With the 2011 season in the books and another 105 days to go before the 2012 NFL Draft, it’s officially time to hem and/or haw, self-congratulate success and self-loathe disappointment. Hey, it’s the offseason!
The best place to start for obligatory 20/20 hindsight is the 2011 NFL Draft, when the labor dispute was put on hold to focus on the future.
The Redskins entered the weekend with eight draft picks and a plethora of needs. Showing a steady hand of patience and precision, the Redskins navigated their draft boards picking up a lot of raw talent, roster depth and project picks. In the process, they added five extra picks and four extra players.
The draft class was everything that it needed to be at the time, and it worked out tremendously for an injury-ridden Redskins team. But it was not a “sexy” draft according to experts. Because the Redskins took so many players, they had a chance to find some gems; but because they took nine players after the third round, there was a chance few would pan out.
Football draft guru and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper gave the Redskins a post-draft grade of a C+, equivalent to passing mediocrity. Eight and a-half months later, he’s begging your pardon (Via ESPN Insider and friend Kevin Ewoldt of Hogs Haven):
Post-draft grade: C+
Summary: This felt like a novelty — a Redskins draft with a ton of picks. The story of this draft was the fact that Washington didn’t see a quarterback it wanted. Given the returns in the range in which the Redskins would have picked, it looks like a good calculation, at least in the short term. Only moving way down the board and ending up with Dalton could have looked better. Instead, the Redskins traded down, got Ryan Kerrigan at No. 16 and really aced the pick. Kerrigan picked up 7.5 sacks and played exactly as his draft projection had him pegged. Round 2 pick Jarvis Jenkins never saw the field because of injury, but both running back picks, Roy Helu and Evan Royster, played well when given the time, and I still thinkLeonard Hankerson has a chance to develop. Maurice Hurt looks like a seventh-round keeper. Having a lot of picks can help; it certainly helped this grade rise over the course of the season.
New grade: B
This modest improvement seems to be based on the performance of the rookie draft class, which suited up 11-of-12 picks at some point during the season (defensive end Jarvis Jenkins ended the year on injured reserve in the preseason). Given that every single rookie cycled through the active roster in the first season, there’s reason to believe that this draft will be viewed as a historic one for this franchise.
But is analyzing a draft class after their rookie season a bit premature? You betcha. There’s still no way of knowing what the ceiling is on this group, but it’s nice to see that the respect and expectations have gone up.