The Washington Football Team has been drafting well for a few years now. Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Cole Holcomb and Kamren Curl are some recent examples of how well Washington has done in the NFL draft beyond the first round.
Washington has obviously nailed all of its first-round picks dating back to 2017, too, with defensive tackle Jonathan Allen becoming the first of the bunch to cash in.
ESPN recently ranked all 32 NFL teams by their under-25 talent — and Washington was ranked No. 2.
Yes, No. 2.
2020 ranking: 12
Blue-chip players: ER Chase Young, ER Montez Sweat, SS Kamren Curl, DT Daron Payne, LB Jamin Davis
Notable graduated players: WR Terry McLaurin, LB Cole Holcomb
Washington’s young talent is almost all about the defense, which makes sense since Washington finished third in defensive DVOA last season after one of the 10 biggest year-to-year improvements on that side of the ball in our entire database (since 1983).
Obviously, the huge superstar here is Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young, who is just 22 and with a fifth-year option will be under contract in Washington for four more years. Young had 7.5 sacks and 26 hurries last season. On the other side of the line, Montez Sweat just makes it past the deadline for consideration on this list (he turns 25 on Sept. 4!) and he had nine sacks and 32 hurries last season. In between them is 24-year-old Daron Payne as one of two starting defensive tackles; he was third at his position in run stop rate last season. His backup, Tim Settle, is also just 24.
Of course, all three of these starting linemen were first-round picks, so we expected them to be good. The same goes for this year’s first-round selection, the raw but athletic linebacker Jamin Davis. Washington is also getting defensive value from later-round selections. Kamren Curl was a seventh-round pick in 2020 but started 11 games at safety and led the team in run stops. He made his average run tackle after just a 4.1-yard gain, phenomenal even for a box safety. He is still just 22. On the other side of the ball, the young talent is highlighted by running back Antonio Gibson, who finished sixth in rushing DVOA as a rookie and takes over the starting job full time this season at age 23.
The only team ranked ahead of Washington was the Miami Dolphins. And, the reason Miam was ahead of Washington was the presence of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
While both have strong rosters, ESPN says Washington is loaded everywhere and has a veteran stopgap at quarterback, while Miami has its quarterback of the future. That matters.
Something to note, that veteran stopgap — Ryan Fitzpatrick — was with the Dolphins last season, where he outplayed Tagovailoa.
Overall, this ranking feels about right. Washington is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. And the last few drafts and free-agency periods give the Football Team plenty of ammunition to go after the quarterback they desire in 2022 — whether it’s a rookie or a veteran.
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