Washington’s 2020 campaign was more than anyone expected.
Despite the overwhelming adversity, Washington earned its first division title in five years behind Alex Smith, whose departure has become a story in and of itself. Now, the focus turns to 2021 and continuing to build on a roster that features nice building blocks on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Washington is led by the youth of Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. Smith’s career revival was one of a movie script, but the quarterback carousel continued to turn throughout 2020 in D.C. Former 15th-overall selection Dwyane Haskins played himself out of the NFL. Kyle Allen, despite showing flashes, suffered a brutal knee injury in Week 9, which led to the appearance of Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke’s eye-popping playoff performance against Tampa Bay (albeit in a loss) has raised some discussion regarding who should start under center for Washington come Week 1 next season even with free agent acquisition and gun-slinger Ryan Fitzpatrick presumably as the frontrunner. Head coach Ron Rivera has shot down any rumors of a quarterback competition in camp, but mentioned he will keep “all options open” in his second season as head bench boss. Also, I wouldn’t rule out a trade-up for a quarterback if one of the top-tier talents slip with multiple early-round assets in Rivera’s back pocket. *wink*
On defense, it starts and stops up front with Chase Young, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen. The secondary group of Kendall Fuller, Landon Collins, Kamren Curl, and the prize of the Washington offseason in corner William Jackson III, shores up one of the most menacing young defenses in football.
With free agency now in its latter stages, let’s get right into it. Using our Mock Draft Machine, I looked at which prospects Washington could target in this post-free-agency draft haul. Here is my seven-round mock including scheme fit on each prospect:
Round 1 (No. 19 overall): Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Washington is in a situation of BPA (best player available) at No.19 overall. It’s crazy to say that considering the debacle that has been Washington as a franchise both on and off the field the last two decades, but here we are. At No. 19 overall there is no outlying need, and a trade back by Rivera here wouldn’t be surprising. In fact, it could be their best move. However, for this article’s sake, I take one of the more underappreciated tackles in the class in Jenkins.
If you haven’t seen Jenkins play, do yourself a favor and turn on his tape. At 6-foot-6, he embarrassed opposing defenders on a weekly basis during his time in Stillwater. On the outside, he’s a fun-loving, charismatic, almost quirky individual, but man can the kid play football. Washington’s offensive line represents one of the more veteran units in the division but has room to improve, especially if Brandon Scherff departs town sooner than anyone thought he would. Jenkins has the ability to start at both tackle and guard, and could do so from day one if Saahdiq Charles fails to rehab properly. This is a BPA selection that could turn into a high-snap player due to his immense talent within the interior. He simply can’t be passed up here at No. 19.
Round 2 (No. 51 overall): Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
As good as Washington’s defense was, and can be moving forward, they must improve at the second level. With Kevin Pierre-Louis now in Houston joining Thomas Davis and Reuben Foster as ‘backers on the outs in Ashburn, the burgundy and gold MUST address the nucleus of their 4-3 front after failing to acquire Lavonte David in free agency.
Cox is a do-it-all talent that should pair nicely with speedster Cole Holcomb and green dot Jon Bostic. Washington will also get Josh Harvey-Clemons back for additional depth in the middle. For a team that does so many things defensively under Del Rio, a rangy, sideline-to-sideline defender who excels in space like Cox could be the missing piece to a dominant unit for years to come.
Round 3 (No. 74 overall): Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
Logan Thomas was a nice surprise in 2020, developing as one of the top targets within the Washington offense. Tremble would slot in nicely at TE2, allowing Scott Turner to utilize both versatile tight ends to work seamlessly together in both the run and pass game. Jeremy Sprinkle never developed into anything more than an extension of the line, and it was inherently obvious Washington was running the ball when he was in the game. You need more in today’s NFL.
Tremble is a monster in the run game who dominated linebackers and safeties blocking for the Fighting Irish. He has excellent size, mobility, and would thrive both in-line and flexed out as an F-alignment tight end. He had trouble garnering targets behind Cole Kmet and Michael Mayer during his time in South Bend, but he has the talent to develop into a productive day one starter in the nation’s capital with Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel drawing eyes elsewhere in the offense.
Round 3 (No. 82 overall): Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
The additions of Samuel and Adam Humphries will prove to be massive adds for a quick-hitting Turner-run offense, but Washington needs some size on the outside. Cam Sims offers ideal vertical prowess on the boundary, as does Kelvin Harmon—who returns from injury—and 2020 rookie Antonio Gandy-Golden, but I don’t envision any of them carving out a prominent role within the offense.
St. Brown is a proven top-tier athlete that has the skill set to work within each level of the defense that could take over the majority of Humphries’ reps working out of the slot. This would be an excellent add with Washington’s second third-round pick who could both start or work rotationally from the onset of his career.
Round 4 (No. 124 overall): JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU
Following an outstanding pro day, Stevens’ stock has enjoyed a major exponential rise on league-wide draft boards due to his versatility. He did it all at LSU, starting at safety, linebacker, and working as a primary nickel defender on passing downs for the Tigers.
He’s an aggressive box defender who can survive in short zones with good instincts and vision, and he has the quickness necessary to stick with tight ends and running backs in coverage. A former 5-star recruit in high school, a scenario could present itself where Stevens ends up taking Collins’ snaps due to his athleticism and pursuit as a do-it-all talent at the apex of a defense to pair with Curl.
Round 5 (No. 163 overall): Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Fuller and Jackson are stenciled in as starters on the outside, but questions arise when looking into the slot. Del Rio is high on Moreland entering his third season, but he could opt to add an additional face in the corners room in the versatile Lenoir. As a Duck, he thrived in zone coverage both in nickel and as an outside stalwart. He’s aggressive with patient footwork, has promising ball skills, and could thrive as a ball-hawking talent within Del Rio’s hybrid scheme.
Round 7 (No. 244 overall): Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
This late in the draft is simply BPA for Washington. With Kerrigan now gone, I expect Rumph to fill his shoes from a rotational standpoint. Behind Young and Sweat, Rumph could earn significant snaps due to his elite skill set as a speed rusher off the edge. He plays with outstanding technique who can also work standing up as well. This late in the selection process, it doesn’t get much better than Rumph.
Round 7 (No. 246 overall): Paul Grattan, IOL, UCLA
Ryan McCollum out of Texas A&M was of interest here, but durability concerns drew me to Grattan, a nasty interior blocker who has the potential to develop into a nice prospect at either center or guard. With the prior mentioned questions surrounding the future of Scherff, and Wes Schweitzer limited as far as an overall athlete, Grattan would offer nice depth in case of injury. No one is saying he will start Week 1, but Grattan touts the finishing ability and run-game prowess coaches love from interior linemen.