With the 2021 NFL Draft kicking off in just nine days, mock drafts are beginning to zero in on realistic scenarios for how the draft could play out. Today, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay published a mock draft that they produce annually -- a draft in which they take turns selecting players for all 32 teams for the first three rounds of the draft. You need to be a subscrber to ESPN+ to access the full draft, but let's take a look at what they did for the Washington Football Team.
Mel Kiiper Jr. made the odd number picks, while McShay made the even numbered selections. That meant that it was Kiper's turn when Washington was on the clock at #19. It's no secret that the Football Team is thin at linebacker and needs to add an impact player; with Notre Dame's Jeremiah Osusu-Koramoah picked at the 18th slot, just one spot before Washington picked, Kiper selected Kentucky's Jamin Davis, who has been shooting up draft boards in recent weeks.
- 6'4", 235 pounds
- 22 years old
Davis projects as a WILL linebacker -- Washington's biggest need -- at the NFL level and appears to have the the skills needed to be an NFL starter. He is long, rangy, and explosive and should give the WFT the coverage skills it sorely needs at the second level. The caution flag on Davis is that, while he played very well for Kentucky, his sample size is relatively small. He also seems to be less effective defending the run game than he is against a passing attack. Davis has second-level speed is at a premium right now in the NFL, and should be a great addition to Jack Del Rio's defense.
Another popular choice at linebacker for Washington is Zaven Collins, but Kiper left him on the board.
Kiper also made Washington's second round pick, and this time he took a developmental quarterback, Stanford's Davis Mills, to join the team and -- presumably -- to spend a year learning behind veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Mills has been a popular choice in many mock drafts for Washington, who is not well-positioned to try to select a top-5 player at the position.
The combination of Mills and Fitzpatrick could be the perfect situation for a franchise that has spent decades looking for the right young quarterback to take them into the future.
- 6'4", 225 pounds
- 22 years old
Mills has ideal size for an NFL quarterback, and matches it with an NFL-caliber arm with good ball placement skills. He throws with anticipation, can work through progressions and has the abiity to make good decisions. He also has the capacity to throw to all areas of the field.
What makes Mills a tier-two quarterback, however, is his lack of experience. He has appeared in only 14 games, with 11 starts -- fewer than Dwayne Haskins had at Ohio State. Further, Mills played primarily out of shotgun or the pistol formations, and isn't likely to be immediately comfortable working under center in an NFL offense.
That's why the situation with Fitzpatrick in Washington coud be ideal. Washington is set at quarterback for 2021. Bringing in a top-tier prospect like Justin Fields, Zach Wilson or Trey Lance would bring pressure to get the rookie on the field immediately. With Mills, the expectation would be for him to spend a year holding a clipboard and learning from Scott Turner, Fitzpatrick, and Washington's QB coach Ken Zampese.
Washington has two picks in the third round, and both of them fell to Todd McShay in this mock draft. He added two offensive players; Cincinnati OT James Hudson and South Carolina WR Shi Smith.
- 6'5", 310 pounds
- 21 years old
Hudson, like Davis Mills, is a bit of a project who will need some time to develop before being ready to step into a starting role, but, again, this should work just fine for Washington's coaches, who have the tackles they need for the 2021 season, with long-time Washington player Morgan Moses holding down the right side, and a 2020 free agency acquisition, Cornelius Lucas at left tackle. Hudson should have a year or two to build his stength and technique before being asked to take on a bigger role.
- 5'10", 190 pounds
- 22 years old
Smith is a receiver with great speed who joins an offense and a team that is focused on getting faster. He has the ability to uncover quickly, has reliable hands, and plays tough. He still needs to develop functional strength, so joining an NFL program where he can play limited snaps in a good receiver room (Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries) should benefit Smith. In a draft that features more talent at the slot position then at the outside receiver positions, getting a player like Smith, who can add speed to the existing receiver group without having to be among the top-three targets as a rookie will be good for both the player and the team.
Here's what Kiper & McShay had to say about their picks for the Washington Football Team
Kiper’s pick: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Washington has a great front four, but it could upgrade at middle linebacker. Davis has elite tape from the 2020 season, and he has some coverage ability, too.
Davis’ chances of being available here: 96.6%
Kiper’s pick: Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
Here’s the sixth quarterback in the class. Mills is all over the place on teams’ boards, but he makes sense in Washington, which isn’t picking high enough to take one of the top five signal-callers. Mills played in only 14 games at Stanford, so there is some risk taking him any higher.
McShay’s pick: James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
Yet another Day 2 lineman who can play inside or outside, Hudson needs some development time. He’s a defensive-line convert who only has one full season as a starter under his belt.
McShay’s pick: Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
The Washington offense needs more weapons, and Smith is a strong route runner with good speed and hands. He really impressed at the Senior Bowl and then ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.
After gettting Washington immediate help at the linebacker position in the first round, the rest of this 3-round mock draft focused on acquiring players with the potential to spend a year or two developing into NFL starters, enhancing a good roster and keeping the pipeline filled with future contributors. It will be interesting to see how cloesly this mock draft tracks with the actual strategy of Washington's front office next week's actual draft.