Redskins load up on receivers on Day 1 of draft

ASHBURN, Va. -- Unable to swing a deal for Chad Johnson, the Washington Redskins found a big receiver in the second round of the NFL draft.


After trading out of the first round, the Redskins on Saturday selected Devin Thomas of Michigan State and Malcolm Kelly of Oklahoma to be among the featured targets in the team's new West Coast offense under first-year coach Jim Zorn.

Bound and determined to stick with the "best player available" philosophy, the Redskins pulled an even bigger surprise by using their other second-round pick on a tight end, certainly not a top position of need on a team with Pro Bowl player Chris Cooley. The selection was Fred Davis of Southern California, whom even Zorn concedes is a "Cooley sort of guy."

Before the draft, the team cited plenty of other areas in need of an upgrade -- offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, depth at linebacker, fullback and safety -- but those will have to wait until the draft resumes with the final rounds on Sunday.

Executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said Thomas, Davis and Kelly all had first-round grades on the team's draft board.

"We've always said we're always going to take the best player when that pick comes around. Everybody says that," Cerrato said. "We mean it when we say it. We're going to take the best player on the board."

Thomas, 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, went first at No. 34 overall.

"I'm a bigger receiver," he said, "so I can go for jump balls and shield the defender from the ball."

The same could be said of Kelly. Or, for that matter, Johnson, the disgruntled Cincinnati Bengals wideout the Redskins tried to acquire. Washington offered its first-round selection (No. 21 overall) to Cincinnati as part of a package for Johnson, but the Bengals remained steadfast in their refusal to comply with his demands for a trade.

So it was on the Plan B. The Redskins assumed -- correctly -- that the receivers they were targeting at No. 21 would also be available in the second round. They traded their first-round pick along with selections in the third and fifth rounds to the Atlanta Falcons for a pair of second-rounders and a fourth-rounder. That left Washington with three second-round picks.

"We felt this draft would be outstanding in the second and third rounds," said Cerrato, overseeing the team's first draft since the retirement of coach and team president Joe Gibbs. "So (we wanted) to gather as many picks as we could in those rounds."

The decision to choose Thomas was made easier when one of the defensive ends Washington had been eyeing -- Clemson's Phillip Merling -- was chosen two picks earlier by the Miami Dolphins.

Davis, 6-4 and 247, went at No. 48. Zorn doesn't see him as a backup for Cooley as much as one-half of a tandem.

"To be able to put two tight ends on the field, take a tight end off, go with no tight ends, shove them both back on and force that defense to match what we're doing is pretty significant," Zorn said, "especially if we go fast."

Then came Kelly at No. 51. The Sooners receiver, 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, hurt his chances of going in the first round after complaining about the circumstances surrounding his disappointing time in a 40-yard dash he ran in front of NFL scouts. Cerrato said the Redskins' research revealed that the outburst was "out of character."

"I definitely have something to prove," said Kelly, who thought he would be selected in the first round. "When all those teams go by and the teams don't select you -- I'm just grateful the Redskins picked me up."

Thomas and Kelly join a roster that includes two productive but shorter receivers -- 5-foot-10 wideouts Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. After selecting Thomas, Cerrato closed the door on the pursuit of Johnson by saying the Redskins will no longer be seeking a trade for a big receiver.

Thomas had only one big year in college, catching 79 passes for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007 as a junior with the Spartans. He also had a 29.1-yard average as a kickoff returner.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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