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The Washington Football Team depth chart ahead of the 2021 draft

Washington Football Report

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With the draft just two weeks away, it seems like a good time to review the Washington Football Team depth chart and look for opportunities to enhance the roster.

The team currently has 82 players under contract. The team's eight draft picks should fill up the 90-man training camp roster, so adding any undrafted college free agents immeditately after the draft will entail releasing bottom-of-the-roster players.

The chart below is separated into Offense and Defense, with the Special Teams specialists in their own box.

I've use a simple color-coding system:

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Basically, if a player isn't in the top three categories, he will face an uphill fight to make the team. Players in the third category could find themselves bumped from the roster by superior players added in the draft or even college free agents signed immediately after the draft is finished.

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There are a number of observations to be made.

1. Weakside linebacker

The most glaring hole in the roster seems to be at the Weakside Linebacker position (often refered to as WILL). Khaleke Hudson, a late round 2020 draft pick, is really a special teams player, and shouldn't be considered as anythng more than a backup at this point in his career.

Josh Harvey-Clemons was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft, and has shown some promise as a coverage linebacker, but he isn't really a quality NFL starter either. JHC opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, and I wouldn't take it for granted that he will make the 2021 roster.

The fact that this position wasn't addressed in veteran free agency was a bit surprising, and I believe that it signals that the front office will address it early in the draft (likely in the first or second round).

Related:

Which LB or TE should Washington target at the top of the draft?

Change from Ronald Darby to William Jackson III signals more aggressive defense for Washington Football in 2021

The addition of a high quality WILL with strong coverage skills, in combination with the signing of CB William Jackson III from the Bengals should help improve Jack Del Rio's defense, which was ranked #5 overall and #3 against the pass in 2020.

2. Defensive end

Washington's bookend defensive ends, Chase Young and Montez Sweat, are a good as any duo in the league, but the depth behind them is almost nonexistent.

Related:

Washington can’t afford to keep Allen, Payne, Sweat and Young together for long

In 2021, the backup roles were filled by Ryan Anderson and Ryan Kerrigan. Anderson signed with the Giants in free agency. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington's first round pick in 2011, is still a free agent. At 32 years of age, he can still play at a high level but apparently hasn't received much interest from teams who are looking for younger, cheaper options at the position. There have been reports that, if Kerrigan remains available after the draft, and if the WFT still has a need, then there could be a reunion between the player and the only NFL team he has ever played for. That sits firmly in the "only a possibilty" basket right now.

What is clear is that the team needs to invest a mid-round pick in one or two players with athletiicism and upside potential to learn behind Young and Sweat.

3. Left Tackle

This posiiton seemed more dire at this time last year, but Cornelius Lucas, a journeyman signed by the Football Team a year ago, had a surprisingly solid season at left tackle in 2020. Lucas is 29 years old -- not over-the-hill for a lineman -- but this is a position where the front office and coaching staff want to upgrade. If the team can draft a young tackle with starting-caliber skills, then Lucas could take over the swing tackle role (he has played most of his career at RT).

Washington did draft a left tackle last year -- Saahdiq Charles, who played LT for LSU's national championship team. Charles, however, missed virtually his entire rookie season with injuries. Furthermore, Ron Rivera has said repeatedly that Charles will have a chance to compete at both LG and LT, but reading between the lines, it seems that the coaches see him more as an interior lineman than as a tackle in the NFL.

Related:

Critiquing the mockers: who should Washington pick at #19?

The 2021 draft is chock full of offensive line talent, and any player drafted will not be under pressure to start right away; Cornelius Lucas can be counted on to get the job done while the draft pick gets stronger and improves his technique if necessary. It's possible that the team can wait as late as the third round to select a player with the upside potential to take over the starting role, even if that changeover doesn't happen before 2022.

4. Tight end

This is not a strength of the team, though, like the left tackle position, fans can feel much better about the TE room now than at the same time last year. When Washington didn't draft a tight end last year, many analysts and fans were surprised. Logan Thomas's breakout season (72 receptions, 670 yards, 6 TDs) proved that the coaches and front office were right to gamble on him.

Thomas is currently the clear #1 at the TE position for Washington. Many observers feel as if he is the only tight end, but they are overlooking Thaddeus Moss, who missed his entire rookie season after having surgery in March to repair damage caused by a broken bone in his foot. Moss was an excellent blocker in college, and projects as a solid in-line tight end at the pro level, with safe hands that the quarterback can trust in the passing game.

Read:

Don’t forget about TE Thaddeus Moss when looking at the Washington Football Team depth chart and draft plans

Still, the team needs another tight end. There isn't likely to be anyone available that is worthy of the team's first round pick (the only true 1st round talent at the position, Kyle Pitts, should be drafted in the top-10), but there should be a number of solid options available in the second and third rounds.

5. Free safety

Washington has struggled for years to put a talented safety tandem on the field. Last year, the coaches cut Sean Davis at the end of training camp and relied on Troy Apke, which was a mistake, but both Deshazor Everett and Jeremy Reaves played well in the latter part of the season.

Given the fact that the team has two competent veterans at the free safety position, they don't need to reach for a safety -- the combination of players on the roster should be adequate for the '21 season. However, if a talented free safety should fall to them in the draft, the team shouldn't hesitate to turn a card with that player's name on it.

6. Quarterback

With Ryan Fitzpatrick signed for the 2021 season and both Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen signed to back him up, the team doesn't need to draft a "quarterback of the future" in 2021. While some people have suggested trading up to get the 4th or 5th quarterback off the board, when you look at the number of thin spots on the roster, it simply doesn't seem like a good use of draft recources.

If a QB that they really like is available in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th round, then go ahead and draft him as a future backup or potential starter, but if not, this seems like a position that can wait till next year for a more permanent resolution.

7. Running back & cornerback

The roster looks okay at these two positions, with starters and reasonably capable backups.

The draft targets here would be players in the middle to late rounds who could be upgrades from the current backups. For example, there might be a running back in the 6th round who could elbow his way in front of Peyton Barber as the backup to Antonio Gibson, or there could be a 4th or 5th round CB that could challenge Danny Johnson or Greg Stroman for the 4th or 5th CB spot.

8. Long Snapper

Until mid-March, Nick Sundberg was the longest-tenured Washiongton player, having joined the team prior to the draft in 2010. However, at the start of tne new league year on March 17th, Washington made the decision not to re-sign Sundberg, whose contract expired with the end of the 2020 season.

The team has to have a long-snapper, but it's a position that is rarely filled via a draft pick; it is almost always filled with an undrafted college free agent. The top long-snapper among this year's NFL draft-eligible players is Cameron Cheeseman from the University of Michigan. If the coaches and front office staff believe that he's the guy they want, it may be worth using one of the team's two 7th round picks to get him. If they feel as if they have multiple good options, then they obviously won't invest a draft pick in the positon.

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