The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
Washington Football Team 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 1 (19)
Round 2 (51)
Round 3 (74)
Round 3 (82)
Round 4 (124)
Round 5 (163)
Round 7 (244)
Round 7 (246)
Washington Football Team Offense
By Rich Hribar
Washington ranked ahead of only the Jets in expected points added via their passing game in 2020 (-22.5), finishing 30th in yards per pass attempt (6.3 Y/A) and 31st in yards per completion (9.8 yards).
Playing all of Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Alex Smith during the regular season, Washington went out and added Ryan Fitzpatrick on a one-year deal this offseason to be their immediate starting quarterback for 2021.
Fitzpatrick joins his ninth NFL franchise, turning 39 years old this November. He is coming off a career-high 68.5% completion rate and 7.8 yards per pass attempt, which was good for the third-highest mark of his career.
To go along with Fitzpatrick, Washington retained both Allen and Taylor Heinicke, who drew the start in the Wild Card Round and flashed versus Tampa Bay. Heinicke is 28 years old with just two career starts under his belt for three organizations, but threw for 306 yards against the eventual Super Bowl champs.
Washington still does not have a projectable long-term starting quarterback on the roster, but is not in a prime position to add a top prospect in this draft, either. The team is unlikely to be bad enough to be picking highly again in 2022, leaving them with having to explore a secondary-tier rookie in this class or next.
Third-round rookie Antonio Gibson was a success last year. After just 33 total carries at Memphis, Gibson handled 170 carries in 14 games for 4.7 yards per carry and 11 rushing touchdowns as a rookie. Only Alvin Kamara (36.2%) scored a higher rate of his team touchdowns at the running back position than Gibson (32.4%) a year ago.
The team also got a significant contribution out of satellite back J.D. McKissic. McKissic led all running backs in targets (110) and was second in receptions (80) and receiving yardage (589 yards) in 2020. Coming off a career-high 165 touches and 954 yards, McKissic is still under contract in 2021, but a free agent after the season.
The only back Washington has signed beyond this season is Gibson. Washington has some veteran depth here, but the effectiveness of any of these backs can be severely questioned. In the three games Gibson essentially missed (he played just four snaps in Week 13) the other Washington backs rushed 59 times for 192 yards (3.3 YPC). Running back is not a dire need for the 2021 season, but the questionable depth and amount of expiring contracts here leave the door open to open another rookie on day three.
Even with Terry McLaurin, the Washington wide receiver corps combined to rank just 19th in receptions (12.1) and 26th in receiving yardage per game (141.3 yards) while ranking 31st in touchdown receptions (eight) in 2020.
Fitzpatrick’s aggressive nature will aid improvement in the yardage totals per target, but Washington needed to add to this position and they did this offseason. They first went out and added Curtis Samuel who broke out last season. While Samuel is coming off the best season of his career, it is intriguing that the combination of Scott Turner and Ron Rivera arguably used him the worst he has over his career during the 2019 season. Hopefully, Washington finds some balance in Samuel’s 2020 usage with how Turner tried to use him in 2019. Fitzpatrick also offers more upside than any of the 2019 Carolina passers did.
They also added veteran slot man Adam Humphries to the mix here to give them a far better starting trio than a year ago when it was all McLaurin. After a 58-919-7 rookie campaign, McLaurin turned in an 87-1,118-4 line in his second season. McLaurin was ninth among NFL wideouts in targets (8.9). We have yet to see his true ceiling through offensive climate and quarterback play.
Behind those options, Washington has a ton of guys currently on the roster at the position, but outside of McLaurin and Samuel, the only wideouts here signed beyond this season are Antonio Gandy-Golden, Kelvin Harmon, and Isaiah Wright, all day three or undrafted rookie additions over the past two years. Even with this many wideouts on the roster and the additions this offseason, adding playmakers is still a primary point of emphasis for this team.
After a position change and multiple stops through four seasons in the NFL, Logan Thomas found a home last season in Washington, breaking out with a 72-670-6 line on 110 targets. Thomas averaged just 9.3 yards per catch and 6.1 yards per target, so that volume will need to be sticky, but he did lead all tight ends in routes per team drop back at 91.3% and did not have a real shot at being a lead tight end in the NFL prior to last season. Turning 30-years-old this offseason, Thomas is only signed for the 2021 season.
In fact, Washington does not have any tight end signed beyond this season pending the details of the contract Sammis Reyes just received. Both Thomas and Temarrick Hemingway will be unrestricted free agents after this season while Marcus Baugh and Tyrone Swoopes will be exclusive rights free agents.
The team did just take a flyer on Reyes, who worked out at Florida’s Pro Day after playing basketball only at Tulane. Reyes has no actual organized football experience, looking to take the Antonio Gates route. With all of the expiring contracts here and Thomas having a late-career breakout, tight end is still wide open long-term for Washington.
LT: Cornelius Lucas/Geron Christian/David Sharpe/David Steinmetz
LG: Ereck Flowers/Wes Schweitzer/Tyler Larsen/ Saahdiq Charles
C: Chase Roullier/Keith Ismael/Beau Benzschawel
RG: Brandon Scherff/Wes Martin
RT: Morgan Moses/Rick Leonard
The Washington offensive line registered as one of the better run blocking units in 2020, coming out third in ESPN’s Run Block Win Rate metric at 73% while ranking 10th in collective run blocking grade per Pro Football Focus.
There were some discrepancies between the two sites as PFF had Washington as the third-highest team in pass blocking grade despite coming in 14th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate metric at 59%.
The line has quality starters in Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Wes Schweitzer, and Morgan Moses. Scherff is playing under the franchise tag for the second straight season as the two sides cannot come to a long-term deal, while Roullier (signed through 2024), Schweitzer (2022), and Moses (2022) are both locked up for multiple seasons.
Left tackle is more of a mixed bag. Cornelius Lucas took the most snaps (534) for the team at left tackle last season, but has an expiring contract after this season. Geron Christian took 395 snaps at left tackle, but allowed 24 pressures on those snaps while Lucas allowed just 14 on his snaps played. Left tackle should be a focus position for Washington.
Interior backups Wes Martin, Keith Ismael, Beau Benzschawel, and Saahdiq Charles are all signed through 2022 as depth.
Washington Football Team Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
The Washington interior defensive line has a little bit of everything. Jonathan Allen ranked seventh among defensive tackles in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate. Da’Ron Payne ranked ninth among defensive tackles in Run Stop Win Rate. Tim Settle only played 33% of the defensive snaps but he ranked ninth among defensive tackles in pressure rate, according to Sports Info Solutions. All of this came with Matt Ioannidis missing most of the season with a torn biceps.
Only one of those four is signed beyond the 2021 season and that’s Ioannidis, who is only signed through 2022. Allen, Payne, and Settle are all in the final years of their rookie contracts with Allen on his fifth-year option.
Chase Young came in as the second overall pick and was immediately one of the most well-round and high-impact edge rushers in the league. Young was one of two players to finish in the top-10 of both Pass Rush Win Rate and Run Stop Win Rate on the edge, along with Demarcus Lawrence. Young’s pressure rate only ranked 57th among edge rushers, but those pressures were quick and impactful.
Montez Sweat had a higher pressure rate than Chase (23rd) and he finished the season with the 16th-most quarterback hits among defenders. Sweat and Chase are building blocks on the edge, but there’s very little behind them, especially with Ryan Kerrigan gone. Kerrigan is still a free agent, so a return could happen, but either way, Washington could use some more rotational depth at the position to spell the two stars.
Cole Holcomb was a 2019 fifth-round pick and has started 25 games over the past two seasons. That number would have been higher but he missed four games in 2020 with a knee injury and one later in the season with a concussion. Holcomb only had one missed tackle in 2020, which was the lowest figure for a linebacker with at least 40 solo tackles, per SIS. Holcomb was also fairly impressive in coverage. He ranked second in yards allowed per target and coverage snap among 62 linebackers charted with at least 20 targets.
Jon Bostic was also more than serviceable at linebacker and ranked 19th in yards allowed per target and 13th in yards allowed per coverage snap. Bostic will be in the final year of his two-year deal signed last offseason.
William Jackson III*
William Jackson has been one of the league’s most underrated corners since he came into the league while hidden on the Bengals’ defense. Washington mostly kept their cornerbacks on sides while they ran a ton of zone coverage. While they ranked third in defensive DVOA and second against the pass, the biggest flaw was that Washington ranked 27th in DVOA against No. 1 receivers, according to Football Outsiders. Jackson gives the defense the ability to shadow opposing top receivers and give more versatility to the defensive structure.
Jackson joins a secondary that already has some promising players. Kendall Fuller has been productive as an outside corner and ranked 37th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap last season. Jimmy Moreland, a 2019 seventh-round pick, manned the slot last season and ranked 13th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap.
Kamren Curl, a 2020 seventh-round pick, was the latest Washington defender to go from late-round selection to impactful starter. Curl filled in for an injured Landon Collins and was immediately a plus in the box. Curl was one of 24 safeties with at least 30 pass rushes on the season and he ranked fifth among them in pressure rate. He also added three interceptions.
Troy Aplke played 40% of the defensive snaps and played mostly deep safety while 2018 undrafted free agent Jeremy Reaves flashed and took over as a starter for the final three games of the regular season plus the playoff meeting against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Landon Collins will return from injury and is guaranteed his roster spot due to his contract, but it will be interesting to see how he slots in with Curl now in the fold. Washington only used dime or lighter personnel on 2% of snaps in 2020, the eighth-lowest rate in the league, but some three-safety looks could make sense given the depth at the position.