Washington Redskins: The cons of drafting a first-round defensive lineman
By Ian Cummings
I’ll give you a situation.
You’re the general manager of the Washington Redskins in the 2018 NFL Draft (yes, Bruce Allen is gone. Rejoice). At pick No. 13, several players worth your consideration are still up for grabs. For our purposes, and to maintain a realistic nature, let’s say that Beau Callahan, linebacker Rashaan Evans, cornerback Denzel Ward, safety Derwin James, running back Derrius Guice, and defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne are all available.
You know that no one went to Beau Callahan’s birthday party, so you can cross him off the list quick. Therefore, that leaves you with Evans, Ward, James, Guice, and Payne.
A fan of Da’Ron Payne’s athletic explosiveness and his dominant frame, you decide to select him with the No. 13 pick. Okay, cool. That’s fair. Most fans would already consider you better than Bruce Allen.
So now the second round comes up. It’s your pick, and you head to the board, looking to draft one of the most talented players remaining. Maybe you can find a first-round talent at a position of need that slipped through the cracks and made it to your selection. In the limited time you have, you put together a quick list and determine that the best players to use your pick on include running back Sony Michel, Malik Jefferson, Justin Reid, and Jaire Alexander (The Washington Redskins are in a bad spot to draft Ronald Jones; he’ll probably be gone very early in the second, if not the late first).
All of those players are talented in their own right, and all of those players would be good selections. But what if I told you that you could have had Denzel Ward, or Derrius Guice, and still be able to pick a top-tier defensive lineman in the second round?
Now next year, you might be stuck with a limited running back while Derrius Guice is tearing up the league on the Seahawks or the Lions. And while Da’Ron Payne may be playing well with Ioannidis and Allen, guys like Taven Bryan, Andrew Brown, Harrison Phillips, and Trenton Thompson are all doing just as well with their respective teams. And there’s a chance all of them are available in Round 2.
Now all of a sudden, you didn’t get the most value out of your picks. All of a sudden, you’re Bruce Allen.
The pick of Payne was not a bad pick. But you left a player who could have invigorated your offense, or an immediate starting slot cornerback, or an explosive linebacker, or an electric safety on the board, when you could have picked either of them instead, and still acquired a rotational starter on the defensive line in Round 2.
The reason for this is quite simple. In this draft class, as we know and understand it right now, the position of defensive line is incredibly deep. There are proven players with immediate starting potential available as late as Round 4. But the same cannot be said for other positions. There are talented players with potential. But none are as pro-ready as the prospects on the defensive line.
For a team like the Washington Redskins, that needs to add or find several starters this offseason, you might only find one if you draft a first-round defensive lineman. But if you wait until the second round, you could find two.