The Washington Football Team limped away with the 2020 NFC East title as the division collapsed on itself. With stars like Saquon Barkley and Dak Prescott returning from injury, Washington could face stiff competition for the throne this coming season. No franchise has won back-to-back NFC East titles since 2004, but Ron Rivera’s team could be up to the challenge with a strong draft class.
Washington went to work in the offseason, franchise tagging Brandon Scherff and signing free agents Ryan Fitzpatrick, Adam Humphries, William Jackson III, and Curtis Samuel. However, the team still faces serious questions at left tackle and the two levels behind its front four on defense. Rivera can’t completely fix his team through the draft, but he can patch some holes.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t include any trades and added an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
Round 1 (No. 19): Micah Parsons, LB Penn St.
Parsons lasted until 19 in TDN’s simulation but went to the New England Patriots at 15 for PFF. That’s close enough for me.
Outside of playing a feature role in a hazing scandal at Penn St., Parsons enters the NFL with a great résumé. He opted out of the 2020 campaign but amassed 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, and four forced fumbles in 2019. Washington could experiment with him in a variety of roles considering Parsons’ background as an edge rusher.
Parsons dominated his pro day, measuring in at 6-3, 246 lbs. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and the three-cone in 6.94 seconds. Very few linebackers enter the NFL with that kind of speed and agility. Parsons also plays with power. He’s able to deconstruct blocks and demolish ball carriers. The Penn St. star earned a 94.8 run defense grade from PFF for his sophomore year. That’s the second-highest mark in PFF history.
Parsons also possesses elite range and twitch for a player his size. However, he had very few snaps in man coverage and didn’t have much production in zone. That part of his game remains a mystery.
While left tackle remains Washington’s biggest need, there wasn’t a single simulation where Christian Darrisaw, Penei Sewell, or Rashawn Slater fell to 19th overall. Rivera’s team could always take the chance on playing Teven Jenkins or Dillon Radunz at left tackle, but that opens the door to many negative outcomes.
Ideal pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT Virginia Tech
Round 2 (No. 51): Elijah Molden, CB/S Washington
Most analysts view Molden as a slot cornerback, but there’s a chance he gets moved all over defenses as a chess piece. Washington has a tremendous front four, but the team’s defensive backfield could use a few more bodies. Perhaps Molden is too diverse for any specific role Rivera wants filled, but it’s hard to overlook his playmaking abilities.
Molden amassed five interceptions and 13 passes defensed during his final 17 collegiate appearances. His football IQ is off the charts, leading to plus instincts and play recognition. Despite his 5-9 frame, Molden is a reliable tackler that shows no fear against the run.
Molden lacks high-end speed and elite length, but he brings so much to the table. It’s easy to fall in love with his game and envision him as a defensive X-factor.
Ideal pick: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR LSU
Round 3 (No. 74): Walker Little, OT Stanford
Once a near lock as a first-round pick, Little played fewer than 100 snaps in 2019 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He opted out of the 2020 season, leaving scouts with no recent tape. Initially, I believed Little could fall into the Day 3 rounds, but I’m sure some team will call his name on Day 2. His ceiling is too high to resist, especially for a team like Washington.
Little weighed 313 lbs. at his pro day and measured in at 6-7. He’s so well built it’s hard to tell that he’s an offensive lineman at times. Little is a tremendous athlete with smooth footwork and recovery speed capable of beating speed rushers to the top of their attacks. He’s capable of operating in motion as well.
NFL teams hope Little adds a little more functional strength to aid in the running game and stiffen himself against power rushers
Ideal pick: Jevon Holland, S Oregon
Round 3 (No. 82): Pete Werner, LB Ohio St.
Werner didn’t jump off the tape at Ohio St. and never had elite production. However, a review of his unspectacular style reveals a player capable of challenging for starting snaps early in his career. The Washington Football Team has low-end linebacker play, which provides the perfect scenario for Werner to leave his mark in 2021.
Four years with the Buckeyes molded Werner into a versatile linebacker capable of covering some tight ends and slot options. He doesn’t have elite speed but redirects well and sheds blocks in the running game. Werner hits with power and drives through ball carriers, leaving no chance for yards after contact.
Ideal pick: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB Syracuse
Round 4 (No. 124): Thomas Graham Jr., CB Oregon
Graham had incredible ball production during his final three seasons at Oregon, intercepting eight passes and knocking away 32 more. Washington could use a player with his experience and poise in the slot. There’s also a chance Graham sees some snaps outside during his rookie season as he tries to crack the rotation.
While he lacks top-end speed and the physical traits teams look for, Graham plays a well-rounded game. Analysts remain torn on his true value at the NFL level. On the high side, Graham could turn into a starting No. 2 corner. The low-end projection has him toiling away as a practice squad member or special teams only contributor.
Ideal pick: Seth Williams, WR Auburn
Round 5 (No. 163): Simi Fehoko, WR Stanford
Fehoko might go even earlier than the fifth-round because of his traits. He’s 6-3, 222 lbs. and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. That speed translates to the field too. Unfortunately, Stanford never dipped into Fehoko’s potential. His best season came in 2020 when he caught 37 passes for 574 yards and three touchdowns in six games.
Fehoko enters the NFL having run few to no complicated routes with the Cardinals. He has a history of drops, which comes as a significant issue given his status as a developmental receiver. If the right team drafts Fehoko, they could turn him into a 1,000-yard receiver in two or three years, but that’s a massive projection.
Ideal pick: Monty Rice, LB Georgia
Round 7 (No. 244): Tony Poljan, TE Virginia
Outside of Logan Thomas, Washington doesn’t have many contributors at tight end. By now, you’ve probably heard that Thomas played quarterback at Virginia Tech and converted to tight end once he entered the NFL. Well, Poljan began his career as a much less successful quarterback at Central Michigan before becoming a tight end and transferring to Virginia.
Poljan is 6-7, 265 lbs. and amassed 907 receiving yards over his final two seasons with the Cavaliers. He’s not sudden and plays with a lot of stiffness, but he has a massive catch radius and could develop into an impact blocker.
Ideal pick: Josh Ball, OT Marshall
Round 7 (No. 246): Tarron Jackson, EDGE Coastal Carolina
Jackson didn’t face many talented offensive lines during his time with the Chanticleers, but the 6-2, 254 lb. edge rusher produced 18 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss over the last two years. Jackson is powerful with burly arms and a strong lower half capable of stopping charging linemen.
Unfortunately, Jackson didn’t display much bend or explosiveness at Coastal Carolina. He’s a pure power rusher that struggles with sharp cuts and change of direction. Washington needs him to develop some secondary pass rush moves and counters before becoming part of a dominant rotation.
Ideal pick: Mike Strachan, WR Charleston