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Walters: 2006 Draft Review

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Old 05-31-2006, 12:21 PM   #1
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Walters: 2006 Draft Review

Redskins 2006 Draft Review
Insomuch as anyone can accurately review the draft of any NFL team before the first rookie ever takes the field, it becomes even more difficult the day, or even the week, immediately following the actual event. Visceral emotions and unreasonable expectations often overshadow the real merits of any one team’s haul. That’s why, after a brief late-spring hiatus, your official Redskins draft review is just now hitting the presses.

Thanks to some careful preparation and aggressive execution of their well-contrived free agency plan, the Washington Redskins headed into the 2006 NFL Draft with very few roster needs left to be filled. This, of course, coincided with their also only having a handful of picks with which to fill any remaining gaps in the depth chart, so the strategy to act early and often in free agency was at the very least necessary, if not otherwise fruitful.

By now everyone is well aware of the hefty price the Redskins paid to swap spots with the Jets in order to assure themselves of getting their man, University of Miami linebacker Rocky McIntosh. As per usual, this is a trade that certainly benefits Washington, yet it comes with the all too customary caveat of the price paid in order to acquire the player in question. Just as in the Jason Campbell trade last year, and the trade with Denver that netted Clinton Portis the year before that, it’s hard to argue with the trades themselves, considering what was added to the roster. But what was given in exchange can often cloud the value gained by the team, or at least distort one’s perception of the transaction.

The best reason to be on board with the decision to draft McIntosh – and there are many from which to choose – arises from the notion that any defensive selection Washington makes is one that Gregg Williams believes will best help his defense. Thus it stands to reason that McIntosh was most likely hand-picked by Williams as a good fit for his schemes. This is especially encouraging when one considers the success Williams has had with players who were square pegs in the round holes of his blitzing defensive attack. If Williams can take an undrafted free agent linebacker who had little to no experience in the middle and make him a wealthy, if not somewhat bitter, New York Giant, he’ll be able to do great things with a player of McIntosh’s skill and versatility.

Also, linebacker was perhaps the only position in which the player the Redskins drafted, barring injury, would see significant playing time. A cornerback, as I had proposed, would have only been a nickel corner at best, and a tight end would have a hard time supplanting veteran free agent pickup Christian Fauria for snaps on offense. While I still maintain that corner was a better option than linebacker independent of the player selected, I can certainly see the wisdom behind the selecting McIntosh. So if one believes, and the coaching staff clearly does, that McIntosh is the type of player that can enable the Redskins defense to excel further, then he’s got to be the pick.

It also merits mentioning that the common misconception that the main reason that McIntosh was drafted was to replace LaMartyr Arrington, who finally found a willing suitor in division rival New York. Arrington had played in only 17 of the 32 regular season games under Williams’ direction due to injuries and to his unwillingness to play within the parameters of the defensive scheme. He was routinely replaced on third downs and in passing situations by Chris Clemons, and truthfully only regained his starting role as a result of Warrick Holdman’s complete loss of his football mind.

In terms of production, it will be more difficult to replace safety Ryan Clark than it will to find Arrington’s successor, though I believe Adam Archuleta to be up to the task. If the point is that Arrington is a phenomenal athlete then you’ll find little argument here or anywhere else, but to say that the Redskins are going to struggle to replace him is nothing less than absurd.

As a final note on the selection of McIntosh, and despite assertions to the contrary among some of the more prominent “hometown” print media sources, there is no added pressure on McIntosh because of the conditions surrounding his selection. McIntosh is an outside linebacker, folks, not a quarterback. He was the 35th selection in the draft, not the first. Is there any added pressure on Minnesota rookie Chad Greenway, or on the Cowboys’ Bobby Carpenter, two fellow outside linebackers who were taken in the first round, much earlier than McIntosh was selected? Was there any extra stress placed on San Diego’s Igor Olshansky or the Eagles’ Reggie Brown, the 35th picks in 2004 and 2005 respectively? How about Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, for whom Cleveland traded up in the second round to select? Is he subject to greater scrutiny because the Browns traded up to get him? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “no”. The pressure that will be on McIntosh is no greater and no less than that of a normal rookie coming in with the high expectations typically placed on first-day selections. Much will be expected of him because much is expected of all of Joe Gibbs’ players, not because of his predecessor or the circumstances surrounding his selection.

Once the draft’s second day arrived, the Washington war room was much busier than it had been the day before. The Redskins had five selections after surrendering one to the Jets in the McIntosh trade, and while they curiously chose not to address the need at corner, they did significantly beef up the interior of their defensive front. Defensive tackles Anthony Montgomery of Minnesota and Kedric Golston of Georgia, selected with the 153rd and 196th picks respectively, will add depth to a position that injuries at times decimated in 2005.

Montgomery is a huge two-gap tackle whose potential has been largely untapped due to periodic displays of poor technique. While this can be corrected with the level of coaching he’ll receive from defensive line boss Greg Blache, no coach can teach the hustle or the whistle-to-whistle effort that Montgomery gives. Given his ability to be effective in either a 4-3 of 3-4 alignment, those conspiracy theorists who hypothesize that Gregg Williams is going to employ the 3-4 for situational use may have found solid evidence in Montgomery to prove themselves correct.

The selection of Kedric Golston in the sixth round should be regarded as one of the better late round selections of the entire draft. The sixth round is the perfect time to take a player like the Golston, because the risk-to-reward ratio is much more favorable. By playing in the SEC, Golston has consistently played against the best teams in the nation. He has demonstrated the ability to be a disruptive force along the line and in the backfield, though he has failed to finish plays from time to time. His injury history also raises a red flag, but considering the cost to draft him, it was a risk worth taking.

In between the two tackles, early in the sixth round, Washington nabbed safety Reed Doughty from Northern Colorado. A three-time academic
All-American and the NCAA Division II leader in tackles in 2005, the scouting report on Doughty reads like a personal ad the coaching staff would take out to find the perfect candidate to fill the need for depth at safety. Doughty has good size for a safety and has displayed a knack for being around the ball, not to mention an aptitude for special teams play that no doubt helped to further endure him to the coaches. It’s interesting to note that the coaches were so sold on Doughty, that after his selection in a post-draft remark, Joe Gibbs alluded to Doughty being the type of player that could play in Washington for a long time. It’s not all that often that such comments are made about sixth round selections, nor is it even commonplace for Redskin draft picks to remain in D.C. for long portions of their careers, so that statement carries some significant weight.

In the draft’s final round, Washington selected Arizona offensive lineman Kili Lefotu to add another option to a fearfully inexperienced group of reserves. The big draw for Lefotu is his experience playing every position along the offensive line, though the bulk of his snaps have come at guard. Lefotu joins a logjam of green backups, providing him with a realistic chance at making the roster. However, considering that free agent acquisition Mike Pucillo is most likely going to earn one of the reserve spots, and that third-year tackle Jim Molinaro has the most experience at tackle, the number of spots still available is dwindling.

With their final selection, the Redskins got excellent value with their selection of linebacker Kevin Simon from the University of Tennessee. Widely regarded as a player who would have been a first-day selection were it not for his injury history, Simon is an intriguing addition to an already crowded stable of linebackers. Despite having played in the middle in college, his speed should allow him to play on the outside, creating a versatility that is openly coveted by the staff. At only 5’ 10”, Simon lacks ideal height for an NFL middle linebacker, though the same could have been said for Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who had a decent measure of success in his rookie campaign. No one is saying that Simon has similar success in store for him, but it does illustrate that it is possible to overcome a perceived lack of stature.

The Redskins did the bulk of their improving in the free agency period, as per usual. Washington also continued a surprising tradition of finding value among the undrafted free agents by inking UCLA rookie linebacker Spencer Havner, who somehow slipped past seven rounds of the draft without having his name called. History holds that at least one of the Redskins post-draft gambles will run through the tunnel when the Redskins tackle the Vikings in September, and Havner is a solid bet to be that guy.

As the summer slowly progresses and OTA’s shed a little light on what the roster may consist of come autumn, check back in for your Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!

Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at skins.fan@comcast.net

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