My primary editor with FanRag Sports tasked me with ranking the best 10 players on the 2017 Washington Redskins.
“Best?,” I asked while veering into lawyer parsing mode.
“It’s up to you how to interpret it,” he responded, noting other FRS writers went with “most talented.”
In my experience, I have found that when others zig, it is better to zag. Instead of going straight talent, I’m going down another path: valuable. This combines talent, but also factors in the “What if they miss games or plays” aspect of an athlete’s story.
Therefore, let me present my take on the 10 best players on the 2017 Washington Redskins… through the prism of value and who is the most indispensable:
10. Jonathan Allen, DL
The Redskins’ first-round pick hasn’t played a regular season game. He might not even start in the Sept. 10 opener against the Eagles. Unless the former Alabama standout flops, he’s the most talented defensive lineman on the roster. This “valuable” ranking includes hope — the hope that once Allen gets comfortable with the NFL game, his talent proves undeniable. For a unit that remains a major question mark, such hope is a good thing.
9. Zach Brown, ILB
There’s ample depth at inside linebacker, especially with both of last season’s starters back and Martrell Spaight looking fresh coming off an injury. What Brown can do for the Redskins’ defense is “next level.” The 2016 Pro Bowler with Buffalo brings speed and aggressive tackling, two elements that should help Washington improve on last season’s dismal ranking of 24th against the run.
8. D.J. Swearinger, FS
The hype is too much for a guy on his fourth team in six seasons. “High school teammate of Josh Norman” is neat, but doesn’t mean a safety solution. Dressing like a boss for the team’s “Welcome Home” luncheon doesn’t mean opposing quarterbacks won’t eat up Washington’s secondary. Yet, it does seem that Swearinger’s assertive style in the middle of the field is a thing. It better be when considering the inexperienced options alongside and behind him.
7. Jamison Crowder, WR
Crowder is entering only his third season, but that makes him the wily veteran among the wideouts. Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson essentially have one combined NFL season playing WR. The slot backup is the unproven Ryan Grant. The shifty Crowder and tight end Jordan Reed are safety blankets for quarterback Kirk Cousins for a reason.
6. Brandon Scherff, G
The 2016 Pro Bowl selection factors into this ranking, of course. The reality that left guard Shawn Lauvao is probably the weakest link on the offensive line — and that the likely backup to either will be an undrafted rookie — reinforces the ranking. Scherff’s presence also looms large for however long starting center Spencer Long is out following a knee procedure. Besides, you would hope players selected No. 5 in the NFL Draft would be considered valuable, right?
5. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB
Pass rushing is kind of a big deal — Kerrigan does it better than anyone on the roster. The player who did it second-best last year, Trent Murphy, is out for the season. Junior Galette might take over Murphy’s status, but let’s see him play after missing two seasons with Achilles injuries. Maybe Preston Smith will return to his late-2015 form.
4. Trent Williams, OT
If this ranking were simply best of the best, Williams would be No. 1. He’s arguably the best left tackle in football. Ty Nsehke isn’t that good, but Washington’s backup tackle is solid and more than held his own during Williams’ four-game suspension last season. The Redskins are at their best when Williams is smothering defenders. With Nsekhe, they can get by without him if needed.
3. Jordan Reed, TE
Who suffers more if the other is out, Reed or quarterback Kirk Cousins? Interesting question. I’m tempted to say Cousins without his matchup nightmare running down the seams. However, tight end is perhaps the deepest unit on the roster. Let’s just hope that Reed can avoid injury, particularly another concussion.
2. Kirk Cousins, QB
Cousins put up huge stats the past two seasons, the kind Colt McCoy could only dream of. For another big year, No. 8 must work through a major transition at receiver. No more DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Also no more excuses about inexperience and learning on the job. With big money comes big responsibility. With the transition at WR, the Redskins don’t need one at quarterback this season.
1. Josh Norman, CB
The Redskins have assembled a rather interesting secondary over the last two years. There’s legitimate hope and potential that this group, which includes young corners Kendall Fuller and Fabian Moreau, will become a force after a decade’s long debacle. It all starts with Norman’s shutdown abilities, especially now that the NFC East includes three of the league’s top wide receivers. Nobody can truly stop the Odell Beckhams and Dez Bryants with the modern NFL rules, but Norman is one the few corners who just might. The last guy on the field after every practice isn’t always the most valuable. For the 2017 Washington Redskins, it just works out like that.
MORE REDSKINS COVERAGE:
- Excuses for Kirk Cousins poor play need to stop
- Jeremy Sprinkle trying to catch on with Washington
- 4 takeaways after Washington heads home from training camp
- 5 takeaways from Washington in its first preseason game