With the spectacle that is the NFL Scouting Combine coming next week, the Washington Redskins are in a bit of an unique situation. They pick at #21, which is truthfully not the best spot to be in with a class like this. This year’s class, while admittedly deep throughout the middle of the draft, is pretty light on top, reminiscent of the 2013 class.
While the Redskins improved greatly in 2015, they’ve placed themselves in a bit of a draft purgatory. Not high enough to get a blue chipper, but likely at the beginning the of the “second round talent” being taken in the first round, because there simply aren’t 32 first round prospects this season. Luckily, they have Scot McCloughan, one of the best GMs in the NFL. He’ll find value at #21.
McCloughan is a big advocate for physical football players, and this year there is no shortage of talent in the front seven, one of his specialties. He addressed the offensive line in the draft last season, and the defensive line in free agency. While Terrance Knighton played well, it’s uncertain if he’ll be retained, among others.
Washington will be looking to strengthen their roster in order to help maintain the success they enjoyed this season, here are some players to watch during the NFL Combine:
Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech
Coach Jay Gruden will be looking to find a backup for the soon-to-be-paid Kirk Cousins. He likes his signal callers to be throwers primarily, but also athletic enough to run if needed, (see Andy Dalton). Driskel provides that skill set, as the former heralded recruit of the Florida Gators is a plus athlete for the position and also possesses the physical tools to succeed. He’ll need a bit of time to develop, which is why Washington would be a good situation for Driskel.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
While it wasn’t intentional to pair the two La Tech athletes on this list, Dixon is a very intriguing runner. Though he’s not a physically imposing player, he runs much bigger than he is, and also possesses the receiving skills to be a primary back in the NFL. With Alfred Morris hitting the open market, it’s unsure if he’ll be brought back, so running back will be given a look, especially considering Matt Jones’ fumbling tendencies.
Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame
The younger brother of the Cowboys’ Zack Martin, Nick is a physical player in the trenches, and with Kory Lichtensteiger getting older by the second, an eventual replacement will have to be identified. Martin is an, in my opinion, underrated prospect, and he has Scot McCloughan written all over him. He’ll be a long term starter whenever the Redskins decide to move on from Lichtensteiger.
Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor
Okay, so I know anyone reading this that has watched WWE knows that they bill Mark Henry as the “World’s Strongest Man”. Well, that wasn’t a gimmick. When Henry was in high school in Texas he broken multiple powerlifting records, and was an Olympic lifter for the United States in the 1996 Olympics. Why am I talking about this? Andrew Billings broke all of Henry’s high school lifting records. An 800+ pound squat, 700+ deadlift and 500+ bench while in high school. He put this power on display in Waco. With Knighton hitting free agency, Billings could be a replacement at nose tackle. Despite his smaller stature, around six foot tall and 310 pounds or so, his sheer strength and power makes up for it. He could be available around that #21 range, and would be another talented starter in that front seven. Rather than reach for need, continue to build a strength. (It’s what smart teams do.)
Deon Bush, S, Miami (FL)
The Redskins secondary, to put it bluntly, is a dumpster fire. Chris Culliver is coming off of an injury, as is DeAngelo Hall. They don’t know what position Hall will play next season, whether corner or safety. At one point they had Quinton Dunbar getting significant time at corner during the playoffs, a wide receiver during his days at Florida. They need help. Bush would be a nice enforcer in the back of the defense. Bush criticized the coaching staff during his time with the Hurricanes while at the Shrine Game, something his former Miami teammate Anthony Chickillo also did. Bush could be a steal in the draft for a team that sees him for his traits, rather than his faults while in Coral Gables.
Do not fear, Redskins fans. You’ve got an up and coming team, coach and a top 10 general manager in the NFL. Good days are ahead. In McCloughan you should trust. Both teams in the Super Bowl were built around physicality, despite Roger Goodell’s attempts to take it out of the game. You’ve got the right guy in charge.