Without a first-round pick in 2014, Jay Gruden's first season in Washington is made a little more awkward than he would like.
Luckily, this year's draft class is deep at some positions of need, and the 89th annual East-West Shrine Game is a good place to scout talent likely to fall in the later rounds.
Gruden has made moves with his staff, and soon it will be time for him to stamp his mark on the roster. While Washington's scouts will already have grades on the players from the college season, the Shrine Game offers the chance to see them in a different environment.
It's a completely different level of competition. A player from a small school who scouts graded lower may suddenly truck a player from Notre Dame, for example. These guys can command a level of attention that they aren't usually afforded.
Below are three such prospects that Gruden and his scouts should be keeping an eye on in St. Petersburg come January 18.
Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford
Despite some fans' insistence to the contrary, it seems that Washington's defense will remain a 3-4 concern, and there is a need for more depth along the line.
While Josh Mauro was only a two-year starter at Stanford, he has all the tools to make an impression at the next level. He has a quick first step, good lateral movement and can be effective in both the running and passing game.
At 6'6" and 282 pounds, Mauro isn't renowned for his explosiveness. There are times when he has looked distinctively average when faced with more aggressive opponents, but the Shrine Game is his chance to dominate.
Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
With Santana Moss and Joshua Morgan unlikely to remain in burgundy and gold for the 2014 season, there is a real need for Gruden to bolster the receiving corps.
Outside of Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, Washington struggled to put a player on the field who could hold onto the ball.
Josh Huff could answer some of those concerns.
A wr who is going to enjoy a rise up the board during draft season is Josh Huff, #Oregon. Smooth athlete.Good route runner.Reliable hands.— Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade) December 27, 2013
Huff was an incredibly versatile player for the Ducks, lining up in the slot and out wide, as well as returning kicks and proving to be an effective contributor in the run game due to solid blocking.
With 62 receptions and 1,140 yards in 2013, Huff became a real weapon for Oregon, hauling in 12 touchdowns. He is able to beat defenders and operate as a dangerous downfield target, something that has been sorely lacking in D.C. over the last year.
DeDe Lattimore, ILB, South Florida
London Fletcher's storied career has come to an end, which leaves Washington with a hole to fill. Keenan Robinson has been dogged by injuries, so there is a need to add depth at the linebacker position.
DeDe Lattimore is a good prospect and has the added bonus of playing both inside and outside linebacker. He doesn't have ideal size but makes up for it with strong instincts.
There's room on his frame to add muscle to fit the demands of the position, and he has the dedication to do it. He's been one of USF's most consistent players, but he will need to improve his skills in coverage in order to make it in the NFL.