The mock draft season for the Washington Redskins took a dramatic turn last week when they solved their quarterback dilemma. With Alex Smith the starter for the next several years -- once the trade becomes official on March 14 -- the Redskins can turn to fixing other issues, including one longtime problem:
And that’s why ESPN’s Todd McShay projected the Redskins taking Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith in his latest mock draft.
If that indeed takes place, it would give the Redskins another young building block on defense to go with linemen Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis. The Redskins need other second-year players to develop, notably linebacker Ryan Anderson, cornerback Fabian Moreau and safety Montae Nicholson. If they do -- Nicholson showed the most last year but must prove durable -- then the Redskins would finally have a solid young core on defense. It’s been awhile.
Here are some thoughts on Smith:
Why he makes sense: Because of his speed. He’d be a younger, cheaper alternative to Zach Brown. Brown remains someone they’d like to re-sign, but his current price tag would have to come down. Smith offers the same sideline-to-sideline ability, but he’s also 17 pounds lighter than Brown; that can change once he gets into an NFL weight room.
Smith offers skills that few linebackers possess. He’s a former wide receiver who hasn’t lost the ability to cut quickly. In one game against Auburn last season, Smith’s job was to cover the back. The back initially stayed in to block, so Smith rushed the passer. As he approached, the back headed for the left flat and the quarterback looked his way. But because Smith changed direction so well, he covered the back. The quarterback had no outlet and was sacked.
Smith could bulk up a little, perhaps adding 10 pounds to better withstand blocks, or learn better technique to take them on. He showed on film that he could avoid blockers, but in the first half vs. Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, bigger linemen controlled him.
But he’d still be a worthy choice here because he fits well in the evolving NFL. The Eagles hurt the Patriots in the Super Bowl by creating matchup problems by using two-tight-end looks and throwing the ball (something that works well for Washington with a healthy Jordan Reed). Having a linebacker with Smith’s coverage skills helps negate those issues. And in a division with two mobile quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, Smith’s ability to play the spy role – even if for only a handful of times a game – would be helpful.
Smith also has the reputation of being a leader and a student of the game. If that’s accurate, and there’s nothing to say it isn’t, then he’d be a welcome addition. The more guys you have like that, the better.
It would cost them Brown, but if he wants to be paid among the elite at inside linebacker, then they’ll be prepared to let him walk.
Keep in mind that the Redskins were interested in a similar player in last year’s draft: linebacker Haason Reddick, a smaller, speedy linebacker drafted 13th overall. He did not have a good season for Arizona, but the point remains: His skills were intriguing. Smith offers more of the same. And while they’d like to bolster the interior of the line -- and there are some intriguing options here, too -- they could do so in free agency. They were interested in Bennie Logan last offseason; he’ll be free once again.
Why he doesn’t make sense: The only reason would be if the Redskins indeed re-sign Brown. It would be hard to see the Redskins re-signing Brown and then drafting Smith, unless he’s so high on their board they believe they have no choice. But they also just re-signed Mason Foster and clearly like him in a starting role. Also, the sense has long been that they’d rather improve the interior of the defensive line, knowing the impact it has on their inside linebackers -- and that Brown’s best games occurred behind lineman Jonathan Allen and next to Foster. So if you’re going to invest heavily in a spot, it’s along the front. You don’t need to keep Foster and Brown and then draft Smith. Otherwise, Smith makes a lot of sense.