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Heads of the class
It was the night before the final day of training camp, and Devin Thomas was engrossed in something he’d done on several occasions the previous few weeks - administering another video game beatdown to good friend and fellow NFL rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly.
“We’ve been hanging and stuff, playing video games,” Thomas said. “He’s not really that good at it. I tore him up on Call of Duty. We got the new Madden game. I’m kind of the video game guy. Not many guys here can beat me.”
Thomas, Kelly and Fred Davis were all second-round selections by the Washington Redskins in the 2008 NFL Draft. They were the first three picks by the organization, and as skill position players, likely will be linked throughout their careers.
Sure, Chad Rinehart could become a starting offensive lineman, and maybe there is something to the Colt Brennan preseason phenomenon. But this draft class will likely be measured by the performances of the three guys who will catch passes for a living.
“All three of us are new prospects,” Kelly said. “We’re all going out and getting houses, stuff like that. We’re all going through it together.”
Added Davis: “We’re all cool. Devin and Malcolm are big characters. We all get along well. Of course, we beat Malcolm’s Oklahoma by a lot.”
By “we,” Davis means his Southern California Trojans. Davis was named the top tight end in the nation last season with the Trojans, and the bludgeoning in question took place in the 2004 national championship game, a 55-19 victory over the Sooners during his freshman season.
“He says, ‘That’s cuz I wasn’t playing for them yet.’ I said, ‘I don’t think you would have been the difference, Malcolm.’”
Bragging rights aside, how this trio of potential targets for quarterback Jason Campbell ended up with Washington could be dissected or lauded for years to come. Most draft pundits identified the Redskins’ primary needs as more beef - specifically help on the offensive line and at defensive end.
All five of the Redskins’ starters on the offensive line (and on draft day, two of the top backups) are on the wrong side of 30 years old, and surely the team needed to find someone to help Andre Carter rush the passer.
Instead, general manager Vinny Cerrato traded out of the first round and in the second round added three skill guys for Jim Zorn’s new offense.
“We just followed the board and took the best players available,” Cerrato said. “To me, it was you guys that were saying that. There are other ways to acquire players than just the draft. It always seems like you guys are quick to judge, but we don’t start practicing the day after the draft.”
To that end, Cerrato has since traded for a pair of defensive ends, Jason Taylor and Erasmus James. And Rinehart, a third-round pick, could be a long-term solution at one of the guard spots while being a valuable reserve in 2008.
Exactly how much impact the three second-round picks will have this season is tough to gauge. Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El and Chris Cooley are firmly entrenched as starters for the Redskins, and Cooley has the most years remaining on his contract of any guy on the roster.
Thomas and Kelly were expected to compete with James Thrash for the No. 3 wideout spot, but injuries to both in camp derailed their progress. Davis had an ignominious start to his Redskins career when he overslept for a practice during OTAs, but he has had no other problems and could spell Cooley and play in any two-tight end sets.
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