8 NFL Draft Prospects Who Will Fill Washington Redskins' Biggest Needs
While Mark Maske and Mike Jones of The Washington Post reported that the Redskins have indeed fired head coach Mike Shanahan, it was a joint effort from the players and coaches that landed Washington with a 3-13 record.
Owning a defense that was ranked 20th against the pass and 17th against the rush, a bevy of blame can be placed on Washington's defense.
The Redskins have an urgent need in the secondary, at both cornerback and safety. In addition to that, with Brian Orakpo's contract uncertainty and London Fletcher announcing his retirement, linebacker is an area of concern.
Fortunately, though, Washington's needs aren't as dire on the offensive end.
It's the offensive line that is the lone problem spot. Washington allowed 43 sacks this season and is particularly weak at the tackle position opposite Trent Williams.
Since Washington doesn't own its first-round pick, courtesy of the Griffin trade, none of the following prospects are currently projected to go in the draft's first 20 picks.
With that said, here are eight prospects who fill the Redskins' biggest needs.
All draft projections are courtesy of CBSSports.com.
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
As great as Garcon was during the 2013 season, his statistical breakthrough can be attributed to the lack of receiving options Washington quarterbacks had to throw to.
No other Redskins receiver cracked 50 catches or 500 yards receiving. Simply put, if a 34-year-old Santana Moss is your second-leading receiver, you need an upgrade.
Enter Brandin Cooks. What the diminutive Cooks lacks in size and strength, he makes up for with his elite quickness.
Just a junior, Cooks broke the Pac-12's record for receiving yards and receptions with totals of 1,730 and 128, respectively. In a league that now emphasizes the slot receiver, Cooks could find his niche in this role for the Redskins.
With a talent like Cooks in hand, playing alongside the likes of Garcon, Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson, it'd be hard for Griffin to complain again that none of his receivers were getting open.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
In whichever manner he's used, he would be yet another potent target for Griffin.
At Washington, Seferian-Jenkins mustered 146 receptions, 1,848 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns, all school records for tight ends.
It's no wonder that the junior, projected to go in the second round, has already declared for the draft.
OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Shanahan sat Griffin, if you believe him, because he feared that Washington's offensive line couldn't keep him healthy.
With Tyler Polumbus manning the right tackle position, he may have been right.
A major liability in 2012, Polumbus has stuck with this trend in 2013. Case and point, Polumbus' Week 13 matchup against Justin Tuck.
Tuck registered four sacks in that contest. In fact, of his 11 sacks on the season, six came against the Redskins.
Time for a replacement, right?
In Antonio Richardson, the Redskins could have a solution to their Polumbus problem.
A junior who has played left tackle at Tennessee, Richardson has been tested by some of the nation's top pass-rushers.
If his coming-out party against Jadeveon Clowney in 2012 doesn't highlight Richardson's ability, then perhaps one NFC college scouting director's words will, via Bucky Brooks of NFL.com. Richardson was touted by the scouting director as a potential difference-maker at right tackle in the NFL.
With a potential bookend tandem of Richardson and Williams, Griffin would be aided in his transformation into a pocket passer.
DE Michael Sam, Missouri
With Shanahan's ouster, it's uncertain what type of scheme Washington will run on defense.
Nonetheless, Michael Sam's pass-rushing ability is a fit in any defense. After registering only 4.5 sacks his first three seasons, Sam has tallied 10.5 sacks in his senior campaign.
In addition, he has 18 tackles for loss.
Since the oft-injured Orakpo is set to be a free agent, Washington has an immediate need for a pass-rusher of Sam's quality.
Projected as a second-round pick, drafting Sam would be a much cheaper alternative to splurging on Orakpo.
LB Christian Jones, Florida State
In Christian Jones, Washington could have the sideline-to-sideline linebacker its lacked with the aged Fletcher manning the middle.
As CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler states, Jones is also excellent in coverage. "(Jones) flawlessly flips his hips to blanket tight ends or receivers down the field in coverage," Brugler says.
Jones is also versatile, as he's had experience playing various linebacker positions in his time at Florida State.
Projected to go in the third round, Jones possesses the upside that could guide him into a starring role in the future.
As it stands, though, Jones has showcased enough ability to warrant some playing time in his rookie season.
OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Jeremiah Attaochu has consistently done one thing in his time at Georgia Tech—put pressure on the quarterback. Playing at outside linebacker and defensive end, Attaochu has tallied 31 sacks in his career and 12 in 2013.
Not particularly adept in coverage and lacking in discipline, rushing the passer is the lone skill Attaochu excels in at the moment, hence his current projection as a third-round pick.
While he would certainly qualify as a developmental prospect for the Redskins, he could immediately make an impact as a pass-rushing specialist.
CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
With former Hokie DeAngelo Hall set to be a free agent, Washington should take a look at the latest standout from Virginia Tech's secondary.
Kyle Fuller may not possess elite size or speed—which is why he's slotted to go in the second round—but like Hall, he's a ball hawk.
Additionally, Fuller has proved to be an asset in run support, a sentiment that CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler agrees with.
"Fuller enjoys throwing his body around in run support and is a disciplined tackler, doing a nice job beating blocks to show up at the line of scrimmage," Brugler says.
Even in the event Hall leaves Washington, the best role for Fuller would be as the Redskins' nickel corner. In covering the slot receiver, Fuller's speed wouldn't be as big an issue and it would allow him to remain a factor in stopping the run.
S Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
A former linebacker, Ahmad Dixon is a safety who excels in run support and making open-field tackles. Playing in the spread-heavy Big 12, he's no stranger to playing on an island against opposing receivers either.
Still, with the safety position relatively new to Dixon, he's been prone to have lapses in coverage at times. While his athletic ability has bailed him out on such mistakes in college, it's an element he'll need to improve at the next level.
With Reed Doughty and Brandon Meriweather as its starters, Washington has serviceable safeties who simply didn't make enough plays in 2013.
So although Dixon can be too aggressive at times, his willingness to make big plays would be a welcome addition to the Redskins secondary. Especially at the cost of a third-round pick.
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