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NFC East review: Evaluating the Redskins’ 2020 NFL Draft class

Washington’s draft was exactly what it needed to be: safe and calculated

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 CFP Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Because the New York Giants finished the 2019 season just one win ahead of the Washington Redskins in the NFC East, Washington is more peer than foe right now. Led by second-year quarterbacks and first-year coaches, the Giants and Redskins are entering next season with a focus on rebuild, culture and identity. And that started with the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s take a closer look at the Redskins 2020 draft class.

Round 1 (2nd overall): Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State

In what should have been no surprise to anyone, the Redskins used their No. 2 overall pick on the star edge rusher out of Ohio State, Chase Young. They dismissed all Tua Tagovailoa rumors and chose arguably the best player in the draft in the nation’s leader in sacks in 2019. A Maryland native, Young is coming home to play and that alone should help fill some seats at FedExField.

The only slight downside to drafting Young is that the Redskins did not actually need an edge rusher. They have veteran Ryan Kerrigan, second-year man Montez Sweat, and Matt Ioannidis - a guy who had a quietly strong season last year. Young also marked the fourth straight defensive lineman the Redskins have drafted in the first round in each of the past four years.

Round 3 (66th overall): Antonio Gibson, RB/WR, Memphis

Antonio Gibson is a strong pick because of his versatility. “Versatility” is a word used to describe seemingly every player coming out of the draft but it actually is an accurate description of Gibson, who doubles as a running back and wide receiver. Redskins running back Chris Thompson has suffered health problems that too often sideline him, and so Gibson provides added backup. With his demonstrated experience in the slot in college, he also has the potential to be a weapon for quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr.

Gibson’s college career does not necessarily illustrate the ability to play long term though. He was only a one-year starter at Memphis and he has only one career game with more than six carries. Basically, the downside is that Gibson only has a small sample size by which he can be evaluated. The plus side? That sample, though small, is promising.

Round 4 (108th overall): Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU

So far, I’ve started each player analysis with the positives before transitioning to the weaknesses. I’m going to switch that up here, though, because Saahdiq Charles fell lower and lower on draft boards not because of his inability to play, but because of his off-the-field conduct. He failed multiple drug tests while at LSU and was suspended for six games during the 2019 season for a violation of team rules. If I’m the rebuilding Redskins, I’m feeling wary about this pick.

Add to the mix that Charles is supposed to be one of the players replacing Trent Williams, who was finally traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2020 fifth-round pick and 2021 third-round pick. Charles protected Joe Burrow’s blindside at LSU and was successful doing so but his behavior off the field is something to keep an eye on.

Round 4 (142nd overall): Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty

Fun fact — Gandy-Golden used to be a gymnast. He grew up on Chicago’s South Side and had focused most of his childhood on gymnastics before transitioning to football after the family moved to Georgia in 2007. Gandy-Golden’s grace and fluidity on the football field are probably remnants from his gymnastics days.

He was a three-year starter at Liberty and finished No. 1 in school history in receptions (240), receiving yards (3,814) and receiving touchdowns (33). The biggest concern with the young receiver is that because Liberty did not become a bowl-eligible, Independent FBS program until 2019, Gandy-Golden did not play against elite cornerbacks throughout his collegiate career. His coordination and raw athleticism will help him as he tries to make the transition to the NFL level but it remains unclear how he would fare against top-tier cornerbacks.

Round 5 (156th overall): Keith Ismael, G/C, San Diego State

It is not immediately evident where Keith Ismael would fit on the Redskins offensive line. It’s hard to see him replacing center Chase Roullier and even more difficult to see him replacing right guard Brandon Scherff in the starting lineup. Ismael’s best bet is going to be to compete for the left guard position.

As a three-year starter at San Diego State, Ismael was the starting center. He earned a reputation as a work horse with the Aztecs because he started 37 games with double-digits at center and guard and he played 99.2 percent of the team’s 962 offensive snaps in 2019. Medicals will be important to keep an eye on as he underwent shoulder surgery following the 2018 season, but his iron man mentality suggests that he should have a fighting chance at a starting position next season.

Round 5 (162nd overall): Khaleke Hudson, LB, Michigan

Khaleke Hudson out of Michigan certainly looks the part. He was known for his performance in the weight room in college and earned a reputation among his teammates for his toughness. He was voted a senior captain and led the team in tackles during his senior campaign.

Hudson was all over the field for the Wolverines, racking up tackles as a cornerback but also creating some game-changing plays on special teams. He showed edge speed on special teams as he blocked five kicks over the course of his career and he was voted the Special Teams Player of the Year as a senior. It is this versatility that will help Hudson as he fights for a spot on the Redskins roster.

Round 7 (216th overall): Kamren Curl, S, Arkansas

Safety Kamren Curl also demonstrated versatility throughout college as he began his career at Arkansas as a cornerback before transitioning to safety. He started eight games as a freshman and broke up a career-high eight passes. When he made the move to safety as a sophomore, Curl started a combined 22 games over the next two years, recording 129 total tackles, seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two sacks,

It is unclear how, or if, Curl will be able to make this Redskins team but it is perhaps worth noting that he had one of the best games of his career when Arkansas played LSU last season. He only recorded one tackle, but he broke up a pass, forced a fumble and recovered another. Success against an offense like LSU certainly suggests that he has potential to make an impact at the NFL level.

Round 7 (229th overall): James Smith-Williams, Edge, NC State

James Smith-Williams out of NC State was a steal for the Redskins with the 229th overall pick. The Redskins do not need an edge rusher as they already have Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat and Chase Young. But Smith-Williams kept falling due to injuries and he was too good to pass up on in the seventh round.

Durability is a concern for Smith-Williams as he played only 1,210 snaps in five years at NC State but he certainly has the character to play at the NFL level. He earned the respect of teammates and coaches when he added almost 70 pounds going from 196 out of high school. He was a senior captain and has personality traits that fit Rivera’s desired culture. It remains to be seen if he has the NFL talent, but his character is NFL-ready.