Despite being part of a viral video that most college football fans have seen, Tony Washington has fallen into relative anonymity. This viral video replay is, of course, Washington’s scoop-and-score fumble recovery in the Rose Bowl. Perhaps this play not giving him a large amount of fame can be attributed to the fact that most people were interested in Jameis Winston tripping over his own two feet and having an unforced fumble. Regardless of why, the fact is that in NFL Draft circles, Tony Washington is a relative unknown when perhaps he shouldn’t be.
Washington is a typical Oregon LB, being tall, lean, and quick at the point of attack. His biggest weakness, and the reason he’ll be a late round pick, is because he is a very raw pass rusher who often relies on pure athletic ability rather than technique. While Washington is a strong run stopper who can get into the backfield and rarely misses tackles, very few people care about premier run stoppers like they do pass rushers. His stats show him to be a great run stopper, having made 60 total tackles and 12 tackles for a loss in each of his last two seasons at Oregon.
The thing that makes Washington a tricky player for an NFL team to consider is he is a tweener without any definitive position in the NFL. While he does has some pass rushing ability (6.0 and 7.5 sacks in his last two years), he is not polished enough to be a pass rushing specialist. At the same time he is a very good run stopper, but he isn’t big enough to play a 4-3 DE and take full advantage of this skill. This leads me to believe he would fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker, or in a defense that will move him around to different spots such as Buffalo, New Orleans, and Green Bay, among others.
Ultimately Washington is an interesting player who has the skill and potential to be an NFL starter, but doesn’t have a clear cut projectable position in the NFL. He would be a good value pick for a team in the late round looking for a versatile role player who could develop into a starter, and would fit best with a creative defensive mind such as Rob Ryan, Rex Ryan, or Dom Capers. If Washington slips through the draft and winds up being signed as an undrafted free agent, then he will be an absolute steal by whoever does the smart thing and signs him.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline