It is tough to predict draft picks for the Washington Redskins with the future of the coaching staff up in the air. However, no matter who is patrolling the sideline for 2014, two things ought to be clear.
The first is that the defense needs the most work. More playmakers must be added both up front and in the back end.
The second is that the offense needs better fits around quarterback Robert Griffin III. Like it or not, the franchise made a major investment in 2012's second overall pick and is committed to building an offense that suits him best.
With those criteria in mind, here are a few 2014 NFL draft prospects who should be on the radar in Washington.
Denzel Perryman is the kind of athlete the Redskins need at the heart of their defense.
Replacing London Fletcher will be no easy task, but Miami's Denzel Perryman should definitely merit strong consideration. He is a squat and active middle linebacker with the athletic qualities the Redskins need at the heart of their defense.
Perryman can make himself a force against both the run and pass, as Walterfootball.com notes:
Not only has Perryman been strong against the run, but he has shown well in pass coverage. Perryman covers a lot of ground and does a nice job of covering receivers who came into his zone. Perryman is a fast and physical linebacker who looks like he has three-down ability for the NFL.
The three-down aspect of that description should appeal most to the Redskins. Perryman would give them a linebacker equally at home in base- and sub-packages.
His combination of attributes has also been highlighted by CBS Sports' Rob Rang:
At a listed 6-0, 243-pounds Perryman possesses the stout frame of a classic inside linebacker. His instincts, quickness and explosive hitting ability also fit in well with the skill-set required to handle the tough duty inside. His athleticism, however, allows him to remain on the field on passing situations, making him a true three-down defender.
One attribute noted by Rang that could have the biggest benefit for the Redskins is Perryman's quickness. The Washington defense needs more team speed and the ability to fly to the ball.
Putting Perryman on the inside next to Perry Riley Jr. would give the unit those vital qualities.
Shayne Skov is a natural fit for a hybrid defense.
Shayne Skov is a pick made specifically on the proviso the Redskins retain their 3-4 scheme for next season. Skov is a dream fit for the system, having excelled in it at Stanford.
In fact, Skov has the hybrid skills to give the Redskins the defensive flexibility they hoped they were getting when they made the switch to a linebacker-led scheme in 2010.
Skov can act as a classic thumper inside but also boasts fine coverage and blitz skills. He is just the right kind of moving part that the 3-4 is supposed to feature.
Walterfootball.com highlights Skov's affinity for a multiple scheme:
The versatile linebacker is a tough run-defender and an attacking pass-rusher. Like many Stanford defenders, Skov is a perfect fit in a 3-4 defense. He can play multiple positions and has some blitzing ability.
The Redskins need players with this level of hybrid skill. It is the only way to expand what has become a bland and all-too predictable scheme.
Walterfootball's Charlie Campbell also sees Skov making a lot of sense in Washington. He mocks Skov to the Redskins in the third round, something of a steal for such an active and versatile 3-4 'backer:
The fifth-year senior has 91 tackles with 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and three passes broken up in 2013. He had monster games against Washington and Oregon. Skov could fit nicely in a 3-4 defense given the way he rushes the passer and operates in the middle of the field.
Daniel McCullers is just the kind of big-bodied two-gapper the Redskins need at nose tackle.
The Redskins would be smart to target a big-bodied two-gapper to anchor their 3-4 front. Tennessee's Daniel McCullers is a natural at the position.
He is a giant but far from a gentle one. Whenever McCullers gets his 6'6", 351-pound frame moving he becomes a magnet for double-teams inside.
That is just what the Redskins need more of along their front. They need a 3-4 focal point who can do more to keep linebackers clean and let them attack instead of react.
The only concern about McCullers is one of leverage, something that is vital at his position. But Rang is keen to dispel that notion:
Has been double-teamed on most snaps and has even seen triple-team blocks often. Despite the attention, McCullers' size and strength make him tough to move in the running game. He plays with better leverage than one might expect given his frame, holding up well inside and sliding off blockers to handle two-gap responsibilities when playing the 3-4 nose guard.
Drafting McCullers would finally give the Washington 3-4 defense its natural anchor. It would also allow Barry Cofield to shift to end and become the one-gap playmaker a more attacking, hybrid scheme would need.
DaQuan Jones could set the edge in a 3-4.
The need to add a more penetrative player along the defensive line is almost as great as the need for a bigger nose tackle. Penn State's DaQuan Jones has the frame and power to be more of a force in the backfield than any of the Redskins' current defensive ends.
He is the type of lineman seemingly born to set the edge in a 3-4 and create favorable pass-rush lanes for outside linebackers. That is not to say that Jones can't make his own impact, as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler notes:
Dropped nearly 25 pounds during the 2013 offseason and displayed more quickness as a senior with the ability to be effective later into games. He has a wide base and broad shoulders and wins with his brute strength and power to take on multiple blocks and overwhelm blockers.
A three-man line of Jones and Cofield at end, with McCullers at nose tackle, would immediately upgrade the Washington defense.
Deone Bucannon has the size and versatility the Redskins need at safety.
The Redskins cannot ignore their need for greater quality at the safety position. Washington State's Deone Bucannon would be a dream pick if he falls to Round 2.
He is never far from the action and can usually be found at the heart of it. Bucannon packs a wallop for a free safety but is also no liability in coverage.
The problem might be Bucannon being snared before Washington makes its first pick near the start of Round 2. The player's reputation is growing, as The Denver Post's Tom Kensler points out:
More often than not, a football team's leader in tackles will be a linebacker.
That's not the case with Washington State. Free safety Deone Bucannon has led the Cougars in tackles the past two seasons, making 106 in 2012 and 109 thus far in 2013 as a senior.
Bucannon also has nine interceptions over the past two years.
After watching game film in preparation for Saturday's New Mexico Bowl, Colorado State players say they aren't surprised that Bucannon was named an All-American by The Associated Press this week. He has been projected as a possible first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
But if Bucannon is overlooked on day one, he has to be the first pick off the board for Washington.
Deshazor Everett is a punishing cornerback and worth the risk for Washington.
The Washington secondary needs a physical cornerback who can help the unit play with more aggression and favor more press-based techniques.
Step forward Deshazor Everett, the 6'0", 182-pounder with a genuine nasty streak. The Texas A&M standout is a punishing corner who shows receivers no mercy.
That became obvious when he was thrown out of a game back in September under new "targeting" rules. Discipline on and off the field has been an issue for Everett, as NFL.com's Chase Goodbread pointed out:
A misdemeanor assault charge bought Everett a suspension from coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer for the first half of the team's season opener against Rice. After entering in the second half, Everett was flagged under the new "targeting" rule -- which attaches new penalties for targeting a hit above the shoulders to a defenseless player. Everett's hit was to Rice WR Klein Kubiak, who is the son of Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. The penalty? Along with a 15-yard personal foul, under the new rule, Everett was ejected for the balance of the game and will serve a one-half suspension to begin the Aggies' game against Sam Houston State next week as well.
While these problems are a concern, it should be noted that current head coach Mike Shanahan's uncomfortable push for so-called "character guys" hasn't worked.
It is up to the right coach to get the best out of a player like Everett. No, that doesn't mean you, Raheem Morris.
Everett could partner with David Amerson and give the Washington defense a pair of big press corners on the outside. That might even allow the team to move opportunistic veteran DeAngelo Hall back to the slot.
Zack Martin has the skill and versatility the Washington O-line needs.
The Washington offensive line has been a mess all season long. The group needs to be regenerated with power and versatility as the main criteria for newbies.
Notre Dame's Zack Martin offers both qualities. He is quick-footed and nimble, so he would fit the requirements for the zone-based scheme Washington has run since 2010.
But Martin cannot simply be dubbed a "finesse" lineman. He carries his 304 pounds on a frame that appears bigger.
Martin plays with the tenacity over a larger drive-blocker and would help the Redskins incorporate more power into their blocking.
Martin would fit in Washington at either guard or tackle on the right side, where both Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus have failed to impress.
David Yankey is the kind of brute-force blocker the Washingon O-line is missing.
Continuing the theme of adding more power-based blockers, Stanford's David Yankey would be a great pick for the Redskins.
In Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington offense used pulling guards and counter-blocking to get the running game going. Those are two central tenants in power schemes and things Yankey excels at.
As a guard pulling around the corner, Yankey has brutalized second-level defenders for the Cardinal. He has been a key feature of Stanford's power-based ground attack.
No Redskins player would be happier to see Yankey drafted than bruising running back Alfred Morris.
Both Yankey and Martin are excellent picks for Washington. But a lot will depend on how highly adding new O-linemen is prioritized in this draft.
Both will go early on the second day if they last that long, but the Redskins have many other needs.
Jordan Matthews is an imposing receiver who can strike from anywhere on the field.
The Washington passing game has a major need for another playmaking wide receiver alongside Pierre Garcon. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews would be a perfect fit if the Redskins look to strengthen Griffin's stable of targets early.
Matthews is very much in the Garcon mould. He is a physically imposing receiver who can strike from anywhere on the field.
He moves around a lot for the Commodores but does his best work in the underneath zones. He is a nightmare for defenses after the catch.
Despite a long stride, Matthews lacks eye-popping vertical speed. That is why he could fall to the Redskins and give Griffin another big-bodied, intelligent route-runner to aim for.
What do you think of the players listed here? Do they make your lists of prospects who should be on the radar for Washington leading up to the 2014 draft?