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Wide Receiver Corps Gets An Influx Of Youth


Coming off a season in which the Redskins' offense finished 18th overall in the NFL, coaches and personnel officials felt they needed to add more playmakers at the wide receiver position.

The team's top receiver last year was Santana Moss, but he may not return to the club this offseason. It's unclear whether he remains an option for the team moving forward.

That leaves the wide receiver corps somewhat barren in terms of veteran production.

The other wide receivers on the roster totaled 57 receptions for 1,037 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.

So it was obvious that the Redskins would target the wide receiver position heading into the April 28-30 NFL Draft.

Looking for the next generation of talent, the Redskins selected three receivers in the draft. This constituted one-quarter of their entire draft haul.

The new additions give the team options and flexibility moving forward.

After trading back multiple times in the second round, the Redskins finally selected Miami's Leonard Hankerson with the 79th overall pick in the third round.

It's hoped that Hankerson develops into the next great receiver out of 'The U,' following the likes of Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Moss and Michael Irvin.

The Redskins obtained another wide receiver in the fifth round with the selection of Nebraska wide receiver Niles Paul, the 155th overall pick in the draft.

And at No. 178 in the sixth round, the Redskins selected wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, a Southern Methodist Mustang.

While each of the three prospects have certain attributes in common, each possess different tools that should help the team.

The Need: Despite throwing on nearly two-thirds of all 2010 offensive plays – tops in the NFC East – the Redskins lagged behind all divisional opponents in vertical scoring. Each of the other three teams in the division finished in the top-10 in the league in receiving touchdowns, while the Redskins finished 22nd.

The Solution:  Leonard Hankerson stands at 6-2, 205 pounds, and represents a big target, prototypical of a No. 1 receiver. He has mid-4.4 speed and the biggest hands in his draft class. His 22 touchdowns were good for third in school history and should help the Redskins in the red zone. Various pundits have compared him to Braylon Edwards or Brandon Marshall in terms of his play.

The Need: Another area of need is for a receiver that has the ability – and the desire – to go over the middle. The current roster features four receivers who average under 175 pounds, none weighing over 185. In an upcoming season against teams with the likes of Darrelle Revis and Corey Webste, who collectively average over 6-0 and 200 pounds, the Redskins need to get bigger at receiver.

The Solution: Niles Paul can overpower any cornerback in the league with speed that makes him a mismatch against safeties and linebackers.  At 6-1 and 224 pounds, Paul is a physical specimen with a gritty attitude. Recent NFL rule changes took away some of the fear that receivers have going over the middle, and Paul gives the Redskins an opportunity to exploit that.

The Need: Another deficiency of the Redskins attack is a downfield threat. With the possible departure of Santana Moss, the receiver corps has a critical lack of speed. Not only does this hurt the offense's chance to strike quickly, it also allows the opposing safeties to cheat up against the run.

The Solution: Aldrick Robinson is a burner, running a 4.43 40-time, and averaging 18.3 yards/catch over his college career.  It's unclear if he will make an immediate impact on the Redskins offense, but he should allow the team to replace Moss's speed if he leaves in free agency. Regardless of what his role is, Robinson was a great value in the sixth round.

This trio joins the wide receivers already on the roster: Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin, Brandon Banks, Malcolm Kelly and Roydell Williams.

Of these five, only Williams and Kelly have been in the league for more than two years.

Kelly missed all of 2010 battling lingering hamstring injuries.  Williams was relegated to special teams and registered only eight receptions for 109 yards in 2010.

Armstrong made a strong case to stick with the team and start in 2011. Last year, he trailed only Moss in receiving yards (849) and touchdowns (3).  At 28 years old, he may be blossoming at the right time, but he needs to continue to improve.

Austin and Banks are in similar situations going into this season. Both need a strong training camp to ensure roster spots in 2011.

Austin was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, while Banks went undrafted. Both were cut out of training camp but  resigned to the practice squad before the season. And both eventually made the team and saw playing time on special teams in 2010.

Look for both to have a greater comfort level this season, a distinct advantage over the trio of rookies.

Clearly there isn't enough room on the team for all of the receivers on the roster. Competition in training camp should be the deciding factor.

Due to the youth at the position, the practice squad is a possible destination for many.

Banks is the favorite at return specialist, but he helps his case if he can find a niche in the offense.

Hankerson and Paul should both make the team, with Hankerson starting and Paul developing in the offense after starting the year on special teams.

The Redskins could add a veteran receiver in free agency to anchor this young group.

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