The Redskins made a number of obvious moves during the 2019 NFL Draft.
The team needed a quarterback, so they added a quarterback. Washington had to bring in interior offensive linemen, so they drafted two guards. The team was desperate for new talent at the receiver position, and brought in two new wideouts.
One selection made less sense though, at least on the surface level.
In the fourth round, the Redskins took Stanford running back Bryce Love. A dynamic talent and Heisman finalist two seasons ago, Love would have been a first-round pick a year ago had he declared for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Instead, he returned to Stanford for his senior season. His team wasn’t nearly as good, his numbers dipped, and he suffered a major knee injury late in the year (see video above).
That’s the Love situation.
The Redskins running back situation is quite different. And possibly full.
Adrian Peterson proved he still had plenty left last year when he played in every game and rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He will be 34 this season, but after last year, it would be silly to believe he can’t continue to produce.
There’s also Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson.
Guice was supposed to be the future at RB last year when he was drafted in the second round, until he hurt his knee in the preseason. Guice missed his entire rookie season.
Thompson has been a strong weapon for Washington when he’s been able to stay on the field. In 2017, Thompson was having a fantastic season before breaking his leg late in the year. In 2018, Thompson dealt with a bunch of different injuries and his production suffered.
The ‘Skins have other backs – Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall fill out the depth chart. But the addition of Love is not about replacing Perine or Marshall.
The addition of Love can mean a few different things.
Thompson is in the last year of his contract. He’s a fan favorite, active in the community and one of the best blocking backs in the NFL.
Love’s game seems well suited for a third-down back role in the NFL. He has speed and burst but probably not the size to play every down.
A year from now, Love looks like a natural replacement for Thompson. That might be tough for fans to hear because Thompson is such a great dude, but it’s the cold reality of the NFL business.
This season, however, expect Love to open his first NFL training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. That means he won’t count toward the 53-man roster and won’t be eligible to play until the halfway point of the season.
By then, odds are one of the Redskins other running backs might be hurt, and Love can start to play. Assuming his recovery from ACL surgery suffers no setbacks.
Speaking of setbacks, Guice is returning from knee surgery and Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he was ahead of schedule in his recovery. Love’s arrival should not cast doubt on Guice’s availability. That said, Love could be insurance down the road if Guice struggles coming back from a knee that bothered him in college too.
From a roster standpoint, the Redskins carried four running backs last year. There’s no reason to think they can’t do that again, but it would be too big an assumption to put Love on the team as the fourth RB.
For 2018, Guice, Peterson and Thompson all seem like roster locks. Then probably Perine again if, or when, Love starts the year on the PUP list. The Redskins are not required to activate Love to the roster if they do use the PUP list, though he might be able to gain some valuable practice time.
Love’s arrival likely means much more for 2020 than it does for 2019. It’s a move for a team that is planning ahead, as Thompson will be a free agent and Peterson will be 35 years old.