution at nose tackle with the ability to kick out to DE per situation, then that versatility massively increases his draft value and I’ll feel a lot better about that selection.

I can’t complain too hard about the final ten selections other than that I wish we’d taken fewer offensive skill position players and more offensive linemen. But I loved some of the specific selections. I thought Leonard Hankerson was a huge value selection and am excited aviyt his future here. The Evan Royster and Aldrick Robinson selections in the sixth were terrific value and I hope that each find a way to make the roster. They’re very talented.

I thought Brandyn Thompson, Markus White, and Chris Neild were all very good college players offering quality value in the seventh and I think each of them has a fair chance to make the roster. Maurice Hurt is a bit of an odd choice but he’s got the makings of a velcro lineman and you can’t discount the fact he was able to hold down a starting job for one of the better offensive lines in the country. I wasn’t crazy about the Nebraska selections at the time since I preferred Kendall Hunter and Dion Lewis at running back over Roy Helu and would have definitely taken Jason Pinkston over DeJon Gomes. Helu seems a good fit though and brings something different to the offense with his speed. Gomes potentially fills a need in our nickel and dime packages and has positional versatility. Niles Paul is an interesting prospect because of his size and athleticism but he still has a little too much Devin Thomas in him. He’s going to have to battle to make the roster.

Finally, I was a huge fan of the Willie Smith (OT, ECU) and Eric McBride (LB, Richmond) UDFA signings. It’s puzzling Smith went undrafted and Wes Bunting ranked him the fourth best UDFA available, he definitely has a shot to make our roster. McBride is a fellow Richmond alum and finished his college career as one of, if not the best linebacker in school history. He’s indomitable, the soul of a championship defense, started every game since day one as a redshirt freshman, and owns just about every award you can win at the FCS level. He was easily one of my favorite players I had the privilege of watching and following at Richmond, and I’m thrilled he’s got a shot to make my favorite football team. I’m dreaming he’ll shock the world and have a London Fletcher-like career arc going from unheralded UDFA to one of the best linebackers in Redskins history among other notable NFL career achievements.

So all in all, the draft was a mixed bag for me with the bad (missed opportunities, poor value selections early, failure to address the offensive line) insufficiently tempered by the good (nice value selections late). After it was over, I was left with deep misgivings about our front office’s ability in college player evaluation.

However, I have no such misgivings about the front office’s ability in pro player evaluation and I’m highly impressed by their skill in using free agency as an effective team building tool. On the whole, I think and project their successes with free agency signings, particularly since the end of the lockout, have overwhelmed their mistakes. I’ll break down my observations on the details of the free agency acquisitions in Part II of my Offseason Review.

- Andrew

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Riley Reiff Draft Profile

Known as one of the top OT’s available in the draft, Riley Reiff is the prototypical Iowa offensive lineman. A big gritty guy who has the ability to move in space and fit not only a power scheme, but a ZBS scheme as well. Bryan Bulaga from GB has showed it and Robert Gallery, while failing at OT, has been a good OG in the ZBS. Reiff shows good leverage and technique, which are staples of the Iowa coaching. You wont find better-coached offensive linemen than those who come from Iowa. While he still will need a bit of technique work and a couple of little things here and there Reiff has the potential to be the #2 OT taken only behind Matt Kalil of USC (who is the top guy for me by far.)

This might be a little bit of a shorter profile because with Reiff he’s very technique sound and he has a lot already going for him, and the negatives are small more nit picky things more than anything else. With the positives it all starts with how he plays the game. Reiff plays with intensity and drives his blocks until the end. That’s what this team needs especially with how we are moving our team to a ZBS that is nasty and drives their opponents back 10 yards. We saw it in the first game where Trent Williams took DeMarcus Ware and drove him down field on a play. We still want those who fit the ZBS, but also have that mean streak in them. Reiff though shows it and this video by TMB Draft on YouTube shows it (Thank you for the video man!)

Multiple times in the first 3 minutes of the video, he is finishing blocks and displays a good punch on the DE. Then continues to block and fight with his guy until the whistle blows. Also when you watch it really sticks how technically sound he is. I know I sound like a broken record talking about it, but his technique is good he shows good bend in his arm and doesn’t over extend except for the rare one occasion or two. He has good bend and looking at him, he is in good shape and wont have a problem keeping his weight the same. That’s what you want to see in a guy is not only one who can be the stud player for you, but also one who will take care of himself and make sure he’s in tip top shape and never a concern. Also the other thing I like watching is his footwork, its polished and good, but still will need a little bit of work just like every prospect coming of out college does need. Overall between his technique and nasty demeanor, Reiff posses everything you want in an OT heading to the NFL.

Now the negatives are nit picky like I said earlier but as a scout you really need to point these out and dissect them. While Reiff has good technique he has had times where he does get flat footed and while doesn’t get pushed back into the QB he ends up stalemating his opponent which in the NCAA is okay, but in the NFL that ends up with a tackle for loss or no gain and only being an average OT and he doesn’t want to be one. Also the other thing I noticed is not a big thing but I did mention it earlier he did overextend his arms and that led to not a bad play but one that makes a scout pause and go “he needs a bit of work there”. While its not awful and the end all be all, it does make you wonder how much work will it take (even though most will say not a ton of work for him.) The negatives are few though and if he can fix those he can be a dominant OT in the NFL. I see Reiff as someone who can play either side on the OL and be a dang good OT.

Now it’s down to the last part like with all of my profiles and its simple does Riley Reiff fit for the Washington Redskins? The answer is pretty simple YES! Reiff would be a RT in our scheme as we already have Trent Williams to be our franchise LT, and as a RT he could have a very good year in our scheme. The wonder is though with Mike and how he drafts OL. Traditionally you’ll see him draft a LT in the 1st round but after that he fills his OL with guys in the mid to late rounds ala Ryan Harris who was a 3rd rounder and OG’s like Chris Kuper in the 5th round. While I like Reiff a lot I’m not sure Mike would take him in the 1st round especially with our bigger needs like QB, interior OL (could change with FA) and some needs on the D but none that are extremely major. Overall though whoever drafts Riley Reiff will have a very good sound OT who can come in day one and be a successful player. In my opinion, he’s almost bust free in that if he fails at OT (which I don’t think he will) he could be a good OG as well.

Justin P.

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Vontaze Burfict Draft Profile

Known as one of the most gifted LB’s in the draft, Vontaze Burfict possesses a unique blend of size, strength, athleticism and intensity that is welcomed to the MLB position in the NFL. As a rising junior it’s not a given if he’ll declare or not, but if he does, I truly believe he could be a mid to late 1st round LB who ends up being one of the best players from the whole draft. I do say mid to late 1st because some teams will pause about the on the field penalties and how he is a bit raw on some respects of his game. The one thing you can’t deny is his athleticism and the things that he does, that not many people can do. The one comparison I tend to bring up with Burfict is that he’s a lot like Ray Lewis, not in any way saying that he’ll be the next one, but when I watch him I see a guy who has ridiculous passion for the game, shows the intensity every play and gives his all and makes those outstanding plays. Andrew on the other hand see’s Burfict a bit like LaVar Arrington in how he likes to roam and make those plays, which is true he has shown that, but I do feel that some of the scheme allows him to have a bit of roaming ability especially the decisions on man coverage/ blitzing the QB.

Lets get to the positives about Vontaze though and it’s really down to 3 major things, closing speed, tackling ability and play recognition. When you watch a highlight film of Vontaze you can tell right away that he closes with the speed of a mack truck it feels like. In a few cut up films I’ve watched of him along with live games, I’ve cringed at watching just how hard he’s hit some of the opposing players. Its something that is not the most important because many coaches want a technically sound LB, but when you see a LB close at the rate he does, it does make you go “wow if he can refine that technique a bit more, he’s going to be a star.” The next thing is Vontaze is a tackling guy and shows great form when he tackles his opponents. As you can see so far with my profile it’s a bit different in analyzing the strengths, because I’ve made it obvious he can tackle and he is intense, but it’s the other things you notice while watching him that are so positive. In this video clip done by one of my good twitter friends Aaron Aloysius (give him a follow at @AaronAloysius) you can see it he tackles every time with great form.

Its almost an underrated trait with LB’s because in our day and age we’ve become very into the big hits and highlight plays, but watching him consistently wrap up his opponents and also level them with terrifying force. Its almost a minimal positive to some, but as me being a big time old school football guy I view it almost as one of the more important positives that a LB can show. The final thing that stands out to me and its shown so many times in the above highlight video is the play recognition. There were numerous times where he would actually meet the ball carrier instantly or read the screen pass/pass in general and make a big time play. Quite possibly my favorite is about half way through the video where he recognizes the RB screen and then meets him and tackles him as soon as he catches the ball. That shows a LB who has the mental instincts to read plays and make quick reactions to any sort of play. Its something that you want to see in those big time LB’s because yeah its great having a technician LB, but those who can make the quick reactions and change the whole facet of a game are those who end up being long time pro bowl selections and end up being All Pro players. Patrick Willis right now is that kind of guy and Vontaze could very well be like him if he straightens out his negatives that I’ll get to shortly.

Now lets get to the negatives with Vontaze and it comes down to two major things for me, one his immaturity and two his ability to become to upright and stiff making plays. Vontaze is one of my favorite players to watch based on his pure ability as a LB, but to be honest he makes some dumb plays in terms of penalties. He’s been penalized multiple times for personal fouls and yes some are not as bad as they look, but you develop a reputation then as a dirty player. Now is he like Fairley in the dirty play regard? Its tough to call because he’s made some bad choices, but also when in the highlight video he gets a personal foul, but it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. In the NFL if he has a strong HC who can reel in the attitude of him then he can be a star player, but some teams will pause with the plays he has shown in games. The other concern with Vontaze is how he plays upright and his technique isn’t the greatest. In college you can get away with pure athleticism but in the NFL it wont get you far unless you know your technique and assignments down with the best of them. Vontaze will need to improve on it as I’ve seen multiple times in which he is playing upright and being taken out of the play early on. Its something that does make you pause because if you draft Vontaze in the 1st round you want immediate production and with him you would need to rework technique and have a good top notch LB coach to work with him. Its not something though that will stop a GM from taking a chance on him though. We’ve seen it in the past you will get drafted high for athleticism over some other things like football smarts and it works out sometimes and other times it ends up horribly. Overall though while there are negatives for Vontaze they aren’t the end all be all with a player of his caliber, but they will be scrutinized and looked at heavily by teams before they decide whether to draft him of not

Well to end the profile its now to the where does he fit for the Redskins part? Well its simple Vontaze would be a great 3-4 ILB fit for us because he possesses the blitz ability that Haslett likes out of his ILB’s and also has shown the ability to show good coverage ability. While possessing all those traits he also will need some work to make sure he does maximize his potential including the refinement of his technique and reworking in some areas. Vontaze has all the tools but it will also come down to his dedication to the game in the little areas in his quest to be a great LB

Justin P.

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Robert Griffin III Draft Profile

Well guys its that time of year again where us draftniks get back to scouting for 2012. Starting off my 2012 profiles will be who I consider the most dynamic player in the 2012 draft Robert Griffin III. Griffin is a track athlete as well as a QB, but when you watch his game you see shades of a QB who can be a dominant force in the NFL. Possessing a cannon arm, great accuracy already and blazing speed Griffin draws comparisons fairly or unfairly to Michael Vick. My opinion though is that Griffin will end up as a dual threat QB who uses his legs secondary to his arm.

Like with all of my profiles I’ll start off with the positives of Robert. First off I stated it before, but he’s got an absolute cannon of an arm. With the flick of his right wrist he can throw the ball 60 yards in the air. While yes we’ve seen arm strength isn’t everything to be a successful QB, it has its big positives for a scheme like the Redskins that utilizes down the field passing. One thing that is surprising to watch right off the bat with Robert is how he has good mechanics and has some polish already as a passer. In the following highlight video from Vortex1283 on Youtube(great highlight video!) it shows a good amount of his mechanics and his polish while operating in the pocket as well as outside of it.

Just watching that video though gives me goose bumps at what kind of player Robert can be. Of course there will be the concerns about his offensive scheme and how he’s not prepared, but closely watch how he plays QB. He’s not a Cam Newton who is easy to take off for a big run, he’s instead a guy who will make the reads and then if nothing is there will take off for the big run against the opposing defense. That’s something that is rarely seen out of a QB coming out of the spread, unless your looking at guys like Sam Bradford who showed that being a Spread QB wasn’t a bad thing.

I want to though focus on a series of plays from 1:43 to 2:14 in that video. The first two right away show the arm strength but also show off maybe the most underrated part of Griffins game, his accuracy as a passer. Yes of course some of the doubters will point out well he’s in a spread he very well could have inflated accuracy numbers but a 65% completion percentage for a spread QB is impressive no matter how you slice it, especially looking at the throws that Griffin is making. There is the one throw around 2 minutes or so that shows the rough edges of Griffin though as he underthrows his receiver and almost in a sense forces the pass downfield. The last pass though in that series shows the arm strength and impressive touch again.

Now while I’ve spent a good deal of time showing the positives of Griffins game there are concerns not just on the field but also medically with him. Lets start with the medical and get it out of the way. Robert suffered a bad knee injury his sophomore year after he was putting up gaudy numbers and missed the rest of the season. Last year was his first year back after the surgery and for the first few weeks it showed as he looked a little timid, but rightfully so after the injury he suffered. So there will be some concerns about his knee, but from all I’ve gathered the knee is perfectly fine and it wont be a cause of worry in the NFL. The other concerns with Griffin are purely scheme based. Teams will become concerned with the spread offense that Griffin is told to run at Baylor. Some of it is because it may not be the most complex of schemes but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t required to make the reads and prove himself. The point remains though it isn’t the most NFL ready of schemes and he will need time to adjust to playing under center. He’s almost in the Vince Young level though of spread offense QB’s if you ask me. One who has made a lot of passes out of the spread as well as dynamic runs and can make the transition to the pro game just like Vince has shown, but different from Vince, Robert has no off the field issues to speak of. Outside of an adjustment to the pro game and some teams having concerns of the knee, there really isn’t a ton that makes you pause when watching Griffin on film. He’s been producing at a high level and doing it on a team that wasn’t one of the best in the nation IE Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama

So now the question is where does he fit in the Redskins? Well its easy Robert would be a great fit for this offense as he has the mobility that Mike will want to run the play action and bootleg plays of the offense, but also he has the accuracy and arm strength to make the plays that Kyle will like. While he wont be a guy you start right away, he could very well make a huge impact for the Redskins in 2013 as a starting QB. Keep your eyes out for Robert this year as he could even end up as a Heisman guy if plays like he can.

Justin P.

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Why The Redskins Are Bad

It’s pretty much an NFL truism now that good franchises draft well and bad ones don’t. If you’re looking for a reason why the Redskins have perennially finished at the bottom of the division during Dan Snyder’s ownership, examining our organization’s abhorrent record in the draft is a good place to start. In fact, a good case can be made that the Redskins have been the worst drafting team in the entire league going at least as far back as the past decade.

ESPN the Magazine ran an interesting set of charts in its 2011 draft preview. One of them depicted a series of graphs demonstrating the quality of each team’s drafting as judged by the number and quality of the drafted players remaining on an NFL roster (or injured reserve) for week 17 of the 2010 season. The findings are frustrating to Redskins fans. Only 34 players drafted by the Redskins remained in the league in 2010, the lowest number for any franchise in the NFL. Of that 34, only 23 were with the team (or were placed on our injured reserve) for week 17 of last season. That number ties for the league low with Kansas City. There are only two other franchises in our sad orbit, the aforementioned Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both teams have 36 players drafted still in the league. The Bucs have 25 remaining on their roster. After that, it’s not really close as every other team in the league has at least 40 players drafted still in the league. Yes, we’ve been outdrafted by the Lions. Even worse, the Redskins only drafted eight total linemen still in the league last season–by far the worst record in the NFL.

By contrast, all of the best franchises have drafted extremely well. These are my unofficial counts (Math is my worst suit, so if you spot an error, let me know).

Patriots: 56 players drafted still in the league; 35 on roster
Green Bay: 59 players in league; 39 still on roster
Pittsburgh: 52 players in league; 39 still on roster
Indianapolis: 56 players in league; 41 still on roster
Baltimore: 50 players in league; 33 still on roster
Philadelphia: 53 players in league; 30 still on roster

Atlanta is a relatively new league power set to sustain their recent success. The evidence for that projection is in how successfully they’ve drafted: 50 remaining in the league and 30 remaining on their roster.

I think the evidence presented by the success of those organizations is pretty clear. If you want to be an annual contender, you’ve got to build through the draft. There is no other way. So in order to do this, a team has two choices. They can either hit on nearly all of their draft picks each year (a practical impossibility) or they can stockpile lots of picks each season. It makes intuitive sense that the Packers and Patriots would have so many successful picks when you see them reel in nine and 10 player classes just about every year. Picking four and five times each year like the Redskins do just doesn’t cut it.

Interestingly enough, despite being the worst drafting team in the league, the Redskins haven’t picked higher than fourth in a class since 2001. My guess as to the reason we’ve never been the worst record in the league is because, every year, we’re also the most desperate spenders in Free Agency. Our absurd spending has probably been the only thing that’s allowed us even the smallest modicum of competitiveness year to year. That’s no ringing endorsement for building through Free Agency. In fact, I’d argue that, if anything, it would have been better to just bottom out and build with elite draft picks for a few seasons in a row so we’d at least have reliable access to the very best prospects in the class.

Just to pile on, not only have the Redskins had trouble drafting enough players that stick, the ones that have worked out have generally been of low quality. Doug Drinen at pro-football-reference.com created a statistical measure called approximate career value using a complicated set of formulas that would take a sharper mind than my own to explain for you. The short of it is that the stat assigns a numeric value to a player’s career across any position, kind of like the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) advanced metric in baseball. ESPN the Magazine’s chart names the most valuable players drafted by position group. Here is the depressing list for the Redskins:

QB: Jason Campbell (with the Raiders in 2010)
RB: LaDell Betts (with the Saints in 2010)
WR/TE: Chris Cooley
OL: Derrick Dockery
DL: Kedric Golston
LB: Rocky McIntosh
DB: Champ Bailey (with the Broncos in 2010)

According to Drinen’s metric, Chris Cooley has had the most valuable career of any remaining drafted Redskin by far. The best player in the league that the Redskins drafted (Champ Bailey) has been on a different team for the past seven seasons. It’s depressing stuff realizing two of the best players your team has drafted and developed are Rocky McIntosh and Kedric Golston. This is especially so when you gaze across the league wide charts and see names like Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Dwight Freeney for Indy; Tom Brady and Richard Seymour for New England; Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, and Ray Lewis for Baltimore.

But wait a second, take that gun out of your mouth Redskins fans. There is actually a positive note upon which I can end this entry. Our approximate career value numbers figure to get a lot better once the young careers of Brian Orakpo, LaRon Landry, and Trent Williams unfold. Those are some names that don’t look too bad at all when you consider them.

Further, being in company with the Chiefs and Bucs isn’t necessarily a bad thing because those teams were actually good in 2010. Each made huge strides this past season based on the strength of a recent run of excellent drafting. Like us, both organizations went through sweeping regime changes that effectively purged their number of drafted players remaining in the league. Yet cutting the dead weight and making a commitment to build anew through the draft ended up being beneficial to both organizations, and each went from last place finishes to 10+ game winners in the span of only two seasons. So it doesn’t take long to rapidly improve the quality of your roster when you make that commitment to build through the draft and you acquire quality young pieces that stick.

Let’s all hope Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan read ESPN the Magazine and looked at the pretty charts.

- Andrew

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