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Redskins' Draft Strategy Emphasized Value


The NFL Draft is over--and the evaluation of the Redskins' draft bounty has begun.

The Redskins' three second-round draft picks--wide receiver Devin Thomas, tight end Fred Davis and wide receiver Malcolm Kelly--were graded by the club as first-round prospects.

Washington had traded the 21st overall pick in the draft to the Atlanta Falcons for a pair of second-round picks, at No. 34 and 48. They already had their own second-rounder, at No. 51.

Through all the drama of the afternoon, the Redskins stuck with the player rankings on their draft board and were steadfast in not reaching for a player, even if it was at a need position.

"We have always said we are always going to take the best player when that pick comes around," executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said. "Everybody says that, but we mean that when we say it. That's why we have done all this work--to establish a board."

In the first hours after the draft, fans, media and draft experts are weighing in on the Redskins' maneuvers and selections.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper praised the Redskins' decision to trade down from No. 21.

"On Saturday, Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell got what Tennessee's Vince Young didn't," Kiper wrote on "With three second-round picks, the Redskins were able to get two wide receivers [Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly] and USC tight end Fred Davis...They gave their quarterback some much-needed weapons in the passing game."

NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, the former Redskins general manager, also praised the Redskins' draft day decisions.

"Most people had [Thomas] rated as the number one receiver, but not a lot of people were sold on him on first round value," Casserly said. "So [the Redskins] get him in the second round. That's good.

"Then they get Malcolm Kelly with another second-round pick, a guy they had a first-round grade. He's a big-sized receiver--those are the kind of guys that Jim Zorn likes to throw to. So they helped their head coach.

"In between that, they took Fred Davis. Why do you take Fred Davis? Well, he was the highest-rated player on the board. Sometimes you pass a player for a need.

"People were probably saying, 'Why didn't you take [Calais] Campbell, the defensive end from Miami?' You know what? I don't think Campbell is a fit for the 4-3 defense. I think he fits a 3-4 defense. So it's a good move.

"Then people say, 'You take Fred Davis, he's never going to play.' The Redskins took LaRon Landry last year. Why did they take him? He was the best player available. Now we're not wishing anything bad on Chris Cooley, but they have depth there now and they give Jim Zorn opportunities to move [tight ends] around.

"So they did a nice job of trading back. They stuck with the board. Congratulations to the Redskins."

Draft analyst Dave Richard of CBS SportsLine commented that the Redskins' wide receiver corps is "really intriguing now."

"The Redskins' pick of Devin Thomas was a no-brainer," Richard wrote. "Thomas has size and speed, which the Redskins need badly. It might take two-thirds of the season, but Thomas should do well in the Redskins' West Coast offense."

Of the Kelly pick later in the second round, Richard wrote: "Between Devin Thomas and Kelly, the average size of their receiving corps went up three inches. Kelly appears to be a quality possession-type receiver with good hands and decent speed."

Blogger Vinny Iver of The Sporting News was among draft bloggers who projected Thomas to the Redskins in the first round.

"It was smart to trade down and get him anyway," Iver wrote. "He is the right choice over Cal's DeSean Jackson because Thomas is a better complement to mighty mites Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.

"With Davis, a talented receiving tight end, to go along with [Thomas], it gives Jason Campbell and Todd Collins a few more cogs and Jim Zorn's offense more versatility."

Redskins fans on ExtremeSkins, the team's official message board, weighed in on the draft's first day with a poll. Thirty percent of fans gave the Redskins' first three picks a grade of A- or better. Seventy-one percent of fans gave the picks a grade of B or better.

Commented one fan: "We went in with two picks in the first day and left with three players with first-round grades. Kelly and Thomas were legitimate options at No. 21, but we were patient and ended up turning our wide receiver corps from a weakness into a strength."

Entering the draft, the Redskins had identified a tall, rangy wide receiver as a need.

Thomas was a possibility at No. 21, but team officials figured they could grab him--or perhaps another top-level wide receiver--in the second round.

"We felt very good that the same guys we had a chance to choose at 34 were the same guys that were there at 21," Cerrato said.

He was right. As it turned out, no wide receiver was selected in the first round. With the second pick of the second round, the St. Louis Rams chose Donnie Avery of Houston to become the first wide receiver taken in the draft.

The very next pick, at No. 34, the Redskins pounced on Thomas, the 6-2, 225-pounder out of Michigan State. Thomas caught 79 passes for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns last year for the Spartans.

The Redskins surprised by selecting USC tight end Davis with their next second-round pick, at No. 48 overall.

Davis, 6-3 and 247 pounds, won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end. He grabbed 117 passes for 1,408 yards and 13 touchdowns in four seasons with Trojans.

The pick was deemed surprising, given that the team has Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley on the roster.

But Cerrato said the pick made sense, given the new West Coast offense implemented by head coach Jim Zorn this offseason.

"There are a lot of formations with two tight ends in Jim Zorn's offense that he'll be utilized in," Cerrato said.

Davis adds another blocker for Clinton Portis and the Redskins' ground game. His presence in the passing game should help spread out defenses, opening up routes for wide receivers downfield.

Added Cerrato: "Were we looking for a tight end? No. But [Davis] was the highest-rated guy on board. And we just followed the board."

Three picks after Davis, the Redskins were on the clock again.

Selecting Oklahoma's Kelly was an "easy [decision]," Cerrato said. Kelly caught 144 passes for 2,285 yards--15.8 yards per catch--and 21 touchdowns in three seasons with the Sooners.

Even though the Redskins already had Thomas in the fold, Cerrato said there was no hesitation about taking Kelly with their final pick of Day 1.

"He was next on the board," Cerrato said. "He was the only guy still with a first-round grade. After him, we dropped into the middle-to-lower second round with the other prospects on the board."

Team officials had traveled to Oklahoma last Thursday and brought along Jason Campbell. The two developed a quick rapport.

"We know him," Cerrato said. "We know what he can do. We were very comfortable in following the board and getting value for the picks."

At first glance, it would appear the Redskins are crowded at wide receiver. Starters Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El return next season, and backup James Thrash adds veteran experience.

Beyond Moss, Randle El and Thrash, there are mostly unproven receivers on the roster. So the addition of Thomas and Kelly solidifies the Redskins' wide receiver corps in the short and long term.

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