With less than a month before the NFL Draft, a feeling of anxiety and tension crosses the air. Fans are getting stressed, mock drafts are being critiqued, and hours of game film are being analyzed.
But you know who seems to be relaxed and poised under pressure? Surprisingly the Washington Football Team.
I’m sure they are putting in their hours in their own right, but at pick 19 the team is good position and has no need to stress. They have done their due diligence in free agency and can now let the board “talk to them” as they see fit. Below you will find my thoughts on how Washington should approach the draft, and a few scenarios that I think may happen come draft day.
Take a look and let me know what you think!
Laying the Foundation
For the second year in a row, Washington’s front office has had a calculated approach to free agency. They have targeted key pieces on the first day of legal tampering, and swung for immediate impact players that would fit the team. In 2020, they unfortunately missed on wide receiver Amari Cooper, but they rallied with an impressive free agent class that contributed throughout the season.
What I liked about Washington’s approach is that they put an emphasis on scheme fit, and found players not necessarily associated as being “big names”. This is a direct benefit of a team who has a coach, offensive coordinator, (and now) GM, who are in lockstep. Not something we have seen in Washington for a very long time. There appears to be a big picture vision of what the style and personality of the team should be. And that’s a great thing for the program.
This offseason, the player personnel evaluators did an excellent job acquiring Curtis Samuel, William Jackson III, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Adam Humphries. All players who will contribute immediately, yet not break the bank. And in the case of Samuel, has experience with the coaching staff, meaning his transition to Washington should be somewhat seamless.
These free agent additions, as well as a few other depth pieces that were added, rounded out the roster and formed a solid foundation moving forward.
Essentially the team accomplished what good teams do — use free agency as a tool to eliminate roster deficits and approach the draft with a best player available mentality.
The team has no need to panic come draft night, they can stay patient and remain flexible. Below I’ll show you how.
A Tier-Based Draft Approach
Now that Washington has created a solid base to stand on, the team can approach the draft without any glaring needs. Sure, they can improve at middle linebacker, safety, or left tackle, but their groundwork in free agency has allowed them to capitalize off a cheap labor force — rookie contracts.
Washington should approach this draft with a long-term building perspective, as opposed to “winning” 2021. Take your time and select players who will contribute for the next five years plus.
What I think Washington should do, is approach the draft with a tier-based method. Meaning, they should take their draft grades and not only give each individual a grade, but also place them in a grouping of players with a similar projection. Here’s an example:
Tier 1: Trevor Lawrence, Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts
Tier 2: Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Micah Parsons
Tier 3: Kwity Payne, Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, Christian Darrisaw, Rashawn Slater
Tier 4: Trevon Moehrig, Mac Jones, Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah, Rashod Bateman, Zaven Collins
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You can debate the tier-rankings all you want, but that’s not the point. Hopefully you get the overall message of what I’m sharing. At 19, Washington should try their best to maximize their value and select players in the highest tier available. If they are sitting at 19, and a tier-two prospect such as Devonta Smith is available, they shouldn’t hesitate to pounce on the pick. I understand that in 2021, our WR depth may not be the largest concern, and you may prefer a different position, but you have to remain patient and select impact players who not only help you now, but in the future.
Obviously, in an ideal world, you will try to marry talent and need. And that’s why the tier-based approach is helpful. You have grouped several players you would “be happy with” at your selection. But if there is a steal in front of you, such as a Micah Parsons who you deem a tier-two talent, you have to pull the trigger.
At pick 19, Washington will likely have their choice of a few tier three and tier four talents. Personally, I think most of the tier three options I mentioned above will be selected, including Christian Darrisaw.
That’s why, in my first mock draft I selected the former Hokie at 19, because I felt he provided excellent value at that choice. Very rarely can you select a franchise left tackle late in the first round, but with the way the draft is shaping up, he may fall through the cracks.
This year, quarterbacks and wide receivers seem to be of high value, and someone good is going to be pushed down. Will Darrisaw be there at 19? Possibly. If he is, Washington should maximize their value, select him, and not look back. Maintain the Washington tradition of stout left tackles in the vein of Joe Jacoby, Chris Samuel and Trent Williams.
Finally, Washington should also factor in the value of the fifth-year option for first round selections. Forward-thinking organizations understand that left tackles, edge rushers, and quarterbacks are high-priced commodities that will balloon in value after their rookie deal. If all things are equal, and Coach Rivera finds a left tackle and linebacker at a similar grade at 19, it may be smarter to pick the LT to save cap space in the future. It’s simply smart business.
Don’t Be Afraid to Trade Back
Linebackers such as Zaven Collins and Nick Bolton will be available at 19, which leads me to my next point. Don’t be afraid to trade back and add more draft capital. If you have two players that you like and you would be happy with the outcome of either choice, explore your options.
This draft has ample talent in the 20-60 range, and if you can add more selections, do it.
I noticed that the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets have the 23rd and 25th selections, respectively. How much of a homerun would it be to trade back from 19 to 23, and then pick up the 34th selection as a result?
Not only could you still get a player like Collins, you also would have a better shot at adding a Kadarius Toney or Trevor Moehrig at 34 if they are available. You still get the guy you had on your board, and added another weapon, just for showing patience.
Ultimately, Washington needs to follow the words of the ever-wise Aaron Rodgers and R-E-L-A-X on draft day. The cards are in their hands, they just need play them wisely.
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