- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2020

Washington isn’t a franchise that gets a lot of compliments these days.

But for all their problems, all the missteps, the Redskins are getting credit around the league for one aspect of their operation:

Washington, most NFL gurus agree, is doing a good job in the draft.

Last year, for instance, Washington earned the league’s highest “GPA” — a 3.74 — when a Twitter user compiled draft grades from various outlets like ESPN and the NFL Network. The Redskins, too, earned a respectable “B” in 2018 for their selections, which included first-rounder Daron Payne.

With Kyle Smith crafting the team’s draft board, the Redskins have graded well the past few years among draft experts. So what will it take for them to do it again when the 2020 NFL draft begins next week? Well, here’s a dream mock draft, one that would fill and address every need for Washington with its seven picks:

— DE Chase Young (Round 1, pick No. 2), Ohio State: Look at the San Francisco 49ers to see how a fearsome defensive end can elevate the rest of the defense. Last season, Nick Bosa earned defensive rookie of the year and his presence was a big reason the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl.

Young arrives in the NFL with even more hype, and his dominance at the collegiate level has scouts salivating. Blazing speed, impeccable timing and crafty technique figure to pose problems for opposing offenses next season. Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has said his scheme centers around “penetrative, disruptive defensive linemen.” Young fits that mold.

“It can do a lot,” Redskins cornerback Ronald Darby said of adding a pass rusher like Young. “The quicker you can get the ball out of the QB’s hands, the more aggressive you can play as a DB and things like that. If you trust your front to provide that pressure, it allows you to play more aggressive with things and [be] more comfortable.”

— TE Adam Trautman (Round 3, pick No. 66) Dayton: On a conference call last week, Redskins coach Ron Rivera said he was comfortable with the team’s additions this offseason at tight end and slightly downplayed the idea of using a high pick on the position. But the coach also described what he was looking for in a tight end — and the Redskins don’t have that at the moment.

“It’s one of those things that in the system you love to have a guy with Greg Olsen type of ability, who is a primary ball catcher, a guy that goes out and finds the hole, finds the crease, can separate when the ball is in the air at the right time,” Rivera said.

Experts see Trautman as having that type of impact. At Dayton, the 6-foot-5 tight end caught 70 catches for 916 yards with 14 touchdowns in 2019. The Athletic ranks him as the best tight end in the draft, writing he was “consistently one of the best athletes on the field.”

— WR K.J. Hill (Round 4, No. 108), Ohio State: Is Hill this year’s Terry McLaurin, the overlooked Ohio State receiver who ends up being a steal in the draft? Hill was a standout at the Senior Bowl, but he could be overlooked in a deep wide receiver draft. The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah called this year’s class “phenomenal.”

Hill isn’t nearly the same type of burner as McLaurin — Hill ran a 4.6 40-yard dash to McLaurin’s 4.35 — but he can manipulate space well. He was Ohio State’s most-targeted receiver each of the last two years. The Buckeyes used Hill in the slot, and while that isn’t a glaring need with Steven Sims and Trey Quinn on the roster, the Redskins could benefit from having someone with dependable hands. Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins already has chemistry with Hill as Haskins was the starter at Ohio State in 2018.

“The things we did, the records we broke, I feel like we can do the same thing,” Hill said at the NFL scouting combine regarding a reunion with Haskins, “just at a different level.”

— OT Ben Bartch (Round 4, No. 142), St. John’s (Minn.): Bartch might be gone by the time the Redskins have their second selection in the fourth round, a pick they gained due to the NFL’s compensatory formula. But one of Washington’s biggest unanswered questions moving forward is what happens at left tackle. Trent Williams remains on the roster, though Rivera said the Redskins are still looking to trade the seven-time Pro Bowler.

Geron Christian, the team’s 2018 third-round pick out of Louisville, doesn’t seem like the answer. Christian couldn’t crack the field last year, even when the Redskins turned to a number of younger players when it became clear the season was lost.

Bartch, a 6-foot-5, 309-pound left tackle out of St. John’s, is an intriguing project. The Division III prospect improved rapidly in his two seasons at tackle, making the switch from tight end. The Athletic ranks Bartch as the 12th-best tackle in the draft, describing him as a “natural mover with agile feet and body flexibility.” Bartch’s lack of experience against higher competition might give teams some pause, but he has the potential to be a starter.

— S Antoine Brooks Jr. (Round 5, No. 142), Maryland: The Redskins addressed safety in free agency, signing former Pittsburgh Steelers starter Sean Davis to a one-year, $5 million contract. Last week, Rivera raved about Davis’ potential, saying he was a player “on the cusp” of taking the next step. But the Redskins could use additional help. Brooks, a three-year starter at Maryland, is an intriguing prospect with strong leadership skills. At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, the Lanham, Maryland, product has a notable physique — “Built like a mailbox,” his NFL.com draft profile reads.

There are concerns over what position Brooks will play on the next level. Is he a safety? A linebacker? But that might not be a bad thing. Teams, including the Redskins, have increasingly stressed the need for positional flexibility. Brooks developed a reputation for his aggressiveness and “alpha” personality.

“He competes with the warrior temperament and natural instincts that will earn him playing time,” The Athletic’s Dane Brugler writes. That sounds like a player who could easily fit in with Rivera.

— CB A.J. Green (Round 7, No. 217), Oklahoma State: Washington has had success in the last few drafts finding late-round cornerback prospects who have cracked the starting lineup — i.e. Greg Stroman (2018), Jimmy Moreland (2019). Even undrafted free agent Danny Johnson proved to be a solid find.

Green — not to be confused with Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green — has the potential to be that same type of player. Like at receiver, this year’s cornerback class is stacked. Washington could use another body on the outside and Green has a nice 6-foot frame that presented problems for receivers in the Big 12.

Green likes to jam wideouts at the line of scrimmage, but that physical type of play style backfired on occasion. Green can get lost in a footrace and ran a 4.6 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

— LB Mykal Walker (Round 7, No. 229), Fresno State: Walker is the type of player whose athleticism and versatility justify a late-round flyer. At Fresno State, Walker started at edge rusher, inside linebacker and outside linebacker throughout his senior year. He was not dominant physically, but Walker was productive — recording 96 tackles, 14 for a loss.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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