Redskins focus on high upside in draft

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

ASHBURN -- The Redskins opted for the best-player-available theory. That philosophy just happened to match what they needed to find in the NFL Draft.

Most of their draft was centered around picking guys high on potential but, in some cases, held back by injuries or off-field concerns. The ceiling could be high, but the floor could be rather low. In any case, the Redskins, coming off a division title, did not have as many holes as in previous seasons. It afforded them the ability to not focus on needs and to draft players with high potential.

It started with their two picks on Friday -- corner David Amerson in the second and tight end Jordan Reed in the third. However, both players went around where they were projected. Amerson has his critics: He did not tackle well in college and tried to make too many big plays last year, leading to long gainers. But he also runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and intercepted 13 passes the previous year, showing excellent ball skills.

Reed opened his college career as a quarterback but played tight end the past two years, catching 73 passes combined. He needs work as a blocker, but his athleticism was evident on film; he runs well after the catch and lined up in the slot quite often.

Their picks in rounds four through seven were largely based on finding players who were drafted lower than their projected value because of injuries or character issues.

Fourth-round safety Phillip Thomas, who some thought could go a round or two higher, was viewed by one longtime coach as a "steal." He led the NCAA with eight interceptions for Fresno State this past season and can play both strong and free safety.

Their defensive backs play into a desire to add flexibility and versatility in the secondary, enabling them to disguise coverages better.

Their next three picks all had issues to overcome. Their two fifth-round picks, teammates at Florida State, both dealt with injuries. Running back Chris Thompson suffered a compressed fracture of his T5 and T6 vertebrae in 2011 and tore the ACL in his left knee this past season. The speedy back, whom coach Mike Shanahan said could become a third-down back, said he'll be ready for training camp.

"I had my injuries, but I was able to battle back and [now] I have a story to tell," Thompson said, "just show you can come back better from these injuries."

Linebacker Brandon Jenkins, a fifth-round pick, suffered a Lisfranc injury of his left foot in the opener, ending his season. There's a decent chance if Jenkins had stayed healthy, he could have gone a couple rounds higher.

"I'm in the door and I'll make sure I stay in the door," Jenkins said.

Sixth-round safety Bacarri Rambo was suspended twice for drugs, costing him one game in 2011 and four in 2012. He was an All-American as a junior when he finished second in the country behind Amerson with eight interceptions.

"If we don't feel comfortable with somebody, we don't sign him," Shanahan said.

They selected Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison in the seventh round. Jamison, a redshirt sophomore, declared for the draft because his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. He said doctors caught it early enough so she's doing fine.

Shanahan, who considers him a potential all-around back, said they did not expect him to last until the seventh round.

"They did a helluva job with their picks," one longtime NFL coach said.

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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