Any NFL draft that gifts defensive rookie of the year, Chase Young (not to mention Antonio Gibson, who posted +1,000 yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs in his rookie campaign), has to be considered a successful one. The Washington football team will be hoping for more of the same when they head into the 2021 NFL Draft in April of this year.
Coach Ron Rivera's team played great defense throughout the 2020 season, and now that they've uncovered Antonio Gibson and an exciting QB by the name of Taylor Heinicke to compliment the excellent Terry McLaurin at wideout, the offensive pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, too.
Another good draft class could help launch a memorable 2021 for Washington fans (and they know it) -- the war room just needs to get its picks right to take the team to the next level... which is easier said than done, but -- hey! -- Washington is right there on the precipice of success; they have to get it right!
With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 3 2021 NFL Draft needs for the Washington football team, the positions that need filling, and the players on the board capable of doing so.
What draft picks does Washington have at the 2021 NFL Draft?
The Washington football team has the following picks in this year's 2021 NFL Draft: Round 1 - Pick 19; Round 2 - Pick 51; Round 3 - Picks 74 & 82; Round 4 - Pick 114; Round 5 - Pick 146; Round 7 - Pick 209, and Round 7 - Pick 211.
What are the top 3 needs for the Washington football team in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Washington's first pick in the draft will be round 1, pick 19, meaning it's unlikely QBs Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields will still be on the board. This, combined with the fact that Taylor Heinicke looked every bit an NFL QB vs. the Buccaneers in the playoffs (and deserved his new contract), leads me to believe that Washington may decide against drafting a QB with their first picks this year; especially when you consider some of the great QBs who could wind up in free agency: Dak Prescott; Mitch Trubisky; Ryan Fitzpatrick; Cam Newton, etc.
For my money, Washington would be better off raiding free-agency or making a trade for that new QB; that's if they opt against starting Heinicke.
So, if not a QB, what do Washington need and who can they draft? Let's take a look:
#1 Wide receiver (pick 19)
No matter who ends up in the pocket for Washington next year, it's not going to mean a damn thing if he doesn't have quality targets to throw the ball to... step forward from the University of Alabama's Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Personally, I don't see this year's Heisman winner Devonta Smith still being on the board come pick 19, so more likely the 'football team' could pluck for his partner in crime on the opposite flank, Waddle. Jaylen Waddle is a superb athlete and got off to a great start for the Crimson Tide last season, registering +120 receiving yards in four consecutive appearances to begin the year.
After four games, he'd tallied 557 yards on 25 catches and four touchdowns. Had he not gone down to a season-ending ankle injury whilst returning a kick against Tennessee, it could well have been Waddle's name on that Heisman trophy this year and not Smith's.
Waddle's electric turn of pace would open up a ton of options for Washington on offense and take some of the defensive attention away from Terry McLaurin, one of the premier receivers in the league, giving him (McLaurin) more space to operate in.
Not to mention the fact that Waddle could play a pivotal role on special teams as a kick returner. If the ankle is healthy, this is a guy Washington should at least be looking at.
#2 Outside linebacker (pick 51)
Zaven Collins of TULSA enters this year's draft as a linebacker with real promise. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Collins is a physically dominant player, equally at home stuffing the run and pursuing the runner. His 91.1 grade in the 2020 season ranks him first-place among all linebackers in college football.
At this stage, it's not totally clear which linebackers will go first in the 2021 draft. For my money, both Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Nick Bolton are likely to go ahead of Collins, which could see the TULSA graduate drop down to the second round, which is when Washington could potentially pounce.
Any of the three players just mentioned would help strengthen Washington's average-looking mid-set, though, and if Rivera can get his linebackers competing at anywhere near the same level as his defensive front-four, 'the football team' will mean serious business in the NFC East next year.
#3 Cornerback (pick 74)
Ifeatu Melifonwu is a cornerback whose draft stock has probably risen a fair amount since his superb performance in the Senior Bowl earlier this month, a game in which Melifonwu was the highest-graded defender in coverage.
Standing at an enormous 6-foot-3, and weighing in at 213 pounds, the Syracuse graduate certainly has the athleticism required to play in the NFL and for a good team at a high level: case in point, in three years at Syracuse, Melifonwu never once earned less than a 74.1 coverage grade.
There is a chance that because of Melifonwu's superb performance in the Senior Bowl, he may hear his number called slightly earlier than pick 74, but Washington does have two third-round picks, so it's possible they could trade up to land this kid, and i think they should. Melifonwu and Kendall Fuller working together in pass-coverage could prove to be a real recipe for success up in Washington.
Those are my picks. Again, if you came here expecting to see a quarterback on the list, I just don't think pick 19 in the draft is going to yield the type of QB Washington needs, so better they spend their picks in other areas and hit up free agency for that QB position, or just wait: good things come to those who wait.
What do you think of my picks? Would you do anything differently? Have your say in the comments section below: