The Washington Football Team won the NFC East last season with a 7-9 record, but they have put themselves in a good position to repeat in 2021. They acquired several key free agents such as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, wide receiver Curtis Samuel and cornerback William Jackson, but Ron Rivera and his front office also hit a home run in the 2021 NFL Draft.
My plan for the perfect Washington draft was not to reach for a quarterback, draft a potential left tackle and to take at least one wide receiver. Washington accomplished all of this, and more. They didn't trade up for a quarterback, they took a legitimate tackle in Samuel Cosmi in the second round and drafted a wide receiver with major potential in Dyami Brown out of UNC in the third round. Grades for Washington's draft range from A to B-, as it's hard to dislike what Rivera and new general manager Martin Mayhew accomplished this past weekend. Still, we are going to try to nitpick.
Below, we are going to discuss one thing Washington didn't do in the 2021 NFL Draft, and also break down one thing they definitely got right.
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Take a shot on a quarterback
I certainly did not want Washington giving up future picks to trade up in the first round to take a quarterback, but I was positive it was going to draft a signal-caller somewhere in the draft. Instead, Washington ignored the quarterback position with all 10 picks. Some may point to this as a major red flag when it comes to Washington's draft class, but I don't see it that way. Still, I do think Washington should have taken a shot on one.
Drafting a quarterback at the end of the 2021 NFL Draft would have been ideal, and Washington had its chances. Surprisingly, only one quarterback was taken after the fourth round: Sam Ehlinger out of Texas. Washington had four picks in the sixth and seventh rounds, but still didn't want to take a shot on a quarterback with potential. No disrespect to Camaron Cheeseman, who is by all reports an elite long-snapper, but that could have been a spot where Washington took a quarterback, and then maybe hit up Cheeseman as an undrafted free agent. Speaking of undrafted free agents, Washington didn't pick up a quarterback after the draft either. SMU's Shane Buechele went to the Kansas City Chiefs, Georgia's Jamie Newman was snatched up by the Philadelphia Eagles and Feleipe Franks out of Arkansas went to the Atlanta Falcons. Any of these three players would have been worth checking out in training camp.
Am I nitpicking? Yes, a little. Fitzpatrick appears to be the starter for this season, and behind him will be Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke. No matter what you think of him, Allen is a favorite of Rivera. Back when Alex Smith returned to the lineup in Week 17 to help secure the division title, a reporter asked Rivera before the showdown against the Eagles if his team would be in the position they were in without Smith. Instead of knocking this soft-ball question out of the park, Rivera took the opportunity to praise Allen instead. Allen went 1-3 as the starter for Washington before going down with a serious ankle injury, and he's definitely a solid backup. But does he have a future as Washington's legitimate starting quarterback? Heinicke doesn't appear to be that guy either, although his postseason start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was incredibly fun to watch. Washington has quality backup quarterbacks, but who is the player who will follow the 38-year-old Fitzpatrick as starter? This will be an issue Washington is again forced to deal with next offseason.
Still, Washington hit on its needs
Something Washington definitely did in the 2021 NFL Draft was hit on all of its needs. The quarterback position is not one of "need" for 2021, but inside linebacker, offensive tackle, tight end and cornerback were definitely position groups that needed some reinforcements for this upcoming season. Washington needed another legitimate starter at linebacker, and they got that in Jamin Davis out of Kentucky. He's fast, athletic and capable of contributing in both stopping the run and the pass. If there was any doubt about Washington having the best front seven in the NFL, that doubt is now gone.
Selecting Cosmi in the second round was nice, because he was considered by some to be a first-round talent. What's intriguing about Cosmi is that he could be the player to finally replace Trent Williams, as Rivera said that he will get a chance to compete at left tackle, according to JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. Benjamin St-Juste is a cornerback many believe could be a better pro than the player he was at Minnesota, and adds depth to this cornerback room that fans can finally feel comfortable with. I also liked the picks of tight end John Bates and then of course Brown, who both can play roles in a passing game which was eighth-worst in the league last year.
Washington is on the right track, and much of the credit can be given to Rivera and Mayhew. We saw this team show potential in 2020, now we just want to see them continue to improve.