Round 4, 109 overall — S Troy Apke, Penn State
I had to check myself after I saw this pick. It’s clear the Skins front office has a plan when drafting mid-round defensive backs — they go for athletes and then try to get them coached up. This is what the Skins did last year when they took Montae Nicholson in the fourth round of the 2017 Draft. I bashed that pick at the time and I was wrong. Nicholson’s athleticism proved crucial to turning him into an early contributor on defense. Washington DB Coach Torrian Gray was able to quickly turn Nicholson into a capable starting NFL safety. Gray won’t have to do that with Apke just yet, but that’s clearly the plan.
You could argue that nobody did more to boost his draft profile at the NFL Combine than Troy Apke, who wowed everyone (including Deion Sanders) with his athletic prowess. “Hey man, that was good,” Sanders told Apke, as he walked over to embrace him. “Man, you can ‘run’ run.”
Indeed he can. Apke ran two sub-4.4 times at the Combine and posted a 41-inch vertical leap and a 131-inch broad jump. If that wasn’t enough, Apke;s 4.03 in the 20-yard shuttle led all safeties at the event and his 6.56 time in the three-cone was tied for best. This cat is a serious athlete.
What Apke doesn’t have is a lot of experience as a starting safety. He began his college career at Penn State as a receiver and was then moved to safety, where he backed up from 2014-2016, before emerging as a solid starter in 2017. As you might expect from someone with so little experience at the position, there are problems. You can see Apke taking bad angles in the passing game and, while he’s decent in the running game, he still misses far too many tackles.
Apke should make an immediate impact on special teams, which will need a boost after the disappearance of past contributors like Niles Paul. The Skins needed to get faster and more athletic, as well as bigger and tougher, in this draft. Apke certainly has athletic ability. If Coach Gray can teach him how to play the NFL game, the Skins will have a serious talent on their hands.
Round 5, 163 overall — DT Tim Settle, Virginia Tech
The two players I wanted the Skins to get out of this Draft were Da’Ron Payne and Tim Settle and I never thought Settle would be available late in the 5th round, so I’m very pleased. Settle has impressive measurables, at 6’3″ and 330 pounds, with 33″ arms. On the other hand, his measureables in footspeed don’t impress so much. But since he’s a classic defensive tackle or nose tackle type, does this matter so much?
The truth is, Settle has good quickness and explosion with his first step and his power has the ability to quickly overwhelm offensive linemen. His agility for a man his size is rare and he plays with an almost reckless and very infectious enthusiasm.
However, weight and conditioning have been a problem for Settle for years. He spent his redshirt freshman year getting into shape and deserves credit for it. However, he doesn’t look like he’s in NFL shape and he carries some pretty obvious blubber (I mean bad fat) around his midsection. His enthusiasm sometimes leads Settle to reach when he shouldn’t and this results in him ending up on the ground more often than is desirable. While his desire to make plays is laudable, Settle needs to control his effort sometimes so he doesn’t take himself out of plays. In addition, he needs to pace himself a bit because he’s not in the kind of shape he needs to be in order to play like a maniac for 40 plays a game.
When I look at Settle I see a poor man’s Dontari Poe and that’s a great thing to find in a late 5th round pick. Get this kid on a diet and exercise regimen and turn him loose. I’d be shocked if he isn’t getting serious run during real NFL games very soon.
Round 6, 197 overall — LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
This undersized ‘backer combined with Reuben Foster a year ago to form one of the best linebacker duos in college football. Then Hamilton tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in the SEC Championship game and things haven’t been the same since.
Prior to the injury, Hamilton looked like exactly the sort of heady, hard-hitting and speedy linebacker teams need in a pass-happy era. His coverage skills, in particular, must have had NFL scouts drooling.
Hamilton worked his way back from the ACL tear to start the first nine games of 2017, his senior season, until a fractured kneecap put an end to all that.
When healthy, Hamilton is a classic 3-4 inside linebacker who sees the game quickly and breaks down plays accurately. Alabama insiders referred to Hamilton as “the brains of the operation” on defense. In other words, the future captain of your defense.
There are two questions about Hamilton, who hasn’t been healthy enough to work out for teams, causing his draft stock to fall.
Question 1: Will he fully recover his athleticism?
Question 2: Is he big enough to withstand the NFL game?
There’s no doubt that Hamilton is smaller than teams like their linebackers to be, but smaller inside ‘backers have been doubted before and proven the doubters wrong. (Remember Sam Mills? Hamilton is quite a bit bigger than him.)
Apart from Guice, this might be the smartest pick of the draft for the Skins. If he recovers from his injuries, Hamilton is a future starter at ILB and should be calling defensive signals before his rookie contract is up? If he cannot fully recover from his injuries, the Skins wasted a sixth round pick. No big deal.
Round 7, Pick 241 overall — CB Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech
Skinny and a bit undersized, Stroman looks like someone who might get run over by the bigger wideouts in the NFL. However, he ran a 4.48 in the 40 at the Combine and he’s got the quickness of feet and instincts that teams like in a cornerback.
A terrific athlete, Stroman played quarterback in high school, racking up passing and rushing yards, as well as touchdowns. The reputation Virginia Tech has for producing first-rate defensive backs and special teams contributors is likely what drew Washington’s attention to him.
Stroman can cover and while he might give up some balls to very tall receivers, he dealt with that pretty effectively in college. Can he rack up a solo tackle against a big guy in run support? I have my doubts. Stroman’s thin frame doesn’t look like it can support a lot more weight and when you see his legs, you realize their as thin as sticks.
Stroman played for Redskins DB Coach Torrian Gray and if anyone can turn Stroman into a slot corner in the NFL, Gray is the one to do it. If nothing else, Stroman could take over punt return duties from WR Jamison Crowder, who has been a bust in two of his three season handling that duty.
Round 7, 256 overall — WR Trey Quinn, Southern Methodist
With average height and speed, Quinn does not look like someone who will light up an NFL roster. However, this kid is incredibly productive. Quinn caught a Louisiana state-record 357 passes for a national-best 6,566 and 70 touchdowns during his storied high school career. He signed with LSU, but then transferred to SMU due to rare opportunities in LSU’s run-intensive offense.
All Quinn did at SMU last year was lead the nation with 114 receptions, gaining 1,236 yards and scoring 13 times. While he has the experience to play inside or outside, Quinn will have to make it as a slot receiver in the NFL, where his ball skills and superb route-running can be used to their full advantage, while minimizing his problems with speed and size.
Quinn almost never drops a pass and always seems to be right where he is supposed to be on the field. On the other hand, he’s basically a one-year wonder who seems nothing special athletically.
Fearless prediction: Quinn will be a starting slot WR in the NFL. He’s been productive at every level. I’ll bet that continues at the highest level.