Biggest Questions for the Washington Redskins Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft
Maybe the Washington Redskins' free-agency period has been a bit ho-hum.
This month's draft certainly won't be.
Strapped with an $18 million cap penalty, head coach Mike Shanahan and the Redskins front office have been forced to remain thrifty in choosing who they can bring in and sign. In turn, the draft becomes that much more important.
Luckily, this class provides significant depth at positions the team most desires.
Holes to fill, decisions to make and seven draft choices. Here's a handful of questions the Redskins need to ponder heading into April 25.
5. Don't Forget About the Linebackers
Not so much a question; a statement.
Although much of the draft talk surrounding the Redskins is about the secondary and offensive line, the linebacker position is still a critical one.
London Fletcher is returning for his 16th season, Brian Orakpo is entering the final year of his contract and the recently re-signed Rob Jackson will miss the first four games of the season after failing a drug test.
With plenty of storylines to throw around, it will be interesting to see if the Redskins address the position this April to help build on the structure they already have with guys like Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson and, presumably, Orakpo.
4. Confidence in the Tight End Position?
Re-signing Fred Davis last week was a huge get for the Redskins. Despite just a one-year deal, Davis adds a wrinkle to the offense and is committed to proving himself in 2013 in order to land a much bigger contract next season.
In addition to Davis, retaining restricted free agent Logan Paulsen also served as a solid move at the tight end position. Although not the receiving threat of Davis, Paulsen is a hard worker and a key blocker in the team's offense.
But that Fred Davis deal is still a one-year show-me contract. Is anyone positive he'll regain his explosiveness following an Achilles tear? Can he return to his early 2012 form?
Let's say Davis does have a good comeback year in 2013. Oftentimes it's the second year following an injury that's the most crucial. And next spring, Davis is going to demand top dollar if he does perform well.
Assuming the Redskins stick to the script and think long-term, taking advantage of a deep tight end class in this year's draft (with value in mind, of course) would be wise.
3. Safety or Cornerback in the 2nd Round?
There's no question the Redskins need to address the secondary in the coming weeks. They can afford to spend three or four picks on the back of the defensive.
But what position do they draft first?
The Redskins were held tight in free agency, with their biggest splash coming by way of cornerback E.J. Biggers. And while the visit from veteran Antoine Winfield last week is good news, there's still no deal done.
As of right now, the Redskins only have one legitimate starting corner in Josh Wilson.
On the other hand, safety Brandon Meriweather is assumed to make a full recovery after tearing his ACL last year during an injury-filled first season in Washington. He restructured his contract this offseason.
After Meriweather, the Redskins are left with guys like Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes and Jordan Bernstine.
Coverage will improve by way of an effective pass rush. A quality safety can help too. But what the Redskins ultimately need to think about when they turn in their first draft selection at No. 51 is what position holds more value at that point in the draft. This class has plenty of talent at both safety and corner.
Taking the best player available amongst secondary positions is the best move.
2. When Do We Address the Offensive Line?
Or do they at all?
While it may not be riot material, the signings of free agents Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood aren't all that exciting. Nor is retaining last year's starter at right tackle, Tyler Polumbus.
Could it simply be that Mike Shanahan doesn't put as much value in the position?
Don't forget about last year's draft pick, either: Tom Compton. He should receive his fair shot in camp to start on the right side next season.
While it's likely the Redskins address the offensive line at some point this April, not seeing a tackle prospect wouldn't be a surprise. Given the team needs and depth at other positions in this class, the Redskins could be satisfied with adding a versatile interior blocker in the later rounds.
1. Where Can We Draft Speed with Best Value?
Assuming the Redskins brass agrees, adding speed on offense will be an interesting process to observe in this draft.
As mentioned before, re-signing tight end Fred Davis was a great move. But there's no promises of what he returns with following an Achilles tear last season.
Even with Davis in original form, the Redskins offense needs more explosiveness. More speed. More quickness.
And that's why the question isn't so much about adding new speed. I'm sure Shanahan and the coaching staff would agree.
Instead, it's more about at what point in the draft does it bear the best value.
There's a ton of hype surrounding West Virginia's Tavon Austin as the best offensive weapon in this class. He's, of course, a first-round talent and unattainable for the Redskins.