Ranking Washington Redskins' Top 6 Draft Needs

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Ranking Washington Redskins' Top 6 Draft Needs

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    Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    For the Washington Redskins, the 2014 NFL draft may resemble the 2013 experience. As they were a year ago, the team's priorities are still finding help in the secondary and along the offensive line.

    Head coach Jay Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen could go in either direction with their earlier picks and not be wrong. The pair also need to find linebacker help, preferably a player with the potential to start on the inside.

    There should also be room to add another capable pass-catcher to the offense. Either a slot receiver or a "move" tight end would be the smart choices.

    Here are the main draft needs for Washington ranked in order of priority.

Safety

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    Heavy hitter Deone Bucannon is one safety who should certainly appeal to Washington.
    Heavy hitter Deone Bucannon is one safety who should certainly appeal to Washington.Dean Hare/Associated Press

    Finding a quality, big-play safety has to be the central focus of this draft. The Washington secondary, and the defense as a whole, is hamstrung by a lack of quality in this area.

    Fortunately, there should be more than a few options available to the Redskins at the top of the second round. One potential selection is Washington State Cougars bruiser Deone Bucannon.

    The Cougars ace is a true heavy hitter. He also has the happy knack of pouncing on errant passes. Bucannon tallied six interceptions in 2013, according to cfbstats.com.

    The Redskins have lacked a genuine playmaker at the last line of their defense for too long. They can use a prime draft choice as part of a three-pronged approach to solving that problem this offseason.

    They can pair a day-one starter from the collegiate ranks with a veteran acquisition from free agency. Buffalo Bills star Jairus Byrd, or San Francisco 49ers thumper Donte Whitner both fit the bill for the latter requirement.

    This new-look tandem would be joined by 2013 fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas. He missed his entire debut season following Lisfranc surgery.

    But Thomas is a player of real potential who would soon become a feature of a more talented rotation.

Cornerback

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    With DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers all headed to free agency, the Redskins have to add more bodies at cornerback. They should target corners who offer greater size and a more physical style of play.

    Utah Utes ball hawk Keith McGill is one such player. Standing 6'3" and weighing around 214 pounds, the Utes' star fits the bill as a long, press corner.

    Cornerbacks with safety builds have become vogue thanks to the success of the Seattle Seahawks and their famed "Legion of Boom" secondary.

    In fact, on a physical level, McGill is said to compare favorably to the imposing Seattle defensive backs. That is according to NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock, who is cited by College Football 24/7 writer Mike Huguenin:

    The tallest corner is Utah's Keith McGill, who measured 6-3 and 214 pounds at Monday's weigh-in. NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said Tuesday on NFL Network that McGill looks like a combination of Seattle's cornerback duo of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.

    McGill had an interception and 12 pass breakups for Utah this season, his only full season with the Utes. McGill played in five games after transferring in from a junior college before being injured in 2011, then missed the 2012 season with an injury. He played safety in 2011.

    Mayock said the rise in taller corners should not be a surprise. With the move to more big-bodied wide receivers in the NFL, Mayock said teams are looking for "longer body frames" in their corners. He said some teams are willing to use corners who are "a little less quick-footed and explosive" as long as they are big.

    The Washington secondary plays better when its corners adopt press techniques. Pairing McGill with 6'1", 205-pounder David Amerson would let the Redskins be more physical on the outside.

    McGill is projected to be a third- or even fourth-round choice by CBS Sports. He would represent excellent value for the Redskins in either round.

    Gruden and Allen cannot leave this draft without at least one cornerback capable of playing a prominent role in next season's rotation.

Guard

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    Notre Dame's Chris Watt is a powerful guard the Redskins could target.
    Notre Dame's Chris Watt is a powerful guard the Redskins could target.David Zalubowski/Associated Press/Associated Press

    As much as they need to get more physical at cornerback, the Redskins also have to get bigger along the interior of the O-line. The guard-center trio was manhandled all season.

    At least one mid-round pick has to be expended in this area. A player like Notre Dame Fighting Irish starter Chris Watt might appeal in the fourth round.

    At 6'3" and 321 pounds, he answers the need for a bigger body inside. Watt's main attribute with the Irish was his tenacity clearing holes for the run, according to Huguenin:

    Watt is a road grader in the running game; he is physical and plays with a nasty streak. Though Watt might not be as athletic as some other high-profile guards (or as Martin, who seems likely to move inside at the next level), teammates have raved about his toughness. He was a consensus top-100 national recruit out of high school in Illinois.

    Watt could quickly challenge to supplant incumbent Kory Lichtensteiger at left guard.

     

Center

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    Tyler Larsen would be great value in the later rounds.
    Tyler Larsen would be great value in the later rounds.Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    In his full mock draft, Bleacher Report columnist Matt Miller has the Redskins taking Utah State Aggies center Tyler Larsen in the fifth round. That would be one of the picks of the draft in terms of both value and team need.

    Washington needs a more physical center at the heart of its offensive front. Larsen has the right attributes to be that player.

    CBS Sports writer Rob Rang compares Larsen favorably to San Francisco 49ers starter Jonathan Goodwin. The Aggies anchor would immediately push for playing time ahead of Will Montgomery, who endured a torrid time in 2013.

    Gruden and Allen should use shrewd picks in the middle rounds to begin reshaping a more physically imposing front five.

    Given how easily the 2013 group was mauled in both run-blocking and pass protection, reinforcements from both the collegiate ranks and free agency are a necessity.

Inside Linbebacker

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    With London Fletcher gone, things are looking thin at inside linebacker.
    With London Fletcher gone, things are looking thin at inside linebacker.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    London Fletcher's retirement has created a major hole in the middle of the Washington defense. The issue is compounded by fellow starter Perry Riley Jr.'s eligibility for free agency, along with depth players like Nick Barnett and Bryan Kehl.

    The Redskins could target a player like the Stanford Cardinal's Shayne Skov in earlier rounds. That is a pick endorsed by both Bleacher Report scribe Matt Miller and Walterfootball.com writer Charlie Campbell.

    While Skov would be an excellent choice, the Redskins should use their prime picks on their biggest areas of need. The fact is the team can recruit ample help at inside linebacker from the lower end of both free agency and the draft.

    A veteran like Jon Beason of the New York Giants, along with a rookie like Western Kentucky Hilltoper Andrew Jackson would make the heart of the linebacker corps stronger.

    If Gruden and Allen bring Riley back, this position shouldn't be made into a draft priority.

Receiver Help

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    The Washington offense could use another weapon around wideout Pierre Garcon.
    The Washington offense could use another weapon around wideout Pierre Garcon.Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Although there are weapons on the Washington offense, it wouldn't hurt to furnish quarterback Robert Griffin III with another target.

    Wideout Pierre Garcon has established himself as a legitimate go-to receiver. Once young tight end Jordan Reed returns to full fitness, Washington will boast a one-two punch that should be the envy of most of the NFL.

    The passing game can also be buoyed by the return from injury of talented, but inconsistent wide receiver Leonard Hankerson. He suffered a serious knee injury in 2013 but fits the physical mold to play flanker in Gruden's West Coast-style offense.

    The new coaching staff can also get more out of diminutive burner Aldrick Robinson and young slot receiver Nick Williams. But it is after this initial quintet that things become less clear.

    Veterans Santana Moss, Joshua Morgan and tight end Fred Davis are all free agents. The Redskins could easily justify parting ways with every member of this trio.

    That should push them toward using a draft pick to add one more potential playmaker to the mix. It could be a wide receiver who can work the slot, or one who wins on the outside, such as Missouri Tiger L'Damian Washington.

    Gruden might even consider a roving tight end like Wisconsin Badger Jacob Pedersen. Either way, the new head coach should be able to find a late-rounder who can contribute.

    By targeting these areas this April, the Redskins can fix their most significant issues ahead of the new season.