Mar 15, 2016, 12:00 PM EDT
Redskins draft countdown
The NFL draft is 44 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how he might fit in Washington.
40-yard dash: 5.05
Projected draft round: 1
What they’re saying
STRENGTHS: A load in the middle with brute power to engage blockers and toss them aside. Tough to block due to his blend of power and quickness.
At his best when he keeps his pad level low and rolls his hips at the point of attack to carry his momentum into the pocket. Has a motor that is always revving and effort isn’t an issue.
WEAKNESSES: Needs to improve backfield vision and pre-snap anticipation. Relies on forward lean, leading to him overextending and ending up on the ground. Has room to improve his patience and ball awareness. Lacks ideal range to consistently make plays outside the hashes.
How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins said goodbye to nose tackle Terrance Knighton and we are a week into free agency with no free agent replacement in sight. The Redskins could look to Billings to fill the void.
What makes Billings intriguing for the Redskins is that he can play both the zero technique (lined up directly over the center) or the one technique (over either of the center’s shoulders). The Redskins will line up in a true 3-4 only about 25 percent of the time so it is important to have a player who can be flexible.
Billings is unlike a few of the top D-line prospects in this draft in that you don’t have to project his production. In 2015 had 5.5 sacks and led the Bears with 15 tackles for a loss.
Scot McCloughan will examine a lot of film to determine if he fits the Redskins. But this one play shows that he just might. He is out in coverage on a screen pass and he has both the speed and the determination to chase him down from behind.
(GIF via Dallas Morning News)
Potential issues: The issues noted under “weaknesses” above can all be fixed with coaching and film work. The question that needs to be asked is if a first-round pick is too high for a nose tackle. Teams will usually wait until later rounds and find a big body who will plug the middle. If you are going to take a NT in the first he needs to produce like Haloti Ngata, Dontari Poe, or Vince Wilfork. Is Billings at that level?
This may be a positive or a negative but it’s worth noting that he just turned 21 earlier this month, making him one of the youngest players in this year’s draft pool. On the one hand you have to wonder if he will immediately have the maturity needed to succeed in the NFL. On the other hand, he will be in his second contract at the age of 25. He could be around a while.
Bottom line: Billings brings a rare combination of strength and speed. You saw his speed in the GIF above; when they put a stopwatch to him at the combine he ran a 5.05 forty-yard dash. He showed his strength as a senior in high school when he went to the state meet and set a record lifting a combined 2,010 pounds (805 pounds on the squat, 505 on the bench press, and 705 on the dead lift).
Would McCloughan pull the trigger on a nose tackle at pick No. 21? I think he showed last year that he’s not afraid to defy conventional wisdom in regards to when positions “should” be picked when he took Brandon Scherff, who was first a right tackle then a guard, with the fifth pick. If McCloughan thinks that Billings is the right kind of player and the best one on the board I don’t think he will hesitate to turn in the card.
In his own words
How he sees himself growing as a player:
I envision myself with double the knowledge really, and really playing the game smarter, not harder. I want to be able to get all the tricks the defensive linemen have right now and really use them against offensive linemen who have been playing for 12 years in the league.
Previously in Redskins draft countdown:
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