The Washington Football Team is at a very different place than it was just one year ago. The organization had a new head coach in Ron Rivera who was tasked with rebuilding a team that had won just three games the season before. The Football Team’s abysmal 2019 performance earned them the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They drafted star edge rusher Chase Young out of Ohio State, which was a no-brainer.
Meanwhile entering the 2021 season, the Football Team is the defending NFC East champion. They only recorded seven wins last season but it was enough to earn them their first trip to the playoffs since 2015. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Washington has the No. 19 overall pick and seven selections total.
Washington is no longer looking to rebuild, but to sustain. Unlike other teams in the division (namely the Cowboys), the Football Team does not feel a sense of urgency. Of course, they want to win now as all teams do but they also want to win for years to come.
Before talking about Washington’s needs in the draft, it is important to acknowledge the holes they filled in free agency. The Football Team signed journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal. It also signed wide receivers Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries for some added speed on offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Washington lost cornerback Ronald Darby but signed William Jackson III.
Washington had one of the most, if not the most, active free agency of the division. This makes sense because the Football Team entered the offseason among the top five in the league in terms of salary cap space. Washington had money to spend and was able to spread it across position groups because it did not invest too heavily in one position.
The team’s major needs were filled in free agency and so the draft will be about adding insurance and depth on both sides of the ball.
Washington needs help specifically at left tackle. Geron Christian and Cornelius Lucas’ performances last season left something to be desired while the former LSU standout Saahdiq Charles was hurt all of last year. The Football Team would likely prefer to keep Morgan Moses on the right side, which means that they are still in the market for a starting blindside blocker. With Washington’s long-term situation at quarterback still unclear, a strong offensive line will be important to attracting potential candidates.
Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw is a good first-round target. He was a three-year starter with the Hokies and demonstrated efficient quickness and strength in the run game, something Rivera has said that he wants to improve.
Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins is another player to keep an eye on for Washington as he also promises to make an immediate impact at the NFL level.
Washington is in search of a linebacker who can play alongside Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb, especially following the departure of Kevin Pierre-Louis. The Football Team has depth at this position but is lacking a more versatile player who could fill the role like Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis did when Rivera was coaching the Panthers.
The Football Team has lacked stability at free safety for years as three different players started at the position last season alone. Washington has Landon Collins, who is recovering from an Achilles tear, and Kamren Curl but they need someone who can add more speed and depth to the position.
As mentioned earlier, the Football Team signed Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal this offseason. But that is, of course, only a temporary solution. Washington also re-signed Kyle Allen and playoff hero Taylor Heinicke this offseason, but neither has yet proven that they are starting material.
There are some rogue rumors going around about the Football Team going “all in” to trade up for a quarterback. Ex-front office employee Michael Lombardi, who has sources and connections around the league, said the following on an episode of The GM Shuttle.
“I think Washington is going to be the next team to unload all their picks to try to get QB,” Lombardi said. “I think they love Lance. I don’t think, I know Washington loves Lance. So will they trade up to get Lance? That remains to be seen.”
Lombardi is talking about North Dakota State phenom Trey Lance, who delivered a head-turning 2019 performance at the FCS level. But with only 18 games played in college (he did not play last year due to the pandemic), there is little history to go on. He is therefore a high-risk, high-reward pick.
With an extra third-round pick, the Football Team could potentially move up to the first round, perhaps engaging in a trade with the Falcons at No. 4 or the Bengals at No. 5. But this feels bold, especially for new GM Martin Mayhew. Quarterback remains a position of need for the Football Team but it is hard to imagine them going all-in to get one.
This was a major position of need for Washington heading into last year’s draft. Logan Thomas, against all odds, had a breakout year last season. He recorded 72 receptions for 670 yards and six touchdowns, firmly solidifying himself as the Football Team’s No. 1 tight end.
Because of Thomas, this is not as pressing a position of need for Washington as it was a year ago. But Thomas is 30 years old and one good season does not necessarily mean that he will have others in the future. This is a position Washington could therefore stand to draft some young prospects.
This draft is not a make-or-break one for Washington. Because the Football Team filled its major needs in free agency, the draft is about insurance and filling remaining holes. Rivera remains focused on building a culture in Washington. He is therefore not just looking for talented players, but for talented players who complement one another. The Football Team does not need to be flashy to be successful in the draft.
Washington’s 2021 NFL Draft picks:
- First round: No. 19
- Second round: No. 51
- Third round: No. 74 (via 49ers)
- Third round: No. 82
- Fourth round: No. 124
- Fifth round: No. 163
- Seventh round: No. 244 (via Raiders)
- Seventh round: No. 246