Top Draft Picks Add Versatility to Offense
By Gary Fitzgerald
April 28, 2008
One by one, the Redskins' top draft picks arrived in the auditorium at Redskins Park, dressed impeccably for their introductory press conferences.
They hope to usher in a new era for the Redskins' offense.
Team officials had focused on offense in the first day of the NFL Draft, selecting Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas, USC tight end Fred Davis and Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly.
All three were second-round picks. All three could eventually have prominent roles in Jim Zorn's new West Coast offense.
"I think they give us a tremendous amount of flexibility," Zorn said. "It gives us depth. If we get somebody nicked up, we won't lose anything with the firepower we have on the field.
"We have the ability to change personnel groups.. We'll be able to use certain guys for certain situations. Plus, the height that they have in the red zone, it will be a real advantage."
Devin Thomas (Bill Wood Photo)
Zorn couldn't help talking X's and O's, even on a day to meet and greet the newest Redskins.
Thomas was first up.
"I'm on cloud nine," he said. "[Getting drafted] is something you dream of when you're young, watching the draft and getting the phone call. But now it's a job and I'm getting ready to go to work."
Thomas was the Redskins' first pick. Team officials were happy to see him still on the draft board after they had traded out of the first round to the 34th overall selection in the second round.
Thomas declared for the NFL Draft after his junior campaign. He set a school record with 79 receptions and ranked second in the Big Ten Conference with 1,260 receiving yards. He started all 13 games for the Spartans in 2007 and tallied eight touchdown receptions.
At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he compares himself to Arizona Cardinals' Anquan Boldin and Pittsburgh Steelers' Hines Ward--with a little bit of Santana Moss's speed added in for good measure.
"With my size, I can fight for the ball and use my body," he said. "I can go up to the highest point and box out defensive backs and linebackers going across the middle. I can take some shots and keep on ticking. I'll be all right."
Davis was the Redskins' second pick in the second round, at No. 48 overall.
He arrived at Redskins Park for his 12 noon press conference, and then he was expected to travel to New York City to receive the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top college football tight end.
Fred Davis (Bill Wood Photo)
Davis, 6-3 and 247 pounds, played four years at USC, and his 117 career receptions for 1,408 yards set school records for tight ends.
David admitted that he was surprised the Redskins drafted him. He had minimal contact with the team at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Apparently, he made a good impression.
In elementary school, Davis said he played on a football team nicknamed the Redskins, so he figured getting drafted by the NFL's Redskins was "destiny."
"I really appreciate the opportunity to be here," he said. "It was just great to finally hear my name called and finally be a Redskin."
Davis calls himself a "deep threat" as a tight end.
"If I go one on one with a linebacker, I'm going to win," he said.
That confidence will have to take a back seat until he learns the Redskins' new offense. Plus, the Redskins have a Pro Bowler at the position in Chris Cooley.
"I'm going to watch and learn from him," Davis said. "[Cooley] is a great tight end. I watched a lot of him in college and he's a leader here. I just want to try to get on the field and work hard."
Kelly's introductory press conference was the last of the day at Redskins Park.
Prior to the draft, the Redskins were open about their interest in Kelly, working him out in Oklahoma on April 24. Still, his selection was a mild surprise because the team had just selected Thomas.
Kelly wasn't sure of the team's intentions himself.
"After the workout, I figured I would end up a Washington Redskin," he said. "That's what I told everyone. When they [drafted] Thomas, I wasn't sure what would happen, but I knew [Coach Zorn] was putting in a new offense so I thought it was still a possibility."
The Redskins selected Kelly with their last pick of the third round, at No. 51 overall. His selection helps solidify the wide receiver position, adding depth behind starters Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.
"It's time to come here and do what I was born to do," Kelly said.
Malcolm Kelly (Bill Wood Photo)
At 6-3 and 219 pounds, Kelly is lankier than Thomas, but he has more playing experience in Division I football.
Like Thomas, Kelly comes out of college as a junior. He grabbed 144 passes for 2,285 yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons with the run-oriented Sooners.
Thomas and Kelly already have a good rapport. They first met at the NFL Scouting Combine and they got to know each other the last two months as top draft prospects.
When the Redskins drafted Thomas at No. 34, Kelly sent him a text message congratulating him. An hour later, when the Redskins drafted Kelly at No. 51, Thomas sent a text message back that read, "Welcome to the team. We're teammates now."
Kelly said he needs to work on his route-running at the pro level. He must learn how to put new moves on NFL defensive backs to find open space in the secondary.
"In the end, when there's a defender in front of me, I just play football," he said. "That's what I do."
Kelly grew up in Longview, Tex., about one hour from Dallas, and he admitted he "rooted for the Cowboys."
Note that he said it in past tense. When did that stop?
"About two days ago," he replied.
The remark drew laughter around Redskins Park.
So it was a day for introductions, for new allegiances and new optimism at Redskins Park.
This Friday, all of the Redskins draft picks will begin their NFL career at the team's mini-camp, scheduled for May 2-4. Said Zorn: "Each player that comes in, you can see the love and support they have had from their families. Now they're entrusted to us."