Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grading the Redskins draft

The 2015 Draft is in the books, and early responses for Redskins' new GM Scot McLoughan are largely positive. My take is less so. While not an utter failure, I think a number of the team's picks managed to fall short on both need AND value, which is never promising. To take into account the way trades and multiple picks work, I will grade both by round, accounting for everything that happened in that round, and by pick, with a total grade at the end.

Round 1

Pick 5: Brandon Scherff, OL (6'5, 319 lbs.)
Pick grade: C+

I like Scherff a lot. He's a good blocker, and I have been pounding the table to get Polombus (and, for that matter, Chester) replaced for years, so it's hard for me to be too disappointed at a pick aimed at accomplishing just that. That said, I have to assume there were no good offers for trading down, because the value isn't great. Though he'll start at RT, a lot of people think he profiles better as a guard because of unimpressive arm length and first step, and a spotty track record against real speed edge rushers in college. Of course, guard or tackle, he gives the Redskins OL and offense a big boost, but it's a little hard to swallow any lineman but a LT that high, and this pick's grade particularly suffers because DL Leonard Williams was still on the board, and I think drafting him would have been a coup. Definitely fills a need, like the player, but you really need to get great value from either a positional value (read: drafting a QB) or a BPA standpoint when picking that high, and I'm not sure the Redskins did.

Round 1 Grade: C+

Round 2

Pick 38: Preston Smith, OLB/DE (6'5, 271)
Pick Grade: C

On its face, this seems like a really good pick. Preston Smith is a big, versatile player with NFL starter upside, and OLB is a need in the wake of Orakpo's departure for Tennessee. Looking more closely, however, what the Skins really need is a pure pass rusher. Kerrigan is well-rounded and last year's second-rounder Trent Murphy excels more at setting the edge against the run than getting to the QB. Smith's strength? Using his size to stop the run, rushing from the interior. Weakness? Middling first step, only okay as an edge rusher. The position may have been a need, but the role really isn't, particularly when Nate Orchard (51st overall to Houston), Randy Gregory (60th to Dallas), Owa Odighizuwa (74th to NYG), Eli Harold (79th to San Fransisco) were all still on the board as more accomplished or promising pass rushers. My guess is that Smith's selection might hint at a significant more from the 3-4 to a more hybrid 3-4/4-3 front because he makes sense as someone who can move between OLB and DE. Still, with the aforementioned pass rushers, ILB Eric Kendricks, CBs like Jalen Collins, Eric Rowe, and Ronald Darby, and NTs Jordan Phillips and Eddie Goldman available, I once again have a hard time giving great marks in value or need.

Round 2 Grade: C

Undrafted Free Agents

1 pm, 5/3
Update: 3:15 pm, 5/3

The draft is in the books, for better or worse, and a number of players who went undrafted could still compete in the NFL. Teams are working fervently to put to ink the guys they consider to be priority UDFAs, so here's a mid-day update on people I knew about that I thought could or should be drafted, or players I have since read about that sound like they could be good prospects for the Redskins to go after.

Players Redskins have supposedly signed that intrigue me:
DE Corey Crawford, OL Tacoby Cofield, LB Terrance Plummer

Seemingly(?) unsigned UDFA's that I am interested in:

CB Justin Coleman, CB Jacoby Glenn, QB Blake Sims, LB James Vaughers, LB literally actually Norkeithus Otis, DT Terry Williams, WR Cam Worthy, OL Eric Lefeld, OL Adam Shead, SS Anthony Harris (MIN), CB Justin Cox (KC), LB Taiwan Jones (NYJ), LB Zach Vigil (MIA), OL Josue Matias (TEN), OL Quenton Spain (TEN), HB Trey Williams (HOU), DT Joe Mbu (ATL)

Looks like the Texans, Bucs, and Titans have gotten a lot of promising UDFAs I would have liked.

Of course, reported signings often get backed out of or end up being inaccurate, but based on the available information, other interesting UDFAs (particularly, safeties Cody Prewitt and Kurtis Drummond) are already with other teams.

*To note, OT La'el Collins is also a UDFA who interests me, and indeed would easily top the list, but he won't be signing with anyone until his legal situation is cleared up, at which point he could suddenly be a hot item again and be offered a significant contract. Still, once(/if) his name is clear, I would love for the Redskins to go hard after him. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

2015 Free Agency- Ideal Moves

The Redskins have a good amount of salary cap room (around 20 million now plus the money earmarked for the draft, but could easily free up another 15+ through simple, obvious extensions and restructures), but I don't recommend too much in the way of huge flashy moves.

All in all, we'll want to free up around 10 million or so in additional space to make the following moves a possibility. We can free up a minimum of 6-7 mil by extending Trent Williams (current cap hit almost 14 mil), who needs an extension anyway. Another 2 mil could probably be gained by extending Ryan Kerrigan (current 7 mil) who is also in the final year of his deal and should be locked up. Two easy cuts, particularly with the moves below, would be Tracy Porter (>2 mil), and Chris Chester (4 mil), giving us close to 15 million in additional cap space, which should be plenty. Still, more room could be freed up if needed-- DeAngelo Hall's now-completely non-guaranteed 4 million, and at least 2-3 million by restructuring Pierre Garcon, for instance. Making just some of these moves can result in well over 30 million in free cap space without any more significant losses to the roster. So let's delve into guys we want to bring in and how much they will cost us.

We will start with defense. The one guy I'd really be okay with overpaying a bit to nab would be Devin McCourty. We are really, truly desperate at safety and have been for a long time now. He's the only really good option in free agency (Rahim Moore would be a backup option and Nate Allen is okay, but nothing more) and it's not a good draft for safeties, so I think having him lock down one safety spot to let a bunch of less-impressive options (Duke Ihenacho, Phillip Thomas, maybe a rookie) compete to play next to him would help a lot.
Cost: Say, 9.5/year maybe

After that, if we could get Terrence Knighton, Vince Wilfork, or Haloti Ngata if the Ravens release him, that would be great. Good DL help to solidify NT without Cofield, but not Suh-level (or cost). Knighton is the best and youngest option, but will have significant interest on the market, especially from the Raiders with former coach Jack Del Rio and tons of cap room.
Cost: Perhaps 2 years, 11 mil for Wilfork; 3/22 for Ngata; 4/32 for Knighton, I'd guess.

There aren't any really good corners, but there are a lot of mediocre ones. Brandon Flowers, Kareem Jackson, Shareece Wright, Buster Skrine... Bring one of those guys in to compete at corner, fill the group out a little.
Cost: 3 years, 11 mil depending on whom

Keenan Robinson had a strong year one as a starter, but Perry Riley has been disappointing. If we could sign Brandon Spikes, Sean Weatherspoon, someone like that to work the middle with Robinson, it would be a good move
3 years, 13 mil

Friday, January 2, 2015

Redskins Salary Cap Situation Going into 2015 and Beyond

Doing some math and such...

The Redskins need to cut, based on both plays and recoverable money, Chris Chester and Tracy Porter, cut or restructure Stephen Bowen with a much cheaper deal, and extend Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan who both have a lot of unguaranteed money on the books in the coming final year of their contracts. Doing just those could leave us with a projected 40-45 mil in cap space with under 100 on the books (projected 2015 cap a little over 140 mil)

We should be able to re-sign Kai Forbath, Niles Paul, Tom Compton, Santana Moss, Roy Helu, Chris Thompson, and Jarvis Jenkins...

Cut Chester, Porter, and some scrubs...

Extend/Renegotiate Bowen, Kerrigan, Hall, Darrell Young...

Sign all of our draft picks...

Let Chris Clark, Brandon Merriweather, Tyler Polombus, EJ Biggers, Colt McCoy, Leonard Hankerson, Duke Ihenacho, and a couple more scrubs walk...

and be left with 30 mil in cap space and 53+ people under contract.

The only currently rostered/relevant person not taken into account in that scenario is Brian Orakpo. He's kind of a special case as the only potential free agent who would command real money, and I'm not sure what we should do with him. I like him and loathe such a needy teem letting talent like that walk, but someone would give him more money than it makes reasonable or safe sense to guarantee him, or he'll sign a one-year prove it deal which he might do with a contender instead of us. Tagging him a second time would cost 14-15 mil I think, so even with all our space that's probably not an option. So I guess we'll have to see how things are looking in terms of cap space and other signings and what he's being offered and then decide.

At present, Jason Hatcher, Shawn Lauvao, Andre Roberts, Kory Lichtensteiger, and our 2014 rookies are the only players still on the books past 2016, and they total less than 6mil of unrecoverable guarantees between them in the final years of their deals.

So, we should be able to keep whomever we want AND be active in free agency, and we still should be in a good cap space going forward in future years. This leaves us, obviously, with a similar roster to last year without Clark/Merriweather, Chester/Polombus, and maybe Hall and Bowen; so we could use some OL help and definitely need help in the secondary.

Particularly, Phillip Thomas would really be the only remotely promising safety on roster. In addition to him, we would only have Amerson, Breeland, and possibly Hall and Minnifield at corner, and Thomas and Akeem Davis at safety on the roster.

Sadly, this is a poor year both in free agency and the draft for safeties. I don't really see any way we have good-looking safeties next season, unfortunately. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Griffin vs. Cousins: Downfield throws, Touchdowns, and Interceptions

Was just doing some research comparing the two. Here are the results:

Griffin: 30 starts, 30 games played
17 Interceptions to 36 TD throws (as well as 7 rushing)

Cousins: 8 starts, 13 games played
18 interceptions to 18 thrown (none rushing)

I was approached with the theory that it's an unfair comparison because Cousins pushes the ball down field and goes deep vastly more often than Griffin, so I decided to look at that, for the sake of replacing pervasive impressions with accurate information. Here are the actual numbers. To note, this is obviously skewed in Cousins' favor because a great deal of his throws have been with the more-vertically-aggressive Gruden compared to Griffin's throws with Shanahan, as well as because Cousins has had better weapons than Griffin (particularly one of the league's best deep threats in Jackson). Regardless, here are the raw numbers as they stood before today's game vs. Arizona.

Cousins, excluding today's game, has gone more than 10 yards downfield on 123 throws, out of a total of 363 attempts (33.9%). 38 out of his 363 were throws of 20+ yards (10.5%).

Griffin has gone more than 10 yards downfield on 280 throws, out of a total of 907 attempts (30.9%). 80 of Griffin's 907 attempts were 20+ yards (8.9%).

To make those splits more explicit, that means that Cousins throws between 10 and 20 yards 23.4% of the time, compared to Griffin's 22.1% The difference, then, in Cousins' favor is 1.3% on 10-19 yard throws, and 1.6% on 20+.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week Three at Philadelphia

After the first half of this one, I got a bit too invested in the game to keep up the tablet notation out at a bar, but here is some of my thought process throughout watching the first half and some general takeaways about the team after the brutally close loss to Philadelphia.

-The team looks more fired up than I've seen in a long time. Unsurprisingly, DeSean Jackson looks particularly amped.

-We're finally going to Garcon early, it will be interesting to see if it keeps up, and how much it has to do with Jackson playing injured.

-The DB was rightly penalized there, despite what the announcers are crying for, but Jackson should have been as well. It's odd that the initial action is caught, but the retaliation isn't, but both were guilty.

-Aaaaand, there's the make-up call. No one did anything wrong on that play, it was a clear apology to Philadelphia for the previous play.

-Morris isn't getting a lot of room to run. Paulsen failed to seal the edge on this particular run, making him fight in the backfield.

-They lined up with Jackson in the backfield, faked a deep pitch to him before turning and tossing a bubble screen to Garcon. I like the creativity, but that was a terribly conceived play. There's no way the team was going to throw it 8 yards into the backfield to get it to Jackson, so the fooled no one regardless of execution and was a waste of time. 

-Back in the red zone, once again going to Young. I don't know when opposing defenses will start realizing how much the team loves going to the fullback in the red zone.

-This isn't the first time I've had this revelation, but Niles Paul would be a really good receiving option if he could reliably catch the ball. 

Takeaways from Week 2's Dismantling of the Jaguars, and a Look at the QB Situation Going Forward

This will be just a bullet-point list of some of the notes I took of my impressions during week two's win over Jacksonville and week three's blank blank the Eagles. I may add to it or reformat it as I re-watch games, but will put this up for now.

-Love the keeper first play of the game. Force defenses to respect that possibility, which Houston's did not in week one. Worked for a first down, and, perhaps most importantly, Giffin slid competently at the end of his run. 

-Tyler Polombus vacated his man to try to help Chester, letting his block go for an easy sack. Terrible play.

-On defense, our pass rush continues to look fearsome while our complete lack of a secondary to provide coverage allows completions. Allen Hurns did us a big favor by dropping a sure-fire touchdown pass.

-A return that goes nowhere yet still manages to have two penalties on it. That's a staggering level of incompetence from our special teams.

-On the play Griffin got injured, he actually did a phenomenal job of using his athleticism to extend the play while keeping his eyes downfield, and found an open receiver for a first down. Unfortunately, it ended with the awkward step and dislocated ankle.

-I like the gameplan of mixing it up and taking shots while still running the ball, but things aren’t going our way here. Outside of unfortunate injuries the only area we actually see to be struggling is on the OL, particularly the right side. Chester is a weak link and Polombus is even weaker.

-Defensive backs aren't on the same page. Amerson nearly had an interception, but Biggers got in the way going for the ball himself.

-Run the ball to the left instead of the right, and we see Trent Williams actually seal his block leaving a seam off his hip for Morris to pick up 15 yards. That's the difference between the left and right side of the OL, even in the run game, where Polombus is relatively solid. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Success rate of taking runningbacks high in the draft lately is atrocious

I decided to take a look at recently-drafted runningbacks league-wide to support an impression I had, and found the results interesting, so I' going to post them here in a rare Redskins-unrelated piece. Trent Richardson gets a lot of flak for being so obviously and visibly disappointing, but he's hardly the only runningback taken recently who hasn't lived up to the hype. In fact, there are many times more failures than success stories.

Simply put, there are a lot of these dudes. Not all out of the league or anything, but guys like Darren McFadden, who flashed and was built up as ready to break out for years, and then rather suddenly stopped being talked about. The list goes on with names like Ingram, Williams, Jones... Even guys like Ryan Mathews and CJ Spiller may not be busts but have been extremely disappointing given their pedigree and expectations, and people discuss that a lot. Players managed to go straight from still-promising to forgotten and skip the vitriol that Richardson has incurred. It got me thinking and well...

Looking at 2008-2012 RBs drafted in the first two rounds (so, guys who are still fairly young but are now in at least their third season) yields the following:

'08 (8 backs)
4th overall, Darren McFadden, (Bust. Still on the Raiders, backing up a decrepit Maurice Jones-Drew)
13th overall, Jonathan Stewart (Huge disappointment. Panthers never even seemed to want him based on usage. Had one good season)
22nd, Felix Jones (Horrible bust, currently a free agent)
23rd, Rashard Mendenhall (Bust and hated for sympathizing with terrorists. Retired because nobody wanted him)
24th, Chris Johnson (Had a phenomenal early career, but quickly fell off, now being replacement-level on the Jets)
44th, Matt Forte (Good, reliable, versatile player)
55th, Ray Rice* (Was a good player, now suspended indefinitely)
64th (actually first pick of the third round), Kevin Smith (Bust)

'09 (4 backs)
12th overall, Knowshon Moreno (Had a couple okayish years, but hasn't been impressive at all. Big disappointment)
27th, Donald Brown (Has contributed some in a backup role. Bust)
31st, Beanie Wells (Awful bust)
53rd, LeSean McCoy (One of the best HBs in the NFL)