Washington Football Team Post-Draft Team Guide
The Washington Football Team enters the 2021 season on the heels of an, ahem, division title in 2020 and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Washington’s roster is, in many places, well-stocked to compete and this team should be more consistent across the board with the steps taken in 2021 under Ron Rivera’s watch. This was a team that tackled unbelievable adversity in 2020—Rivera was diagnosed and treated for cancer on the doorstep of the season while also dealing with a four-headed quarterback carousel and, of course, the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic. But a 2-7 record ended with a 5-2 finish and an NFC East title—and now Washington is looking to add stability via veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and a big 2021 draft class.
Is their class enough to push the team into a winning record and a return to the postseason? Let’s take a look and find out:
Round 1: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Projecting Davis behind the Washington defensive line is super appealing—having four first-round linemen playing in front of any linebacker will go a long way in setting them up for success. But the physicality of Daron Payne, Jon Allen, Montez Sweat, and Chase Young plus the depth players behind them should make life much easier for Davis as compared to other landing spots across the league. Davis has explosive sideline-to-sideline range and reminded me some of Buffalo’s Tremaine Edmunds from a few years back. Edmunds went No. 16 overall and has had bright flashes of play, but he’s never played with a group in front of him like what Davis will have in 2021.
Davis has zone coverage ability in the middle of the field and should be everything Washington didn’t have in their 2020 linebacker group between the likes of Jon Bostic, Cole Holcomb, and others. But inexperience could yield some growing pains, which is what makes the supporting cast in front of him so critical for success. It will afford Davis more room to work and more margin for error as he learns on the job—which will inevitably happen as the No. 19 overall pick in 2021.
Round 2: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Welcome to the NFL, Sam. Your objective is to replace Trent Williams. Good luck! This is a tough task for any young tackle, let alone someone as raw in as many phases as Cosmi is leaving Texas. Cosmi’s pass sets are all over the map but he has top-tier athletic ability, which he’s tapped into on many occasions to survive in protection. With Fitzpatrick playing as a “surprisingly slippery” quarterback these days, Cosmi will also have the benefit of some elusiveness in the pocket behind him. Given Washington’s expectations and their prior investments in talents like Geron Christian and Saahdiq Charles and the 2020 play of Cornelius Lucas, I don’t necessarily think it is inevitably Cosmi’s job to open the season, either.
Washington’s offensive line play was boosted by the best stretch of play we’ve seen from Morgan Moses in years and OL coach John Matsko will look to impress his 30 years of league experience on Cosmi, who was seemingly left to just go out-athlete guys on the edge in the passing game at Texas.
Cosmi’s long-term role is the heir to Williams. But his immediate role isn’t a shoo-in to start.
Round 3: Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota
Putting St-Juste in the secondary across from William Jackson III gives Washington quite the corner combo duo. Kendall Fuller played outside in 2020 out of necessity but the added length and coverage skill, including St-Juste, should allow Fuller to focus on playing back in the nickel where his skills are better suited anyway.
I love this pick from a talent perspective, too. St-Juste is one of those rare size corners that isn’t stiff as a board through the hips. He’s fairly oily with his frame and used a very good showing at the 2021 Senior Bowl as the springboard needed to catapult himself into the top 75 selections in this year’s draft.
How does he fit the puzzle? More than 60% of Washington’s coverage reps in 2020 were zones and the team leaned heavily on two-deep safety coverages to take advantage of their talent up front and the lack of a need to roll an extra safety down into the box. But St-Juste’s addition seems to indicate a shift to more press-man coverage; as does the signing of Jackson III in free agency.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has traditionally called more man than zone coverage but the impression here is that the team leaned onto their defensive talent—not what they ideally wanted to do schematically. Pairing the size, length, and fluidity of St-Juste with Jackson III on the outside gives Washington plenty of skill to play more press-man in 2021.
Round 3: Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
They’ve done it again! Washington got one of the steals of the 2019 NFL Draft with their decision to draft Terry McLaurin in the thor -round and lo and behold the team has once again seemingly struck with a quality wide receiver choice in the third round with this selection. I love Brown in this offense alongside McLaurin and free agent signing Curtis Samuel. Brown’s best ability is tracking the football down the field and with all of the attention that McLaurin will command, Brown should get plenty of one-on-one opportunities.
But it is the style of play of Fitzpatrick that has Brown well positioned to have a rookie season that out-produces his expectations. Brown is admittedly raw in running most routes but Fitzpatrick plays a fearless brand of football that will allow his receivers to make plays on the ball in tight coverage if he trusts them.
That will be the challenge for Brown in camp: earning Fitzpatrick’s trust quickly so that he’ll be given the chances in game action to make the plays he’s physically capable of on the ball.
Round 4: John Bates, TE, Boise State
Bates is a well-rounded prospect but doesn’t necessarily hang his hat on any one portion of his game. He was sufficient but not dominant as a blocker and his best reps in the passing game seemed to come against holes in zone coverage.
But there’s a silver lining here: Bates has landed in the NFC East, where good coverage linebackers are little more than a myth—like Nessie or Sasquatch. And with the productive 2020 season of Logan Thomas still on everyone’s mind, Bates won’t even be asked to play a starring role. But as a TE2, the valuation early on Day 3 is a proper one, and Bates has the well-rounded skill set to take on that role fairly quickly.
Round 5: Darrick Forrest, S, Cincinnati
What a unique safety room this is going to be. 2020 seventh-round pick Kamren Curl was a breath of fresh air in over 750 snaps. Landon Collins is confirmed to be remaining at strong safety (good) and Forrest will slot behind him and hopefully absorb as much info from the veteran as possible. Forrest is a dynamic athlete but his polish in coverage doesn’t appear to be ready for the pro game just yet.
Look for him to take on a significant role on the kick coverage units for 2021, where his explosive pads and speed in the open field will pop. But long term, don’t dismiss him as a possible heir to Collins.
Round 6: Camaron Cheeseman, LS, Michigan
The Washington Football Team decided they needed a long-snapper and decided Cheeseman was the right one to draft. Seems like a sound strategy to me!
Round 7: William Bradley-King, EDGE, Baylor
If you’re going to bet on a seventh-round talent, one with the physical skill set of Bradley-King is the right kind of bet to make. Among Bradley-King’s athletic profile comparisons:
- Robert Quinn
- Jeremy Mincey
- Shaun Phillips
Not bad company! Of course, there’s much more to the game than athletic comparisons, but Bradley-King logged just one season at Baylor after starting his career at Arkansas State; so you know he’s got plenty of untapped potential at his disposal. I like the thought process here and let’s also be completely honest in admitting that he’s likely a rotational rusher in Year 2 at best—there’s too much talent on the line in Washington for him to take on a role in 2021 unless he completely blows the doors off the coaching staff in camp.
Round 7: Shaka Toney, EDGE, Penn State
While Bradley-King is an interesting bet, Toney is a very different kind of roll of the dice. He doesn’t have the same appeal from a physical standpoint but he does have a good first step. Toney will be challenged with the physicality of the NFL and struggled at times to even hold up against Senior Bowl competition as a pass rusher, but he’s been very committed during his time at Penn State to building up his frame and adding muscle in order to be more well-suited to the position.
Toney and Bradley-King may well be in direct competition with each other for a single spot at the bottom of the depth chart or the practice squad.
Round 7: Dax Milne, WR, BYU
Milne is an admirably tough receiver, but his physical profile doesn’t appear to offer much of a ceiling at the pro level. He’ll need to cut his teeth on special teams in order to garner a roster spot or any significant amount of playing time.
How did Washington do?
Washington should be thrilled with their final product. When you factor in free agent signings like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel, and William Jackson III alongside their four picks in the top 100, they should at least have two starters out of the group and perhaps all four could be starters by the end of the upcoming 2021 campaign (five if you include Cheeseman!). Washington has all the right pieces to be that team that no one wants to play late if Fitzpatrick can carry over his magic from Miami and the top-100 rookies steadily blossom.
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