5 Players the Washington Redskins Should Target on Day 3
Mike Shanahan is not an easy man to predict. No one had Jordan Reed mocked to the Washington Redskins in the third round, just as no one had Josh LeRibeus there in the third last year.
There are a lot of people expressing displeasure with the team for not selecting a safety with either of its first two picks, and it remains a position of need. However, having someone on the roster with the tools to be another Aaron Hernandez is something Shanahan felt he couldn't miss out on. It's not like the Redskins are set at tight end for the future, either.
So what about the safety position?
Fair enough—if the Redskins don't address the situation on Day 3, you have my permission to start panicking. Read on for five players the team should be watching as the draft enters its final day.
Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
In the first mock draft I completed in January, I projected that the Redskins would take Phillip Thomas in the second round. Instead, Thomas has fallen out of the third round entirely and remains on the board as we go into the final day of the draft.
It's very unlikely that he'll fall to the Redskins at the back end of the fourth, but he remains a player they should be considering.
Thomas was a unanimous All-American in 2012, leading the nation with eight interceptions. He's shown problems with misdirection and was regularly burned by Chip Kelly's Oregon offense—who he would now have to face twice a year if drafted by Washington—but he is immensely coachable.
I've been up and down on Thomas throughout the buildup to the draft, but if he's there in the fourth and the Redskins don't take him, it would be very disappointing.
Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas
It wouldn't be a Mike Shanahan draft without a late-round running back, and Dennis Johnson offers more than just a continuation of a trend.
With Roy Helu recovering from an Achilles tear and Evan Royster also going down injured last year, Washington could use an upgrade on third downs. Johnson would offer exactly that and bring a different type of threat to the one who forced his way through so many defenses last year.
We can expect Alfred Morris to get the majority of the carries once again, but at 5'6" and 193 pounds, Johnson has a thick frame and a low center of gravity. He's got decent pace—he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the Arkansas pro day—but his three-cone drill time was 7.11, indicating that his game speed is very fast indeed.
So, he's fast, difficult to bring down and has good vision—as well as good receiving skills. Then why he is he falling down the draft?
It's probably got something do with ball security, as Johnson had 14 lost fumbles to his name across his college career. The Redskins gave away a lot of penalties last year, so the last thing they need is fumble problems on top of that.
However, taken in the fifth or sixth round, Johnson would be a solid pickup. He has the tools to make a significant contribution to the Redskins' offense and would also fulfill a need for the future.
Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
Anyone who has read any of my pre-draft articles will know that I like Chris Harper a lot. He's got the potential to make a real impact from day one within the Kyle Shanahan offense, and Robert Griffin III would make good use of his talents.
Coming from an offense like Kansas State's, Harper didn't get the ball thrown to him a lot. However, when QB Collin Klein needed a reliable receiver to get a first down in 2012, he nearly always turned to Harper.
Dezmon Briscoe was supposed to be the Redskins' red-zone threat last year, but he suffered with drops, and it was clear by the end of the season that Shanahan didn't trust him enough to put him in the game. This doesn't bode well for his chances this time around.
With Harper, Washington would get a reliable receiver who, at 6'1" and 229 pounds, offers great size and strength along with crisp receiving routes and quick acceleration. He's aggressive with his blocks and will fight for yards like a running back, although he could do with playing to the whistle a little more.
With Jordan Reed able to perform multiple roles from tight end, Harper has found success both in the slot and as the "Z" receiver. Kyle Shanahan could use him to create mismatches across the field and make the offense even more dynamic.
Harper will be a success in the NFL, possibly to an Anquan Boldin-type level. It would be better for the Redskins if it was in Washington.
Jordan Mills, OT, Louisiana Tech
Although the Redskins re-signed Tyler Polumbus and brought in Jeremy Trueblood, right tackle remains an area of concern. Polumbus is solid against the run but has problems in pass protection. This can be a problem in the NFC East, as there are quality pass-rushers on every team.
Jordan Mills might not be a Week 1 starter, but he'll definitely be a player the Redskins are aware of. He had a good Senior Bowl week, which saw him projected as a top-100 player, and he plays hard and to the whistle every time.
He's got great size and strength, along with a good first step that aids his blocking. He would be a good fit within the Redskins' offense, but it depends how much the position is viewed as a weakness by Shanahan.
He'll likely be gone by the fifth round, and the Redskins will surely look to solidify the safety position with their fourth-round pick, so he could slip out of reach.
Nevertheless, he's a good prospect and will be a useful pickup for whichever team makes the move.
Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
This list could easily have been all safeties, but obviously that's not how the draft will go, so it's useful to include different options. Tony Jefferson makes the cut here because he offers a tougher alternative to Phillip Thomas. He's still versatile and can be used all over the field, but he is more aggressive in his overall play.
As someone who is still slightly furious with Shanahan for not taking D.J. Swearinger with the 51st overall pick, Jefferson would offer a compromise between Swearinger and Thomas that would please me.
He has good ball skills and reads the play well as it develops, which gives him an advantage over the receiver. He's quick and powerful in the tackle, also demonstrating explosiveness when blitzing. Jim Haslett could potentially have a lot of fun utilizing Jefferson this year.
He's probably fallen down the draft because of his size, which—at 5'11" and 213 pounds—isn't ideal for a starting safety in the NFL. However, that never stopped Jairus Byrd or Troy Polamalu, so there's no reason why Jefferson can't be a success in Washington.