Welcome back to The Burgundy and Gold Report. With the 2019 NFL Combine getting underway this week, Washington's first round draft options should be at the forefront. Of course, when discussing the Redskins, the quarterback is where the discussion starts.
But what about addressing the pass rush?
Redskins free agent OLB Preston Smith has the opportunity to cash in during a relatively weak free agency market. It's been reported that Smith could command upwards of $10 million on the open market. With the Skins currently $17.5 under the cap, re-signing the 5th year outside linebacker isn't realistic.
Luckily for Washington, the incoming draft class boasts some strong-edge rushing prospects. Although the Redskins could go Pass Rusher with their 15th overall selection, talent can also be found on days 2-3 of the draft. Let's dive into 5 Pass Rushers On Washington's radar.
The top pass rushing threats in this year’s draft are Ohio State's Nick Bosa, Kentucky's Josh Allen, Florida's Jachai Polite, Clemson's Clelin Ferrell and Mississippi State's Montez Sweat. Bosa & Allen are top 5 prospects and should be off the board when it comes time for the Skins to make their selection. As for Ferrell, a better fit seems to be as a 4-3 Defensive End and same could go for Sweat, although he has the ability to play 3-4 Outside Linebacker.
Keep in mind, Washington will have some solid pass rushing options after round 1, as well. Combine drills help some teams prepare their big boards for the draft. For others, it’s just to get official measurements on the prospects. For the Pass Rushers, no drill will be more important than the Three-Cone Drill. Elite outside rushers are expected to run in the 7.0 second range for the three-cone and a few candidates below could fit the bill for a huge position of need.
5 Combine Prospects to keep an eye on:
First Round Options
#1-Jachai Polite 6-2 260 lbs (1st round draft projection)
The Florida pass rushing dynamo is an upgrade over FA, Preston Smith and would better compliment Ryan Kerrigan. Some might view Polite as a “one hit wonder” with only one true year of solid production, but his stock is growing. Although his first two seasons as a Gator only resulted in 4 sacks and 2 FF, Polite burst on to the scene as one of the nations best pass rushers in 2018 registering 19.5 tackles for a loss, 11.0 sacks and 6 FF.
The drawback with Polite is his small stature as an outside rusher (6-2 240 lbs) and his issues against the run. Truth is, Polite is built for the modern day NFL passing schemes. Polite has an arsenal of pass-rush moves which is highlighted by an effective chop & spin move. Some might question using a first round investment on a situational pass rusher, but Polite shows a nasty streak and the willingness to be an effective edge setter in the run game. So Polite shouldn't be labeled as only a situational rusher.
Again, #15 might be too rich for Polite, for some, but the Gator would bring much needed speed & athleticism to a Redskins’ pass rush that desperately lacks speed. Jachai Polite is relentless to the ball and his technique sets him apart from his peers. Although not the biggest pass rusher in this class, he is expected to test off the charts during the combine, so look for Redskins officials to keep a close eye on the dynamic outside linebacker.
#2-Brian Burns 6-5 231 lbs Florida State (1st round draft projection)
After the first round pass rushers were evaluated, one particular prospect matches well with Manusky's 3-4 scheme and that's Florida States's Brian Burns. At 6-5 231 lbs Burns looks the part of an NFL outside linebacker and his three year production at FSU has NFL teams’ attention (38.5 tackles for loss, 23.o sacks and 7 FF).
Although the knock on Burns is his slight frame, his strength more than makes up for it. His closing speed jumps off the screen and he seems to get faster when tracking down quarterbacks/ball carriers. His burst off the line and high octane motor make him one of the most underrated Pass Rushers in this year’s class.
Burns is said to have a high football IQ and is very good vs the run. Similar to Polite, the topic of the prospect’s slight build is a reoccurring topic, but like Polite technique is what sets them apart. The Redskins ask their outside linebackers to to drop back in coverage far too often, but having a player like Burns could turn a weakness into a team strength. Burns should be a strong consideration for Washington at #15, but combine drills will go a long way for the young man’s potential first round draft stock.
2nd-Mid Round Options
#3-D'andre Carter 6-2 240 lbs Georgia University (2nd-3rd round draft projection)
Carter is one of the positions lesser known prospects. Carter opened eyes in 2018 becoming a dominant run defender at only 6-2. His aggressiveness & motor should get him drafted no later than Round 3. It's rare to see an athlete such as Carter show so much promise against the run at such a young age, but although dedicated his leverage will be his primary focus on the next level.
The biggest knock on Carter will be his his limited production and overall stat sheet while at Georgia (112 tackles 13.5 sacks and 5 FF). Keep in mind that the majority of his production occurred during his final two seasons at Georgia and it seems his best is yet to come. The film shows a throwback pass rushing linebacker who will do all the dirty work. Although Carter's assignments, while at Georgia, could be viewed as vanilla, he gained valuable experience versus top level competition. No doubt the Skins will show interest with their admitted love affair with the SEC.
#4-Oshane Ximines 6-3 247 lbs Old Dominion (Early 2nd-4th round draft projection)
Ximines was mentioned in a previous B&G Report Senior Bowl Edition: 7 Skins Prospects to Watch
His production while at Old Dominion peeked NFL scouts interest and was ranked the #30 overall prospect by CBS Sports in 2018. Ximines concluded his college career with 176 tackles, 51 for a loss 32.5 sacks and 1 int. The 11 forced fumbles over the last three years also helped put him on the scouting community radar. A 33 3/8" arm length and violent pass rush repertoire make him a good fit in Maunusky's system, which has lacked overall production aside from Ryan Kerrigan. Multiple teams at the Senior Bowl reportedly walked away impressed with Ximines.
The pass rusher projects best as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but shouldn't be counted on in coverage early on. Ximenes has a non stop motor and a thirst to get better.
"I'm a relentless player who gives maximum effort every single day" -Senior Bowl Jan. 26, 2019
If Washington passes on outside linebacker in round 1 or 2, look for them to strongly consider Ximines with one of their 3rd round selections.
#5-Christian Miller 6-4 240 lbs Alabama University (3rd-5th round draft projection)
It wouldn't be a Skins defensive evaluation without mentioning at least one Alabama player.
Although the redshirt senior only played in 14 combined games during his first three seasons with the Tide, due to a myriad of lower body injuries, he did play in 14 games during his final year. Used mostly as a situational pass rusher by Nick Saban, Miller exceeded expectations in 2018 by recording 36 tackles 8.5 sacks. Miller showed how effective he could be in the run game by adding 11.5 tackles for a loss in '18.
Miller is effective as a 3-technique rusher and shows good gap discipline. Tight ends will have difficulty locking him up on the next level. Although his burst is nothing to write home about, Miller has a violent counter move and uses his hands well if engaged. Miller's motor & hustle on special teams will help him stick on an NFL roster and could be an asset for a sub par Washington unit.
The injury history is a concern with Miller, but using a 5th round flier on Miller could pay off down the road. Miller is not a starter, but would be an ideal second pass rush selection if the Redskins decide to double dip at the position, which would be a wise move. Third year linebacker, Ryan Anderson is expected to take the next step and become more of a rotational player/goal line linebacker. It might be too early to label Anderson as another Washington second round selection squandered, but adding Miller could soften the blow of a potential disappointment.
Washington's investment on the defensive line with '17 & '18 1st round selections John Allen & Daron Payne along with fourth year veteran Matt Ioannidis have opened up the door for an athletic pass rusher to be selected in this draft. The Redskins trio could be one of the best units coming into 2019 and to put it simply, Ryan Anderson won't cut it opposite Kerrigan. Although other positions could be a bigger focus for the Redskins, it is no debate that Edge Rusher is a position that needs to be resolved.
Thanks for checking out another Burgundy and Gold Report. With the NFL Combine underway stay tuned for more player analysis as well Redskins news.