5 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins have five key positions to upgrade this offseason. New head coach Jay Gruden has to make fixing the secondary and bolstering the offensive line his main priorities.
But Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen can't ignore adding talent to a thin wide receiver corps. The pair must also find time to replace inside linebacker London Fletcher. His retirement creates the only obvious gap along the front seven.
Here are the five prospects who should interest the new regime in Washington the most.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Back in late December, I identified Jordan Matthews as one of the prospects who should be on the radar for the Redskins this April.
The subsequent hiring of Gruden only makes the Vanderbilt Commodores wide receiver a stronger fit in Washington. Gruden's West Coast-style offense demands big, physical receivers able to win on inside slant routes.
Matthews and his 6'3", 205-pound frame is certainly suited to a West Coast system. He would be a good partner alongside Pierre Garcon.
The Washington offense lacks support for its record-breaking pass-catcher. Veterans Santana Moss and Joshua Morgan are both free agents who shouldn't be brought back.
Young Leonard Hankerson has size and talent, but is far too inconsistent to rely on as a starter. Adding Matthews, whose lack of field-stretching speed makes him a likely second-round pick, would give the Redskins two big targets on the outside.
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
A growing number of mock drafts have the Redskins selecting Shayne Skov, and with good reason.
The Stanford Cardinal inside linebacker is a dynamic, 3-4-ready defender who would immediately assume a key role at the heart of the Washington defense. Just as offensive players from Stanford offer experience in a pro-ready system, so do defensive stalwarts like Skov.
The Cardinal operate a multiple 3-4 scheme, and Skov occupies many roles within it. He is a force in run support, savvy and agile in coverage and dangerous on the blitz.
That level of versatility is vital in a linebacker-led system. Pairing Skov with the fast-improving Perry Riley Jr. would give the Redskins a solid core for their defense for years to come.
If the team doesn't find Fletcher's successor in free agency, Skov makes too much sense to pass on.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
If the Redskins go cornerback early, they won't do better than Virginia Tech Hokie Kyle Fuller. He has the physical presence and opportunist streak the Washington defense lacks at the position.
Adding greater size at cornerback should be an offseason focus. The secondary can improve if its outside covering defenders use more press techniques.
At 6'0" and 194 pounds, Fuller has the size to partner with 2013 second-round pick, 6'1", 194-pounder David Amerson. That pairing would allow secondary coach Raheem Morris to employ more press and bump-and-run concepts on the outside.
Fuller fits that plan because he has a strong appetite for the physical aspects of the game, something noted by Dane Brugler of CBS Sports:
A versatile DB with the athleticism to cover and the aggressiveness to play the run. 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. He has smooth hips and natural footwork for an easy transition in coverage. But the game appears to come natural to him, making plays on the ball with top ballskills.
Fuller's strong tackling can be key in a 3-4 scheme that often uses cornerbacks as force players against the run. But it is the ball skills Brugler notes that should appeal the most to the Redskins.
According to CFBStats, Fuller intercepted a pair of passes and broke up 10 more in 2013. That ability to get his hands on the ball separates him from the likes of Florida's Marcus Roberson, another corner with good size.
Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
Gruden must add some true power along the offensive front. Drafting mammoth guard Gabe Jackson would certainly do that.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs behemoth combines size with deceptive agility and move skills. That means he would allow Gruden to incorporate more power-based concepts in the running game.
That is how the Bengals often ran the ball with Gruden calling the offense. They pulled guards like Andrew Whitworth to act as lead blockers through the middle.
Jackson's initial quickness combined with 340 pounds would make him a terror at the second level of defenses. CBS Sports writer Rob Rang succinctly highlights Jackson's contrasting attributes:
Demonstrates not only the raw power expected of a man of his size but also surprisingly nimble feet and balance while in pass protection, to mirror quick rushers. Jackson plays with excellent knee bend and has long arms, which help him stay square and in control of his opponent in pass pro. He's a powerful drive blocker who uses his natural leverage advantage well, showing good leg drive to push defenders off the ball. Despite his girth, Jackson shows good lateral agility and balance to find fits at the second level.
It was a mistake during the Shanahan regime to assume that only lightweight linemen can block in a zone scheme. A bulky road-grader like Jackson would let the Redskins retain the core of their zone-based ground attack, but offer the versatility to flatten defenses with more brute force.
The interior of the Washington O-line was pushed around too often this season. Putting Jackson's ample frame at the heart of the group would help change that.
Bleacher Report draft columnist Matt Miller has Jackson slipping to the middle of the third round. If he falls to round three, Jackson is guaranteed to appeal to the Redskins.
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Back in early December, I suggested the Redskins strongly consider drafting USC Trojans safety Dion Bailey. The former linebacker has since confirmed he will enter the draft, and Washington should seize the chance to add his hybrid skills.
Bailey just has that invaluable knack of being around the ball and producing impact plays. That trait is evident in his stellar production from 2013.
According to CFBStats, Bailey tallied five interceptions, broke up six passes and forced a fumble. He also registered 62 combined tackles, including 6.5 for a loss.
Every modern NFL defense needs safeties that can be playmakers at every level. The Redskins don't possess even one safety with those skills.
Thanks to his experience at both linebacker and free safety, Bailey would be an asset in both coverage and as an attacking box defender.
WalterFootball projects Bailey as a second-, or maybe even a third-round prospect. He would be a steal for the Redskins in either round.
This quintet of pro-ready prospects should be at the forefront of Gruden and Allen's thinking this April. Any combination of selections from this group would boost key areas of concern on the roster.