There is nothing quite like draft time around the NFL, where fans are buzzing, and both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay get to put their months of research to the test in their latest mock drafts. In the case of the Washington Redskins, Kiper and McShay tackle the task of fixing a very broken defensive secondary.
With no first-round pick, the Redskins find themselves lucky to be drafting in such a deep class of safeties and cornerbacks, even if there are no surefire elite prospects.
If it isn't clear by now, the Redskins have a substantial need for help in their secondary, particularly at either safety position, though it would be difficult to pass up a top cornerback in the second round.
Both Kiper and McShay agree that, should South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger fall to the Redskins with the 51st pick, he should be their man.
In his assessment of Washington's needs, and the prospects who fit best, McShay says "Matt Elamor John Cyprien would be a better value if either fell, but Swearinger has the overall skill set to be an upgrade over Reed Doughty."
In his three-round mock draft, where he has the 'Skins taking Swearinger, Kiper said he "has good experience and a bunch of fantastic performances in big games and big situations. He can play right away."
Swearinger has a style and playmaking ability that suits a free safety, though he lacks prototypical height for the position. His cover skills leave are average, but he has great ball skills and hits like a ton of bricks.
McShay didn't put out a draft with third-round picks, so Kiper is all alone in his assessment of Washington's next pick.a With the 85th pick in the draft, Kiper projects the Redskins to select Robert Alford, cornerback from Southeastern Louisiana.
Though not a big-name prospect from a powerhouse school, Alford offers the Redskins some flexibility at corner. By re-signing DeAngelo Hall, they've at least maintained their starting corners from last season.
They added E.J. Biggers for depth, and possibly more if he develops, but Alford would be a fourth corner with the potential to develop into a good starter.
Alford is, in Kiper's estimation, "a bit of a ceiling pick -- he has a lot of ability but will need a little time to develop against better competition."
With the youth the Redskins have added to their roster in the last couple of seasons, time is something they finally have, though it would be a huge boost if their defense progressed to where it should have been two seasons ago when Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan were supposed to be twin terrors at outside linebacker.
If Kiper and McShay are right in Washington picking Swearinger in the second round, the Redskins will be instantly better on defense.
If they then add Alford, and he is as laden with potential as Kiper believes, then the Redskins defense will have a bright future, particularly in their secondary.
Regardless of whether the picks are correct, the Redskins will certainly be targeting defense in this draft, and would be lucky to land either Alford or Swearinger, let alone both.