The Washington Redskins drafted wide receiver Leonard Hankerson in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. At the time, Hankerson was being viewed as a raw prospect, but was also seen as an extremely talented receiver with upside. He simply needed polishing, a little work on his route running, and some additional discipline at game time to realize his potential as a big-time receiver in the NFL.
During his time at the University of Miami, Hankerson was one of the more prolific receivers in school history. It’s quite the feat, considering this is the same school that had Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Michael Irvin. In fact, during Hankerson’s senior season with the Hurricanes, he posted an astronomical 72 receptions for 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Those 13 scores through the air surpassed NFL Hall-of-Famer Irvin’s single season record, which had stood for about 25 years. Hankerson went even further with an impressive Senior Bowl performance in front of NFL coaches and scouts alike. Hauling in a ridiculous five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown, the proud Fort Lauderdale native appeared to be the most talented receiver on the field.
Therefore, when he arrived in Washington, he was expected to produce further down the road. The Redskins’ coaching staff was expected to mold him into a productive outside NFL receiver. Yet, to this point, it’s fair to say Hankerson hasn’t performed up to expectations.
Sure, most Redskins fans were aware that he needed time to develop, but now entering his fourth season in the league, Hankerson must take the next step if he hopes to be a long-term part of the Redskins organization. With the majority of the team’s offensive buzz revolving around the offseason acquisition of former division rival DeSean Jackson, Hankerson certainly has his work cut out for him.
Incumbent starting receiver Pierre Garcon likely has the inside job for one receiver position, and with Jackson’s hefty contract, it would be hard to bench him. So, it looks like the best Hankerson can hope for is the No. 3 job. Unfortunately for him, there will be a fair amount of competition for that spot as well.
As of now, Hankerson will be competing with veteran Andre Roberts and the versatile Jordan Reed for receptions in Washington’s offense. While Reed is listed as more of a tight end or H-back, he will be heavily targeted with his playmaking skills, and given the Redskins penchant for employing a traditionally run-heavy offense, there may not be enough receiving opportunities to go around for Hankerson to make a significant impact this season.
Thus far, his best season came in 2012, which just so happened to be the last time Redskins QB Robert Griffin III was healthy. Hankerson posted 38 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns during that campaign; the following season, with Griffin’s knee injury significantly altering his effectiveness, Hankerson again regressed, catching only 30 passes for a meager 375 yards and three touchdowns.
However, the good part in all this is that he is beginning to show an ability to use his size and speed to his advantage. Given new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden’s passion for receivers with size and legitimate 4.4-type speed (A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu), Hankerson could soon find his niche in what could be a very potent Redskins offense, now that Griffin is once again healthy and playing without a knee brace.
That means Washington fans should not be at all surprised if this once forgotten Hurricane receiver becomes a legitimate part of the Redskins offense, perhaps even overtaking Roberts as the No. 3 receiver. He certainly has the determination and skillset. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not the ball will bounce the way of the former Hurricanes superstar.
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