The Redskins had several needs to address during this weekend’s draft.
Despite trading away their second-round pick for the right to take Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick, general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan were able to address some of these needs with some solid picks in the third and fourth rounds.
The Redskins made some good moves in the offseason, but they needed a good draft to continue their improvements and to give themselves a chance in the tough NFC East.
Here are four bold predictions for the Skins’ first four draft picks, each of whom has the potential to significantly affect how the Redskins perform in the 2012 season.
Pick: Round 1, Pick 2
Vitals: 6’2”, 223 pounds
Prediction: Griffin will have the best season of any offensive rookie.
The Redskins spent the entire offseason preparing to draft Griffin, and they cashed in on Thursday night when they drafted the Heisman winner with the second overall pick in the draft.
Griffin has the right attitude, work ethic, intelligence and skill set to succeed as a rookie. Shanahan’s offense is perfectly suited to Griffin’s athleticism, and will highlight RGIII’s ability to throw accurately while rolling to both sides of the field.
The Skins re-signed tight end Fred Davis and added receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, who will join Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Chris Cooley as weapons for RGIII in the passing game.
Griffin will be able to scramble effectively and gain yards with his legs, but he can also rely on Davis and Cooley to provide big, easy targets when the play breaks down—a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend, and RGIII has two good ones.
Things are shaping up well for Griffin in Washington, and there is no limit to his potential as a professional quarterback. Expectations are high, but Griffin will deliver.
Pick: Round 3, Pick 8 (71st overall)
School: Southern Methodist University
Vitals: 6’3”, 312 pounds
Prediction: Leribeus will start games and get significant playing time at guard this year.
Leribeus is an interior lineman with good size and tenacity at the line. He fits in very well with Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, and specializes at keeping defenders engaged and sustaining his blocks.
Guard was a real weakness for the Redskins last year, especially after Kory Lichtensteiger went down with an injury in week six. Chris Chester has been decent, but there is certainly room in the rotation for a run-blocker like Leribeus.
Leribeus will add depth and may initially be limited to rotating in on running downs, but if Lichtensteiger or Chester should decline or get hurt, Leribeus should be ready to play.
Pick: Round 4, Pick 7 (102nd overall)
School: Michigan State
Vitals: 6’3”, 214 pounds
Prediction: Cousins will provide fantastic value to the Redskins in one way or another.
It is easy to question this pick, but Shanahan seems to know a little something about drafting two quarterbacks in the same year—the Broncos that he won a super bowl with did just that with John Elway and Gary Kubiak in 1983, and that seems to have worked out pretty well.
The first scenario is Cousins remaining a Redskin and backing up RGIII for years to come. There is no quarterback controversy in Washington, and Griffin is surely the starter, but in case of an injury Cousins is an excellent game manager who still fits the mold of a Shanahan-type quarterback.
Cousins is a good athlete and can throw on the run, and he has proven his leadership and work ethic as a three-year starter and captain at Michigan State. He is everything you want out of a backup—smart, athletic, and accurate on short- and medium-length throws.
These same positive traits will force teams to consider the possibility that Cousins has the potential to be a consistent starter, and the second scenario is the Redskins trading Cousins to a team ready for a change at quarterback (see, Jacksonville in six months).
Overall, it is a good sign that Shanahan is not happy having last year’s starter Rex Grossman as the Skins’ backup, considering he threw an interception in every game he played in last year. Backup quarterback was still a position of need, and Cousins may find himself one RGIII-injury away from stepping in at quarterback.
Pick: Round 4, Pick 24 (119th overall)
Vitals: 6’3”, 242 pounds
Prediction: Robinson will be an important part of the Redskins’ pass coverage sets.
Robinson was a tall, fast inside linebacker at Texas, but he projects better as an outside linebacker at the next level. He is a fluid athlete and a solid tackler, but he lacks the thickness and strength to effectively stop the run from the inside-backer spot.
On the outside, he will sit behind young standouts Brian Orakpo (ROLB) and Ryan Kerrigan (LOLB) on most downs, but expect to see him rotating in on obvious passing downs throughout the year.
Robinson has the speed and coverage skills to drop back and cover a tight end or fullback, and he also has experience using his speed to blitz a gap and get after the quarterback. Orakpo and Kerrigan are excellent pass rushers, but Robinson would provide a more mobile option who can give offenses problems with his versatility.
Robinson could come in and replace one of those two on passing downs, and may even become a permanent fixture as a nickel linebacker. Outside linebacker may not have been a need, but Robinson can really impact the Skins’ coverage sets, and could be a great value for a late fourth-round pick.