With one of the most uncertain NFL draft in decades about two weeks away, there is — or at least, there should be — two stone-cold locks at the top.
Joe Burrow, the marvelous LSU quarterback, should go No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals, unless they go full “Bungles.” Burrow is so accurate, his decision-making so quick, that his NFL.com player comp of Kurt Warner isn’t completely ridiculous.
That means that at No. 2, the Washington Redskins are positioned to draft Ohio State’s Chase Young, only the cleanest edge rushing prospect since Von Miller. Redskins owner Dan Snyder has the ability to ruin anything, of course, but barring bad luck, Young will make multiple Pro Bowls and very likely some All-Pro teams before his career is over.
And considering Young was born only 20 minutes away from FedEx Field in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, his ability to draw fans to one of the five worst stadiums in pro football is another reason to draft him second overall.
Yet there is sentiment that the Redskins should entertain trading down to collect more assets. Others even say they should select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was in contention to be the top overall pick before his season-ending hip injury in November.
For multiple reasons, neither scenario makes much sense.
Chase Young is a top-two player in the draft
First, regarding a trade down. New coach Ron Rivera spoke Tuesday, and if you take him at his word (and yes, this is lying season), it’s hard to envision how the Redskins get better that way.
“If you’re going to pass up Player A, and you go back and you take Player D, Player D has to be equal to Player A, you know what I’m saying?” Rivera said. “Because if Player A is going to play for you for 10 years, and Player D might not, did you really get value or did you just get a whole bunch of picks?”
And considering Young is, again, the best edge rush prospect in a decade, a trade down likely wouldn’t net a player of his value, someone with an elite ceiling who plays a critical position and is a hometown hero to boot.
“We need a guy just to come in and really change our football team,” Rivera said. “To me there’s a few guys on that board that are those kind of players.”
Yeah — Burrow and Young. That’s it. That’s the list.
Unless you love Tua, and many do, including me. Which leads to the next scenario: the Redskins giving Dwayne Haskins the Josh Rosen treatment and drafting his replacement with a higher pick a mere 12 months after the organization used a first-round pick on him.
On the surface, it’s not completely loony.
Can the Redskins be trusted with Tua Tagovailoa’s health?
I liked Haskins as much as anybody in last year’s draft, and I still ride with him after a bumpy rookie year. I don’t think the coaching staff believed in him a year ago, so with the right coaching, he can be a very good pro.
But Tua could be special, special. His ability to speed through his reads. His accuracy. His positive, megawatt personality, which you can already envision uplifting a franchise. I saw a little Steve Young in him two years ago, and if he hadn’t gotten hurt, he’d likely be in the running to go first overall.
The “but” here is significant because hip injuries are serious. For Tua to reach his full potential, he needs to go to a franchise with an above-average (at least) strength and conditioning, and medical staff, which isn’t a given.
The Redskins’ medical staff has not been held in high regard among players for years. It’s worth noting that Rivera told me Tuesday he has remedied that problem by hiring Ryan Vermillion, who has spent nearly two decades as an NFL head athletic trainer.
“He was very good for us, I believe, when we were in Carolina,” Rivera said. “He was tough on players, and the reason I know this is because some of the guys complained about how hard he was in terms of pushing them to understand how important it was to do the personal maintenance and try to get guys to realize you’ve got to learn to push yourself.”
Rivera also added some members to the strength and conditioning staff, and a case could be made that the Redskins are putting themselves in position to maximize the talents of someone like Tagovailoa, despite the coronavirus pandemic interrupting teams’ abilities to do re-checks on players with medical issues.
There’s one problem with all this. Rivera made it clear Tuesday that he really likes quarterback Kyle Allen, whom the Redskins just gave up a 2020 fifth-round pick to acquire.
A scenario where Kyle Allen becomes the starter
Rivera and new offensive coordinator Scott Turner coached Allen, 24, last season in Carolina. A former five-star prep quarterback, he filled in admirably at times in Cam Newton’s absence last season, completing 62 percent of his passes for 3,322 yards, 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
“Here’s a guy that knows the system, here’s a guy that can be very competitive for us,” Rivera said. “And whether he wins the job or he’s the backup, I know who Kyle Allen is and I know he can be the right kind of guy for us in that room, whatever his role is. I feel real comfortable about that, just because I’ve watched Kyle in a room where there’s a real strong personality in Cam Newton and how he handled himself.”
And while Rivera reiterated that he does not know who his starter will be in 2020, he noted that if the season gets shortened due to COVID-19, he would have faith in Allen to run the show.
“If we were told ‘Hey, you’ve got two weeks to [get ready]’, I would feel very comfortable with Kyle because here’s a guy that knows the system, has been in the system, and could handle it for us for a period of time, and we’ll see how that goes,” Rivera said. “If that was the situation, Kyle would have a leg up on the situation, most certainly.”
Even with all that said, it’s hard to imagine Allen beating out Haskins, another Maryland native in which the Redskins have already made a huge investment.
Did Ron Rivera hint Chase Young will be the pick?
Rivera revealed Tuesday that the club chased receiver Amari Cooper “hard” in free agency, a move that failed in the end but signified a “we can win now” mantra that lends itself to anyone but a rookie starting at quarterback.
Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence that this will be Haskins’ team in 2020 is the Redskins’ recent announcement that he’ll participate in the club’s virtual draft party on April 23. That doesn’t seem like something the organization would do if it was truly considering selecting Haskins’ replacement in the first round.
On the contrary, it’s what you do if you plan to pair Haskins with Young, another uber-talented, homegrown Ohio State star. It would be a fine welcome for Young, and one the Redskins should run to the podium and make as soon as they go on the clock on the night of April 23.
Wouldn’t you know it, Rivera even hinted Tuesday at the possibility of a quick pick in lieu of a Godfather offer from another team, just so the Redskins don’t risk something going wrong with their internet connection.
“At the very beginning of the time clock, if we don’t have anything going [trade-wise], we’re not going to waste time,” Rivera said.
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