Going into the 2013 season, the Washington Redskins will virtually have the same starting lineup that brought them an NFC East division title this past season.
Despite the overall continuity that Mike Shanahan has stressed, he has the option to bring seven new players to the roster.
In what has become the most boring offseason in the Daniel Snyder era, the importance of this year’s NFL draft remains vital to Washington's momentum.
With that said, there are still holes that need to be filled. Much of the debate amongst Redskins Nation has been between safety, cornerback and right tackle. Names such as D.J. Swearinger, Matt Elam, Tyrann Mathieu, David Amerson and Menelik Watson have all been on Washington's radar.
By putting that into consideration, Mike Shanahan’s first selection in the second round is going to be difficult. He has two options: selecting the best available player or drafting a need.
After the first round, drafting the best available player becomes a common strategy for NFL franchises; however, the Redskins do not have that luxury.
Given the team’s salary-cap infractions, the front office did not have the ability to address specific areas of need during free agency. Yes, veterans such as Tony Pashos, Jeremy Trueblood and E.J. Biggers were signed, but that’s not substantial.
So when it’s the Redskins turn to pick at No. 51, what will they do? Will they go after a cornerback like Jordan Poyer or Desmond Trufant? What about safety: Phillip Thomas or Bacarri Rambo?
With the re-signing of DeAngelo Hall, the team’s starting cornerbacks have returned along with the newly signed Biggers and second-year player Richard Crawford, who will be competing for a reserve role. (Don’t rule out Chase Minnifield either.)
So all things considered, the Skins have shown to “get by” with the cornerbacks listed above.
On the other hand, both safety positions remain a major question. Brandon Meriweather is returning from a torn ACL, and Tanard Jackson will be coming off a suspension and is now years removed from being a starter. Reserves Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes have had multiple chances to become the answer at either safety positions, but neither player has stood out.
Therefore, the safety positions (especially the free safety) are major areas of need, and this year’s crop of safeties will be available to address them.
That’s what the Redskins need to do. Selecting a free safety gives them a potential long-term answer for the defense. In addition, the rookie will be in a position to succeed with reliable veterans who are familiar with the defense.
While he’s not going to be as tantalizing as the late Sean Taylor, the Redskins front office absolutely needs to hit on this selection.
Not only does drafting a safety with the first selection fill a major need, it’s the safest route to go. With limited resources at the moment, the Redskins cannot afford to gamble on personnel.
Since Shanahan’s arrival in Washington in 2010, he has been credited with his impressive drafts, and this one will be his biggest challenge. Starting in the second round, the entire NFL draft will soon dictate how good of a franchise the Redskins are capable of being.