The 2018 NFL Draft is fast approaching. A lot of time has been spent wondering and analyzing what the New York Giants will do with the second overall pick — rightly so. Another important aspect of the draft will be how the other NFC East teams will approach the event. The Giants were last in the division during 2017 and by a significant margin. The three other teams each had at least seven wins and one of them won that important last game of the season that’s typically a pretty big deal.
Over the next week, we’re going to take a look at the outlook for the other teams in the division. We’ll go from bottom to top and start with the Washington Redskins.
2017 season review
Washington went into a make or break year with Kirk Cousins under a second straight franchise tag by letting his top receivers leave in free agency. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson were replaced by Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor, neither of whom lived up to expectations. The passing offense, though, finished 14th by DVOA — still a steep drop from fifth in 2016 — but it was a 28th-ranked rushing attack that helped derail the offense more.
Washington ranked 11th in defensive DVOA, again with a big drop from pass defense (sixth) to rush defense (29th). The Redskins also finished with almost exactly the same amount of wins (seven) as their point differential would be expected to produce (6.9).
Washington knew there wasn’t going to be a long-term contract with Cousins, so they made a preemptive strike by not only trading for Alex Smith, but also giving him a contract extension. Included in the trade was cornerback Kendall Fuller, who was sent to Kansas City after blossoming as one of the league’s best slot corners.
Pryor was not re-signed after the disappointing season and he’ll be replaced by Paul Richardson, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks as the receiver opposite Doctson. Unlike offseasons of the past, Washington didn’t go crazy with free agency — though you could argue the Smith extension and Richardson contract both qualify. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick was picked up on a two-year deal after he was cut from the Dallas Cowboys and the only other potential impact free agent was Pernell McPhee, who can be a great pass rusher when healthy, but hasn’t had that luxury over the past few seasons.
The defensive interior isn’t great — again. 29th-ranked rush defense by DVOA — but last year’s first-round pick Jonathan Allen will return to the field after playing just five games in his rookie season. The offensive interior could also use a significant upgrade. Brandon Scherff has played like one of the league’s best guards, but Arie Kouandjio at left guard and 2017 sixth-round pick Chase Roullier at center don’t inspire as much confidence as the rest of the line. Strong safety could also use an upgrade with Deshazor Everett, an undrafted free agent who played just over half the defensive snaps last season, slated as the starter. Washington also has one of the most dangerous weapons in the league, Chris Thompson, coming off a torn ACL. If healthy and used more, running back shouldn’t be an issue. Jay Gruden was hesitant to do that in 2017 despite Thompson’s success, so they could look to add a more “traditional” back.
Washington gave up its third-round pick in the Alex Smith trade, but also moved up slightly in the fourth and fifth rounds in a trade that sent Su’a Cravens to the Denver Broncos — though the loss of the third is much more significant than a few spots moved up on Day 3.
Potential draft targets
Vita Vea, defensive tackle from that other Washington, could be the top choice at 13th overall. Per SB Nation’s mock draft database, he’s the most commonly mocked pick to the Redskins in the first round at 45 percent. Vea would make sense even though Washington took Jonathan Allen in the first round last season — they’re two very different interior players. Allen is more of disrupter, while at 340 pounds Vea is a massive run stopper. There could be an argument over the value of taking a run-stopper with limited pass rush ability high in the first round, but that might not bother the Redskins. Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne would fit a similar role.
At pick 13, Washington is in range to have one of the top tier players of this draft slide, especially with an early run on quarterbacks. Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick would instantly improve Washington’s secondary and more than make up for the loss of Fuller, should either fall. The same could be said for Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.
If Saquon Barkley were to still be on the board at 13, Washington would sprint up to the podium with the draft card in hand. In that vein, it might not be a surprise to see them reach for the projected No. 2 running back in this class, LSU’s Derrius Guice. Selecting Guice would fulfill the goal of having a traditional between the tackles runner to go along with the receiving skills of Thompson.
Per Hogs Haven’s tracker:
Billy Price, OC/OG, Ohio State
Desmond Harrison, OT, West Georgia
Da’Ron Payne, ID, Alabama
Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State
Vita Vea, ID, Washington
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Ronald Jones, RB, USC
Devin Butler, CB, Syracuse
Kendall Calhoun, OT, Cincinnati
Deon Yelder, WR, Western Kentucky
Marcus Porter, LB, Fairmont State
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
Nick Keizer, TE, Grand Valley State
Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa
Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
Cole Madison, OG, Washington State
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, USF
Tim Settle, ID, Virginia Tech
Wyatt Teller, OG, Virginia Tech
Cam Sergine, TE, Wake Forest
Micah Kiser, ILB, Virginia
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis