Is Phillip Thomas the answer to the Redskins' problems?
The Washington Redskins have come to rely up on the draft over free agency since Mike Shanahan's arrival, and this strategy has grown more important in the wake of the cap penalty.
Shanahan has made the gambles where necessary—Robert Griffin III—but has also showed a fondness for trading down and picking up starters in the late rounds. Last year's draft was his best since arriving in Washington, and most rookies found a way to contribute en route to the NFC East crown.
So what about this year?
The Redskins are lacking a first-rounder due to the Griffin trade, so could Shanahan trade back again and opt for value and quantity?
If he were to do so, no one could argue that it's a safe move. Making more from less is something the head coach has done a few times in his career, and this year would be an ideal time to overachieve.
However, the team needs to find starters with its first two picks, and it's a good class from which to do so. Washington needs defensive backs, and there are a lot of good ones available this year.
Trading away its picks would not be wise. Taking the best possible player available at No. 51 would be.
So who are the draft experts predicting Shanahan will take? At the time of writing, most of the sites are just covering the first round, but there are a few who have gone further and mocked the remaining rounds.
Read on to find out who is projected to be in Washington for the 2013 season.
Everyone agrees that the 'Skins need to bolster their secondary, but the players being mocked to the team differ. Safety play was particularly poor last year, which resulted in giving up big plays, and the cornerbacks were left overwhelmed.
Picking a safety at this position is a wise move, and it's easy to see why Miller has picked Swearinger at this position.
He gained second-team All-SEC honors with his performance as a senior last season, finishing with 79 tackles, two interceptions—one returned for a touchdown—two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
In addition to this, Swearinger has the versatility that will undoubtedly be attractive to the Redskins' front office. In addition to playing time at both safety positions, he also split time at cornerback in 2012 and showed that he could perform well in coverage.
He is one of the biggest hitters in this year's class, but isn't just a highlight-reel player. His success in the SEC and ability to read coverages should ensure that he has a smooth transition to the NFL. Swearinger could have been a first-round pick in another class, but the high standard of this year's safeties means that he could fall to Washington in the second round.
There won't be many Redskins fans left unhappy if Swearinger takes the field in burgundy and gold in 2013.
Wreh-Wilson has a very bright future.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson has been the subject of many articles that link him with the Redskins—some of which were authored by this particular writer.
He has the potential to make an impact in his rookie season, but there are question marks remaining around his tackling.
Starting with the positives, Wreh-Wilson is great in zone coverage and gets his hands on a lot of passes. He's a tall, rangy corner with good anticipation and the ability to make plays close to the line of scrimmage, as well as the athleticism to bring players down in space.
He's also the sort of high-character player that Shanahan likes, serving as a team captain in 2012 and earning the respect of scouts around America.
It's entirely possible that a team takes on Wreh-Wilson before the Redskins are up, but it's more likely that he falls to the third round.
The reason I've cooled off on him is because study of his tape demonstrates inconsistencies in his tackling, particularly in the angles he takes.
While he is adept in zone coverage, man coverage shows some flaws in his game. It's clear that he doesn't trust himself as much here, lunging at the ball-carrier in an attempt to end the play as quickly as possible.
This can lead to him giving up a big play, which is something the Redskins need to reduce as much as possible.
Of course, these are all things that can be fixed with coaching, and Wreh-Wilson's positives still vastly outweigh his negatives. He would be a great pickup in the third, but the second round could be a very slight reach.
David Amerson's stock has fallen slightly, but he remains a great prospect.
David Amerson was the talk of the 2013 draft, even before the 2012 season had begun. His 2011 season saw him break the ACC single-season record for interceptions—with 13—and cement his reputation as a serious ballhawk.
However, the following season was a letdown in comparison, and Amerson was unable to recapture the magic. In October, he gave up four touchdown passes in a 44-37 loss to Miami that left his own father doubting it was actually his son on the field.
When speaking to The News Observer, N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien attributed Amerson's regression to the cornerback trying to do too much:
"He’s trying to make every play instead of doing his job,” O’Brien said. “That’s what you’ve got to do. You have to do your job. If he does his job and a ton of other guys do their jobs, then we win the football game."
Now that the distraction and pressure of following his record-setting season are gone, the hope is that Amerson can concentrate on his football. If that happens, the Redskins will have a starting cornerback capable of huge things and an absolute steal so late in the second round.
Phillip Thomas is another player I have been fighting for since the end of the 2012 season. There's a lot to like about his game, from his physicality to his attitude, but as was the case with Wreh-Wilson, a team has to be willing to overlook some flaws when deciding to bring him on board.
Thomas led the nation with eight interceptions last year, as well as showing great instincts in coverage. It's easy to see that Thomas works hard in the film room, and it's an added bonus that he's a fan of the Redskins.
When talking to Mike Jones at The Washington Post, Thomas was excited about the possibility of suiting up for the team he roots for every Sunday:
I hear they need safeties. So if they pick me up, then I think they’d be getting a good one...I’m good in the box, I can come down the line and make some tackles at the point, and I also have the range to play in the middle and get down the sideline and play the ball in the air...I can play strong or free. I want to be able to do a lot of things. I don’t want to just sit back deep, because I can do a lot of things. A team that would let me do a lot of things, I’d be crazy happy.
All of this sounds great, but the concern with Thomas is that he struggles with misdirection, particularly with the read-option. While he'll get a lot of chances to go up against it in Redskins practices, the speed of the NFL makes him vulnerable.
I was so keen to bring him to Washington that I had let some things go by. When I spoke to Mark Bullock at HogsHaven.com via Twitter, he pointed out Chip Kelly's Oregon offense as an example of Thomas' deficiencies.
Looking over the tape of those games, a pattern began to emerge.
Thomas took bad angles, struggled to shed blockers and didn't contain the edge at all. He was hesitant in coverage and allowed the receivers too much space.
Big tight ends in the NFL will take him out of the game, while experienced quarterbacks—of whom the Redskins face many in 2013—will recognize an easy target.
Chip Kelly has also graduated to the NFL with Thomas, meaning that the Eagles will likely run a similar offense to the one Thomas was destroyed by.
From being sure of his suitability for the Redskins to wondering if they should even consider him, Thomas is something of an enigma.
One thing is for certain: he'll need that dedication in the film room over the offseason.