In the NFL draft, certainty is a rarity. The league’s history is littered with first round busts and late round gems. It all comes down to what a player can do on the field. Each season, rookies get the chance to prove their worth. A deeper talent pool means the caliber of players selected in the later rounds can yield excellent results for the teams who select them. With this in mind it’s feast or famine time. We pick one rookie from each division who will earn a gold star next to their name, and the one who will need to stay after class. First up is the NFC East.
NFC East Rookies
Montez Sweat – Edge, Washington Redskins
Sweat was a dominant force in the SEC. He averaged double-digit sacks during his final two years in college, after transferring to Mississippi State. Many scouts compared him to a fellow SEC defensive end, Danielle Hunter. The expectation for Sweat isn’t that the rookie will instantly be among the league’s best defensive ends. However, it is not difficult to fathom that Sweat will make an immediate impact for the Washington defense.
Perhaps the biggest reasons to bet on Sweat, is the situation he was drafted into. Washington’s defensive line features Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Caleb Brantley, and Tim Settle. Payne and Allen were first round selections in 2018 and 2017 respectively. Allen and Ioannidis are the biggest contributors, as both men caused headaches for opposing offensive lines with their play. Ioannidis totaled 7.5 sacks in 2018, on just nine starts. Allen tallied eight sacks of his own, while playing interior defensive line. The front line is brimming with talent, Sweat will fit right in.
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The other reason to get excited about Sweat in 2019, is the defensive coaches around him. Greg Manusky returns as defensive coordinator, hoping to continue the trend over the last few seasons as the Redskins have improved in each. With Sweat classified as an edge player, he will see a large chunk of time rushing the passer and playing on the line of scrimmage. Washington has one of the best defensive line coaches in Jim Tomsula. The former 49ers head coach, Tomsula has worked with players such as Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. Both excelled with Tomsula as their position coach, and both men credited him as a major reason for their success. Tomsula is just the type of coach who can bring out the best in Sweat. The man has worked wonders with lesser talents.
Dwayne Haskins – QB, Washington Redskins
There must be balance. For the good, there is bad. As the pendulum moves in one direction, it eventually swings back. Dwayne Haskins falls into the latter category. Truth be told, picking Haskins has more to do with his projected playing time, versus other rookies in the division. The easy answer would be Giants quarterback, Daniel Jones, but it is debatable if he will play much in 2019. Haskins will likely battle Case Keenum for the starting role, but still seems the likelier of the two to see the most playing time.
For many, Haskins was the next quarterback on the board, after Kyler Murray. The Ohio State product put up surreal numbers last season, leading the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl victory. Haskins finished in the top-3 for Heisman Trophy voting thanks to his 4,831 passing yards and 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. The rookie’s production was in-part thanks to a stacked roster for Ohio State in 2019. His two leading receivers, Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin, were drafted in the second and third rounds respectively.
However, while McLaurin was also selected by Washington, Haskins does not have the same wealth of talent surrounding him at the next level. Of the wide receivers on the roster, Josh Doctson led the group, finishing the season with 532 yards on 44 receptions. The Redskins’ leading receiver in 2018, was oft-injured Jordan Reed, who turned in 558 yards on 54 receptions in just 13 games. Washington is in the midst of a holdout by starting left tackle, Trent Williams. Williams is the obvious anchor on the line, any time out will hurt the offense. Washington is also looking to plug Erik Flowers at left guard. The former first round selection by the Giants, has struggled to find his footing in the NFL, and has failed to show the talent which earned him the lofty slot on draft day.
Hope for the Best
Picking a winner and a loser during the middle of summer is a tough task. There is about a month before teams get back together for training camp. By that point, position battles will take shape and more information will be available. However, anything can happen once the games start counting. Both Sweat and Haskins are filled to the brim with talent. They are well deserving of their early selections and can make a significant impact in the league. The hope is that both players find success in 2019. Sweat has the easier path on paper. Haskins faces more uncertainty, but his position allows for the best chance at success. The season will be on us soon enough.