A few months ago, Jay Gruden famously said of the initial two first-round picks during his tenure as coach of the Washington Redskins: “One’s played two downs and one’s a guard.”
He sure seemed more pleased about the way things went this time around in the NFL draft — and the disarray that had been the hallmark of Washington’s offseason diminished, at least for a few days.
The Redskins made a point of boosting their lackluster defense, taking a player for that side of the ball in each of the first three rounds for the first time in 20 years, getting Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen at No. 17 overall, Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson at No. 49, and UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau at No. 81.
“Couldn’t ask for anything more, really,” Gruden said.
In rounds 4-7 on Saturday, the Redskins made seven more picks, including a trio of defensive backs: Montae Nicholson of Michigan State in the fourth round, and Josh Harvey-Clemons of Louisville and Josh Holsey of Auburn in the seventh.
Director of college scouting Scott Campbell said before the draft that former general manager Scot McCloughan helped set the team’s board before he was fired last month, halfway through his four-year contract. Maybe that helped matters, because the Redskins’ propensity for dysfunction seemed to fade away as Campbell and team president Bruce Allen went about making selections.
That’s not to say there are any guarantees, of course. First of all, there never are when it comes to the draft, and it often takes a few seasons to know the true value of players picked. And in the case of the Redskins, two high choices came with question marks about health: Allen has had shoulder troubles; Moreau tore a chest muscle during his pro day and is expected to miss all of training camp.
Here are other things to know about Washington’s 2017 draft class:
NEEDS ADDRESSED: After last year’s disastrous defense — it ranked 28th in the league and was particularly bad on third downs and against the run — got coordinator Joe Barry fired, replacement Greg Manusky has some fresh talent to work with at DL and LB, two of the biggest needs Washington had.
HELP STILL NEEDED: While Washington did pick up a running back in the fourth round (Samaje Perine of Oklahoma) and some other possible depth on offense later (Arkansas TE Jeremy Sprinkle, Wyoming C Chase Roullier, Georgia Southern WR Robert Davis), it was somewhat surprising not to see a guard or developmental QB taken.
SURE TO START: If Allen turns out to be as good as expected, he will start right away. As Gruden joked the night Allen was picked: “He will contribute — tomorrow.” Allen joins a defensive line that already was lacking, and then lost Chris Baker to free agency. Anderson could join his college teammate in the starting 11, slotting in as a pass-rusher opposite Ryan Kerrigan, especially with OLB Trent Murphy serving a four-game drug suspension to open the season.
ROLL TIDE: Gruden dismissed the notion that Alabama defenders who succeed in college don’t always turn into stars in the pros. “They are just well-coached and we feel good about where they are from a mental standpoint, from talking to them, getting to know these guys,” Gruden said. “I don’t see any negative, whatsoever.”
PRESSURE’S ON: CB Bashaud Breeland. Entering the last year of his contract, Breeland could find himself being pushed by Moreau and last year’s third-round cornerback, Kendall Fuller, for playing time opposite Josh Norman.