It is no secret that the Washington Redskins’ biggest need in this year’s draft is at the defensive back position.
Although they have made some moves in free agency, there is still a lot of firming up to do. In terms of possible draftees, there are several prospects that have much potential. Washington has seven picks between the second and seventh rounds. They are sure to use at least a couple of them on defensive backs.
There has been much speculation as to whom they should pick, but regardless of whichever player is selected, they are sure to find a guy with a good amount of upside.
The question that remains is this: Who will pay off most in the long run?
Defensive back is possibly the deepest position in this year’s class. Washington is sure to get a good player, although he may not exactly be a blue chipper. Given the Redskins placement in each round of the draft, you can eliminate some guys from the list of viable options.
Top-ranked players like Dee Milliner and Kenny Vaccaro are more than likely out of the question, but that doesn't mean that there won’t be a guy with plenty ability there for them throughout the draft process.
There are four players who come to mind that would not only fit Washington’s defensive scheme well but also have plenty of potential. Although there are many players that could fit this mold, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Matt Elam, D.J. Swearinger and Ray-Ray Armstrong are the guys that should be on Mike Shanahan and Co.’s radar.
The Redskins will have a good chance at selecting each of these guys, but which is the smartest pick long term?
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Cornerback, Connecticut
Wreh-Wilson has the ideal size for a corner at 6’0”, 190 pounds. He’s a bit long, too, and has a knack for breaking up passes. His size also allows him to jam bigger receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt their route.
Physicality is something that the Redskins secondary greatly missed last year. Wreh-Wilson could definitely bring that to the table and more.
He was voted the Most Valuable Player of his team in 2012, and also had no red flags throughout his collegiate career.
He played a lot of man coverage in college, but that sometimes highlighted one of his most important weaknesses: He struggles against strong route-runners. He has tight hips when he is forced to flip his feet and run with a receiver.
Although he makes up for it a lot with his physicality and tenaciousness, it is definitely a concern of most.
If he is put into the right system with the right coaches, he could surely develop into a very good starter.
Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
Although he lacks eye-popping stats, Elam is arguably the best hitter in this year’s class of defensive backs.
He shows good instincts and a natural aggression that you like to see in a safety. His greatest strength is his athleticism and aggression, but that’s also his greatest flaw. His high-risk style of play sometimes leads to him going more for a big hit as opposed to a clean, form tackle.
Aside from that, there aren’t many negatives when it comes to Elam. He does not have any serious off-field issues, and his hunger for competition is what made him a soulful leader for the Gator defense for years.
He is raw and could use some coaching up, but Elam would be a day one starter right away for the Skins.
D.J. Swearinger, FS, South Carolina
As I mentioned before, the Redskins were seriously lacking physicality in their secondary last season, and that’s something Swearinger could definitely aid.
The thing that stands out most about him is his knack for big hits. Swearinger is versatile enough to not just be a force on the back end of the defense, but can also step up into the box and play well against the run.
The biggest knock on Swearinger is his role in coverage. At South Carolina we saw him largely as a defensive enforcer, coming up and making the hit when needed. However, he struggled when having to play the deep ball.
He does have good fluidity, though. He can flip his hips and has pretty good speed coming out of his backpedal.
Swearinger is one of the better players right now, and would certainly be a plug-and-play guy, but there are questions as to exactly how high his ceiling is.
Ray-Ray Armstrong, SS, Faulkner
Although he was out of football in 2012, Armstrong could be an absolute steal when the draft rolls around in a couple of weeks.
At the very highest, Armstrong is likely a sixth- or seventh-round pick, but that is largely because of his character concerns, not his level of play. While he definitely has some serious red flags off the field, he could still pan out and become a great player in the NFL.
Remember, the last time the Redskins drafted a troubled safety from Miami, he turned out to be a Pro Bowler. In fact, Armstrong and Sean Taylor both wore No. 26 when they were at Miami.
While Armstrong is certainly not where Taylor was when he was entering the draft, he definitely has great potential. Out of all four of the guys on this list, Armstrong perhaps has the highest ceiling.
If Mike Shanahan and his coaching staff do decide to take a chance on the kid, they could really have a steal of a pick. With the right surroundings, Armstrong could have a serious impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Given the veteran leadership on Washington’s defense, the Redskins may trust their guys to help shape him up and help him realize his tremendous potential.
Armstrong has the size, speed and athleticism necessary to become one of the best safeties to come out of this year’s draft.
Shanny has his eye on this one.