Redskins take CB Amerson, TE Reed in NFL draft
The Washington Redskins did the expected, then pulled a bit of a surprise Friday during the NFL draft.
The reigning NFC East champions chose cornerback David Amerson of North Carolina State in the second round, a selection that perfectly fit the profile of a team needing to improve a defense that ranked 30th in the league against the pass last year.
Then, in the third round, the Redskins made a move anticipated by neither the team nor the player involved. Even though safety and right tackle are bigger needs, the name announced at Radio City Music Hall was tight end Jordan Reed from Florida - a player coach Mike Shanahan compared to Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots.
"We weren't necessarily looking for a tight end," Shanahan said. "But when he was there, we couldn't pass him up."
Both players should have a chance to make an impact right away. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Amerson set a single-season Atlantic Coast Conference record with 13 interceptions in 2011 and won the Jack Tatum Award as the nation's top defensive back, although his play regressed last year as he tried to do even better. He became a hit-or-miss player, making five interceptions while getting beat far too often for touchdowns.
"At the beginning of the season, I was trying to make every play, trying to make everything an interception, trying to just jump every route," Amerson said from Raleigh, N.C., where he watched the draft in a house filled with friends, family and a generous spread of food.
"I started sitting on routes, eyes in the backfield, stuff like that. It was more of me beating myself more than just getting beat by other receivers, and that's something I had to eliminate. It was hurting my team. It was hurting myself."
The drop-off led to speculation that he would be better suited for safety in the NFL, but the Redskins see him as a cornerback. He said he's ready to re-learn the fundamentals as he joins a team with designs of becoming a Super Bowl contender in Robert Griffin III's second year at quarterback.
"I have to get back to the basics," Amerson said. "And playing football like I know how to play."
The Redskins still have last season's two starting cornerbacks - DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson - and both took pay cuts to remain with the team as it slashed salaries to deal with a cap penalty imposed by the NFL. Neither is under contract beyond this year.
Shanahan suggested that Hall could be moved to safety, leaving an open for Amerson to challenge for a starting job. The coach said he wasn't concerned by Amerson's lapse last year.
"We don't worry about that," Shanahan said. "We're going to coach him the way we want to coach him. He's going to fit in our system. We think he's got the athletic ability to make plays."
Amerson was the first player chosen by the Redskins in this year's draft. The team didn't have a first-round pick, having shipped it to the St. Louis Rams last year for the trade that put Washington into position to select Griffin.
While Amerson knew the Redskins were interested - he had dinner with Shanahan in the lead-up to the draft - Reed didn't have a clue that he was on the team's radar.
"I had no idea I was going to get picked by Washington," the 6-foot-2, 236-pound tight end said. "Big surprise to me. I'm just so excited."
Reed was recruited as a quarterback by Florida and moved to tight end in 2011. Last year he led the Gators in receiving with 45 catches for 559 yards.
The Redskins already have Fred Davis, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen at tight end, but the position has gained more prominence in the NFL passing game in recent years because of versatile players like Hernandez. Shanahan said he could envision all four tight ends on the field at once, especially with Reed's route-running potential.
"A lot like Hernandez," Shanahan said. "I'm not sure if Hernandez is that fast, but he's got the ability to beat linebackers and defensive backs because he knows how to run routes, and this guy's very similar."
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