Jay Gruden will want to make an impact with his first draft as Washington's head coach.
Washington is in an interesting position going into this year’s draft. Although the team is coming off a 3-13 season without a first-round pick, there have a new coach in place and some genuine talent to build around.
In addition to this, the front office is finally relieved of the $36 million cap penalty that has dogged them for the past two years and limited any free agent acquisitions. Jay Gruden has some money available to re-sign existing players and scout free-agency pickups, but the draft will remain his focus.
Read on for a list of players who could be suitable options for Washington come draft day. It's not a mock draft—instead, think of it as a first draft.
Shayne Skov immediately fills a position of need for Washington.
The last 12 months have been tough on anyone in Washington who likes to see good defense. The team apparently forgot how to tackle for much of the year and built up the franchise’s worst defensive record in 50 years.
Addressing this with his first pick should be Gruden’s priority.
Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Shayne Skov has been effective for the Cardinal all year and demonstrated an enviable ability to get to the ball-carrier and kill the play stone-dead. With the retirement of London Fletcher, Washington needs someone who can help out his defensive backs with aggressive instincts and intelligent tackling. Skov can do both.
Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
While it could be a slight stretch taking Deone Bucannon this high, his performance at the Senior Bowl has elevated the interest in him to new heights. He’s one of the biggest hitters in the draft, and while Washington had a lot of problems with Brandon Meriweather's penchant for taking people out, Bucannnon possesses a little more finesse to go with his impressive strength.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Yes, the introduction stated that defense should be the team’s priority in Round 2, and it should be. It’s also possible that Jace Amaro goes in the first round, but should the big tight end fall to Washington at No. 34, he’s certainly worth of consideration.
With Fred Davis on his way out and Jordan Reed’s concussion history a genuine concern, Amaro would be an excellent addition to the team. Lining up with Reed would create a two-tight end set similar to the one the Patriots boasted with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and provide Robert Griffin III with genuine weapons.
Kyle Fuller would slot into Jim Haslett's defense well.
This is probably the most difficult round to call this year. Starters could be found for the offensive line, or at the tight end and wide receiver positions. The defensive backfield is in need of attention, and there are some solid corners who could fall into Gruden’s lap.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Cyril Richardson was Griffin’s left tackle in college, but he switched inside to guard and had continued success for the Bears.
The feeling persists that Washington needs some bigger guys along the offensive line, and Richardson would definitely offer that. Despite his size—6'5", 340 pounds—he is also quick on his feet and able to adjust well. In short, he could be very effective in Burgundy and Gold.
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
In many classes, Davante Adams would project as a second or even first-round pick, but this year is stacked at wide receiver, which could work out well for Washington.
Adams is great in tight windows and made a lot of impressive grabs along the sideline, hauling in 131 passes for 1,718 yards and 23 touchdowns. He would offer a reliable target in the end zone and runs good routes. His drops remain a concern—as they have been for most of the Washington team over the past two years—but he has a high ceiling and could be a good contributor in his rookie year.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller put in an attention-grabbing performance against Alabama this year, which elevated his stock among draft analysts. The Hokies have produced a lot of good Fullers and Kyle is among the best of them, voted first team All-ACC in 2013.
He is an aggressive corner who possesses great awareness for how a play is going to develop. He can lose a step on some of the faster receivers, but his incredible appetite for competition means he gives it his all at the line of scrimmage.
Comfortable in man and zone coverage, while displaying good instincts in run defense, Fuller is a local boy who would be a valuable asset to Gruden from the outset.
Ego Ferguson has all the talent to succeed in the NFL.
By the time the fourth round rolls around, there’s sure to be plenty of talent left on the board. Due to the terrible season Washington fans were forced to endure, their team will get a real chance to pick up another starter here.
Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
If inside linebacker hasn’t been addressed by this point, Borland could be an absolute steal for Gruden and his team in the fourth.
In a similar manner to Skov, Borland’s strengths lie in his awareness and tackling. On a defense that bounced off more running backs than it brought down, this would be a real bonus for Jim Haslett’s defense.
Borland is as good in space as he is patient at the hole, and his tackling form is pretty damn flawless. There are no attention-seeking highlight plays here, just efficient defense that assist his team.
Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
Ego Ferguson is a difficult prospect to call. While his lack of playing time as a starter—2013 was his only season starting regularly—could cause him to fall to the bottom of the fourth, a good combine could push him up to the middle of the second.
If he’s available here, he would offer quickness at the snap and a powerful presence against the run. If Gruden is wishing to add a physical presence with good lateral agility, he could do a lot worse than Ferguson.
Ferguson has just two career sacks to his name, which isn’t enough for the athleticism he possesses. However, he is a disruptive presence who frequently gets penetration, which is likely to be enough for him to see the field in his rookie year.
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
At 6'6” and 220 pounds, Brandon Coleman is a huge receiver, and is almost worthy of a pick solely as a red-zone threat. Teams could take a chance on him in an early round, however with the amount of quality receivers in this year's class, he's more likely to fall.
While his size makes him tempting, he's been incredibly inconsistent in college and there are concerns about his hands. He's got a good knack for catching the tough pass, but he lets a lot of easy ones fall to the ground.
He doesn't have elite speed, but offers a big target and is capable of making some big plays. He's had some knee problems, so that could also cause him to fall. Keep an eye on him.
Seantrel Henderson is something of an enigma, but remains an interesting prospect.
This is where scouts really start to be tested. Picking pro-level talents in the first four rounds is a little easier, but in the fifth there will either be incredibly talented guys with awful attitudes, or unspectacular players who project as not much more than a backup in the NFL.
Keith McGill, CB, Utah
While still somewhat of a project, there's not denying the skill set that Keith McGill possesses. At 6'3” and 214 pounds, he's the largest corner in the draft and initially came to Utah as a safety.
He's like a combination of Seattle corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, and with the trend for bigger receivers breeding a trend for bigger corners, McGill is worth a look in the fifth.
A classic boom-or-bust pick with a lot of developing to do, McGill possesses all the athleticism and none of the experience. He had an interception in the Senior Bowl, which will have alerted teams to his presence, and a good combine will raise his stock further.
Tyler Larsen, C, Utah State
There is some doubt surrounding Will Montgomery, who looked a shadow of his former self in 2013. Tyler Larsen would offer some competition to Montgomery and was a real leader at Utah State.
Larsen played in 52 straight games and was a finalist for the 2013 Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the most outstanding center in college football.
He's been effective against the pass and the run, as well as showing an enviable ability to improvise and pick up extra blocks when needed. He's a solid choice who would bolster a thin Washington offensive line.
Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Seantrel Henderson is a player who likely fell down a lot of draft boards after admitting at the Senior Bowl that his multiple suspensions were for marijuana use. Although Washington has a history of players suspended for that same reason, it also features Trent Williams, who recovered from his suspension with two Pro Bowl seasons.
Williams would be a good mentor for Henderson, who shows flashes of domination but just can't seem to string it all together on a consistent basis.
Vinnie Sunseri has had injury problems, but could be a solid special teams player his rookie year.
Tom Brady and Alfred Morris came from the sixth round, so there can be more than value found here. Realistically, however, that's exactly what you're looking for. Someone who has potential, or could stick around and help the team out in a year or so.
Vinnie Sunseri, SS, Alabama
Despite missing the second half of the 2013 season with a torn ACL, Alabama's Vinnie Sunseri declared for the draft anyway.
While many felt he would benefit from another year in college, his place was being threatened by Landon Collins anyway, so it's not a bad move to make the jump now.
His father, Sal Sunseri, is the Florida State linebackers coach, so there is some pedigree there. However, the feeling persists that he was somewhat of an overachiever with the Crimson Tide, which doesn’t bode well for his NFL future.
Nevertheless, he is excellent in run support and showed the ability to make some plays in space at Alabama, which could be of use to Gruden and Washington.
Rob Blanchflower, TE, Umass
The player Rob Blanchflower most resembles is current Washington TE Logan Paulsen. He's a big guy who works best as a utility player to move the chains and block effectively.
Blanchflower can do both those things well, and at 6'4” and 260 pounds, can catch the ball in traffic and hold off defenders to claim the catch.
He's had some dropped passes, but overall his technique is solid and he's made some big plays at important times for the Minutemen.
He's a real team player, which is always going to be good value in the sixth round.
Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
While Carrington Byndom hasn't developed into the player Texas thought he could be, there's still a lot to like about his future.
He's got a ton of dedication and gives his all on every play. With such a high motor, Byndom was able to match up with some of the best receivers in college football and still not get burned.
He's got a long way to go with his technique, and sometimes gets completely lost in coverage, but if he isn't forced into a starting role too early, can develop into a good corner.
Gator Hoskins has a knack for the end zone that could be very useful.
Round 7 is all about finding any sort of contribution. We're talking special teams, practice squad, developmental prospects. Some teams will find solid contributors, but realistically the seventh round is a bit of a lottery.
Gator Hoskins, TE, Marshall
Another big tight end who could be a solid contributor, Gator Hoskins caught more touchdown passes than any other college tight end in 2012.
He continued this in 2013, finding the end zone twice in the Military Bowl to give Marshall the win. He had six receptions and 104 yards that day, and finished his college career with 33 touchdowns from 99 receptions.
When 30 percent of a players' receptions find the end zone, you take notice. Hoskins could see time as a pass catcher out of the backfield, but he's also played in the slot and out wide for Marshall.
That sort of versatility always comes in handy.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Yes, he's a quarterback. Yes, Washington already has two. However, if Thomas falls this far—and based on his throws over the past two years, he could even go undrafted—he ranks as someone worth bearing in mind.
Rex Grossman will be gone, and Thomas would offer a valuable backup to Griffin and Kirk Cousins. He won't be forced into a starting role, which gives him time to work on his game and improve his consistency.
There has been talk of switching him to tight end, but that's not going to happen. He projects best as a quarterback and has a great arm; it's just his touch that lets him down.
If nothing else, he's a practice squad player and future trade bait. In the seventh round, that's still a decent return.
Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor
With Griffin as his quarterback, Tevin Reese caught 51 passes for 877 yards and seven touchdowns. He's never going to be a No. 1 receiver, but is a fast guy in the slot and could offer a vertical threat for Griffin to utilize.
Before he was forced to undergo wrist surgery, he had 824 yards and eight touchdowns in seven games. There's definitely talent there.