The 2012 regular season ended on a positive note for the Washington Redskins, with a seven-game winning streak and an NFC East title. The team seemed to catch fire during the winning streak. One surprising characteristic of the 2012 team was that it was fueled by several rookies.
The rookie starters at skill positions were Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, but many more rookies contributed. Kicker Kai Forbath missed one field goal the entire year and was solid throughout. Kirk Cousins helped win two games for the team when RGIII was injured, and Richard Crawford had a big kick return in overtime against Baltimore to seal the deal.
Looking ahead to 2013, the team has seven quality draft picks that could possibly play and start. I believe several can become big contributors to the team, if not starters, by the end of the season.
Jordan Reed, TE, 3rd round: If Fred Davis does not return from his Achilles injury to start the season (he is expected to be ready, though), Reed could be the starting tight end come Week 1 against Philadelphia. Reed is a quick, sharp tight end with good ball skills and is essentially “Fred Davis part B”. Reed will make the roster as a third round pick and will join a crowded tight end corps including himself, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, and Niles Paul. He should be able to contribute right away.
David Amerson, CB, 2nd round: I expect Amerson to be starting towards the end of the season. As of now, the two starters at the cornerback position are DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, but look for Amerson to prove his worthiness as a starter and take over for one of the two by the end of 2013. His production dropped in 2012 after leading the nation in interceptions in 2011, but he is still a viable threat at the position and could evolve into a lockdown corner, one the team has not had in years.
Phillip Thomas, S, 4th round: While we still mourn the loss of safety Sean Taylor, the Redskins coaching staff has been looking for a player who can fill the void of the late safety. Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett believe Thomas can be that player. He drew comparisons to Taylor in college, and as a big-hitting safety and ball hawk, I believe he has the best chance out of any rookie on the roster to be a starter when the season begins. He can line up opposite Brandon Meriweather; although both are strong safeties, Thomas can play both positions. He played free safety in college at Fresno State.
Brandon Jenkins, DE, 5th round: Jenkins was a third day draft pick, but during the minicamps that have occurred since the draft, he has drawn comparisons to Brian Orakpo. Jenkins is quick off the edge and could provide outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Orakpo with a break when needed. He is a pass-rush specialist, and although he will not start, Jim Haslett will use him in his variety of blitz packages.