Sunday, April 19, 2009

Who's Better: Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas?

Entering last year's draft, wide receiver was a tremendous need for the Redskins. So what did they do? They drafted not one, but two wide receivers (and a tight end). 

The transition to the NFL for Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, the two receivers taken, was not nearly as smooth as everyone had hoped. 

Kelly, the second receiver the 'Skins took, was the 51st overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Kelly is a tall presence standing at 6'4", he played in college at Oklahoma. In the time leading up to the draft Kelly was hampered with injuries, and when he made it to D.C. nothing had changed.

Kelly spent most of last year inactive, because he was too hurt to play (knee problems). The Redskins knew of his injury history and were advised not to draft him. But, of course, they defied logic and selected him. He doesn't have breakaway speed, an aspect that hurt his draft stock, but could potentially be the down-field threat the 'Skins need so desperately.

Thomas, the first receiver taken by the Redskins, was the 34th overall pick. While in college, he spent his freshman year attending junior college and his sophomore and junior seasons playing for Michigan State. He caught only six passes his sophomore year, but his stock skyrocketed following an incredible junior season. As a junior, he hauled in 79 receptions for 1,260 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

Thomas, like Kelly, faced injuries during his rookie year. He pulled a hamstring in training camp and seemingly never fully caught up on the time he missed. Even when he was healthy enough to practice or to play, he had a difficult time running routes and doing his job on the field. 

This year, the 'Skins enter the season with the same receiver problems they had last year. They lack a solid No. 2 wide out, who can play alongside Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas are both one year older and both should have a better understanding of the offense. Kelly may have already seen his best days if he can't stay healthy, and Thomas is still a raw talent. Because of Thomas's raw talent and his ability to not get injured as frequently I think he will have a brighter future with the 'Skins. 

However, both were highly touted for a reason and this year, more than ever, is going to be a good indication of their futures in Washington.  Look for 2009 to be a make or break year for both of these receiving prospects.

If they both fail to produce, it will make things harder on Jason Campbell. Poor performances from Kelly and Thomas could cost Campbell his starting quarterback job.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Best Player Available or Position of Need: What's a Better Strategy?

Around this time of year, there is always the debate of should a team draft the "best player" available or draft a player at a position of need. In the past, Vinny Cerrato has taken the approach at drafting the best player available. 

The question is- What should he do this year?

With the No. 13 pick, the Redskins should be able to draft a starter and potential Pro Bowler if they draft wisely. And that is a HUGE if. I've talked about the needs of the 'Skins (see: Redskins' Draft Needs Parts 1, 2, and 3) and most people would be content with a player at one of those positions. 

But, how bout a new QB or even a new wide receiver? Cause Cerrato will likely grab 'em if they're there.

He, obviously, shouldn't commit such a travesty, but he probably will if the situation presents itself. Bottom line is with several gaping holes at crucial positions, the Redskins should not draft the "best player" available, and instead should fill a position of need.

This is an extremely important year for Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell, and Vinny Cerrato and Dan Snyder could help them out immensely by solidifying a hole in the lineup. 

Redskins Draft Needs Part 3: Linebacker

Unfortunately for the Redskins, they can only take one player with the 13th pick. A new offensive tackle, defensive end, and linebacker would all be nice, but they can only take one. The 'Skins enter the '09 season with a thin pool of linebackers. 

London Fletcher returns to hold down the defense at the middle linebacker position. Most likely he will be surrounded by Rocky McIntosh and H.B. Blades. All three are very viable options at the position, the problem arises with the depth at linebacker. Along with a thin corp of LBs, London Fletcher is aging and has already seen his best days.

To combat the problems that may come at linebacker, the 'Skins might use their coveted 13th pick on one. Some options at the position would be USC's Brian Cushing or Rey Maualuga. Cushing and Maualuga helped make up arguably the nation's best linebacker corp among the college ranks in 2008. Maualuga, plays on the inside and could eventually be the successor to Fletcher. Cushing, an outside pass rusher, could come in and rotate with Blades and McIntosh and be an instant impact.

UVA's Clint Sintim may also be an option; however, if the 'Skins were to show interest in the inside presence from UVA they would be better suited to trade down instead of reaching for him at 13. Obviously, the top LB and top prospect in this class, Aaron Curry, will already be off the board that's why I have not made an argument for him. 

I do feel that the Redskins would only draft a linebacker as a last resort. For example, if Andre Smith is off the board and if there isn't a DE that fits a 4-3 scheme available, then and only then do I see the 'Skins reaching for a linebacker.    

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mark Sanchez vs. Jason Campbell: The Redskins' Biggest Draft Day Question

With the NFL Draft approaching, ESPN's Mel Kiper has been extremely busy with his mock drafts and player projections.a

In Kiper's latest mock draft, he has quarterback Mark Sanchez of USC falling to the Washington Redskins at No. 13. In all reality, Sanchez will most likely not be available at No. 13, but if he was to fall to No. 13, what should the Redskins do?

Jason Campbell, the incumbent to the Redskins' QB position, is in his final year of his contract. And by all indications, Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato have no interest in re-signing him, and even less confidence that he is a "franchise" quarterback.

Campbell has been the center of several trade rumors this offseason. The most notable one had the Redskins dumping Campbell (and way too many draft picks) for Jay Cutler.

So the question that is being asked is—Who has a brighter future, Mark Sanchez or Jason Campbell?

Sanchez is coming off a tremendous season. He went 11-1 last season as the USC QB. He put up remarkable numbers in all the passing categories. There is only one huge problem with Sanchez, and that is his limited college experience (he started only 16 collegiate games).

Campbell, on the other hand, was drafted in 2005 to be the next Super Bowl quarterback of the Washington Redskins.

He hasn't exactly lived up to his expectations. However, he is developing nicely and is entering his second season under Jim Zorn's West Coast Offense.

Campbell isn't even the biggest problem the Redskins have to worry about. With concerns at both the offensive and defensive lines, linebacker, and receiver, why draft a QB?

The Redskins' philosophy has been to draft the "best player" available instead of drafting for need. Sometimes this strategy is a good approach, and other times it is a horrendous idea.

In this instance, it would be an inexcusable mistake to draft Mark Sanchez at No. 13, and an even bigger mistake to trade up to take him.

Campbell is more than satisfactory for his position. Instead of trying to replace him, the Redskins should elect to build a team around him, starting with a new offensive tackle.

However, Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato are two of the most unpredictable people in the NFL community. So although it would not be in the Redskins' best interest to draft Mark Sanchez, it is a move that is not only plausible, but likely, if Sanchez was to be passed over by the 12 teams drafting in front of Washington.

2009 Schedule

Here is a look at the Redskins' 2009 Schedule.

Week 1: @Ravens, 7:00 ET
Week 2: Steelers, 7:30 ET
Week 3: Patriots, 8:00 ET
Week 4: @Jaguars, 7:30 ET
Regular Season
Week 1: @Giants, 4:15 ET
Week 2: Rams, 1:00 ET
Week 3: @Lions, 1:00 ET
Week 4: Buccaneers, 1:00 ET
Week 5: @Panthers, 1:00 ET
Week 6: Chiefs, 1:00 ET
Week 7: Eagles, 8:30, ET (Monday Night Football)
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: @Falcons, 1:00 ET
Week 10: Broncos, 1:00 ET
Week 11: @Cowboys, 1:00 ET 
  Week 12: @Eagles, 1:00 ET
Week 13: Saints, 1:00 ET
Week 14: @Raiders, 4:15 ET
Week 15: Giants, 8:30 ET (Monday Night Football)
Week 16: Cowboys, 8:20 ET (Sunday Night Football)
Week 17: @Chargers, 4:15 ET

Redskins Draft Needs Part 2: Defensive End

The 2009 NFL Draft class is filled with numerous talented defensive ends. Something that is extremely good news for the Redskins. Currently, the Redskins have Philip Daniels, Andre Carter, Rob Jackson, Alex Buzbee, Chris Wilson, and Renaldo Wynn slated to fill out the roster at the defensive end position.

Philip Daniels, 36, is coming off a season ending knee-injury, so any production received from him would be an added bonus. Buzbee, like Daniels, is coming off a season ending knee-injury, but he was never as experienced or as valuable as Daniels was. 

Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson, and Renaldo Wynn will all make minor contributions, seeing as neither of them is likely to earn a starting role. So that leaves Andre Carter, who has underperformed since coming to the 'Skins, as their only sure thing at DE.

This Draft class features several projected 1st round picks. Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Aaron Maybin, Larry English, Tyson Jackson, and Robert Ayers are all potential 1st round selections.

In all likelihood, Orakpo, Brown, and possibly Jackson will be off the board by pick 13. With that said, the 'Skins will need to take a serious look at English, Maybin, and Ayers.

Larry English, a former member of Northern Illinois' football team, is 6'2" and weighs 255 pounds. More importantly, he has a good combination of stopping the run and sacking the quarterback. He is going to be an outstanding defensive player in the NFL, but will it be for the 'Skins?

Aaron Maybin, out of Penn State, is 6'4" and checks in at 235 pounds. Maybin is on the lighter side for defensive ends, which is cause for concern. Maybin could be more of a hybrid LB/DE if he can't add the weight. And he possibly could be drafted by the Bills at pick 11. So we will have to wait and see on this one. 

Robert Ayers, former Tennessee Volunteer, is just recently gaining notoriety. Ayers, who is 6'2" and weighs in at 265 pounds, has shot up everyones draft boards from a 2nd round pick to a potential top 15 pick. Ayers is primarily a run stopper who can also bring pressure upon the quarterback. He, like Maybin, may also end up being a hybrid LB/DE, a position that has little use for the Redskins.

Finally, if the 'Skins pass on a defensive end with there first pick, they may want to trade up into the 2nd round to draft Lawrence Sidbury, out of the University of Richmond. Sidbury and his Spiders are coming off a FCS (formerly D-I AA) National Championship. Sidbury will be a sleeper pick and if he is still on the board the Redskins should seriously consider making a push for him. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Redskins Draft Needs Part 1: Offensive Tackle

With the 2009 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the Redskins are in full preparation mode. This year the 'Skins have the 13th overall pick, the highest since 2005. This pick, however, is extremely important because if the Redskins draft a bust then their status as an average team will most likely be cemented. 

Currently, all of the Draft buzz around the Redskins involves Mark Sanchez, the former USC signal caller. Dan Snyder fell in love with his next failed investment at first sight. Don't get me wrong, Sanchez is a tremendous talent, but it would create an unnecessary problem at quarterback. 

Instead, the Redskins should embrace Jason Campbell and build a team around him. Starting with an offensive tackle. The 'Skins offensive line is in dire need of a younger, more athletic tackle, considering Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels are aging rapidly.

This year's draft class features several big name tackles. Jason Smith, of Baylor, and Euguene Monroe, a former UVA Cavalier, are the top two ranked tackles, and will likely be gone by pick No. 13. However, Michael Oher and Andre Smith may potentially slide down on the draft board.

Michael Oher, pronounced "Oar", without a doubt has the potential to be the next Orlando Pace. On the flip-side, he also has a high risk of being a bust. Oher, a graduate of Ole Miss, is 6'5"and tips the scales at close to 310 pounds. The knock on Oher is his IQ. In the book The Blind Side, Michael Oher is observed from his time in high school to his time at Ole Miss. Oher bounced around from school to school, and seemingly could not read or write. These are all concerns for NFL GM's who don't want to invest millions of dollars in someone who becomes a bust. However, Oher's size and athleticism make him a football phenom. 

Before the end of the college football season, Andre Smith was being talked about as a possible No. 1 overall pick. However, Smith spoiled those hopes by having what appeared to be a mental breakdown at the NFL Scouting Combine, and then following his weird behavior at the Combine with an awful Pro Day. Smith, a former Alabama tackle, is 6'5" and weighs in at a hefty 340. Smith has tremendous strength, but much like Oher has a high possibility of being a bust. Smith's work ethic has been questioned by scouts and at times is lackadaisical. 

If by some Divine miracle Monroe or Jason Smith fell to the Redskins, Dan Snyder would be crazy to pass on either one of them. But more likely, the Redskins will have to decide whether or not Michael Oher or Andre Smith will materialize into a Pro Bowler, and if so should they take them.