5 Offensive Line Prospects the Redskins Should Target in the NFL Draft
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will immerse himself in new head coach Jay Gruden's playbook this offseason. He'll spend hours in the blistering heat working on timing with Pierre Garçon and Co. When the sun sets, he'll likely breakdown game film to ensure that the mistakes he made last season aren't repeated in 2014.
Yes, Griffin will do his part to make the Redskins winners again—but it's the organization's responsibility to make sure his tireless work isn't in vain.
In a season that netted three measly wins, there were plenty of cringe-worthy moments. But even if you added up all of the negative, nothing was more disconcerting than watching the franchise quarterback—the player who's expected to lead the Redskins back to glory—being helplessly battered in the pocket with no relief in sight.
This offseason, the right side of the offensive line needs an overhaul, whether it's done in free agency, through the draft or both.
Even without a first-round pick, Washington is in prime position to improve the unit responsible for keeping its long-term investment upright.
Let's take a look at five prospects on the offensive line who may be available when the Redskins are on the clock in this year's NFL draft.
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
A dream scenario for the Redskins is Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin falling to them at No. 34 overall.
Martin (6'4", 308 lbs) started 11 games at left tackle for Notre Dame last season, but ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) thinks that he can make an immediate impact in the NFL at right tackle or guard:
He's got plenty of experience at left tackle, and acquitted himself well there against Senior Bowl competition. However, I think he has the smarts and experience to handle right tackle right away, and he could also be really good if moved inside.
As we sit here just days before the combine, Martin has been entrenched as a mid- to late- first-rounder in most mock drafts. But as the NFL Network's Mike Mayock mentioned Tuesday, offensive tackle in this year's draft is loaded:
Mayock: I think offensive tackle is deep. Could go 3-4 rounds deep and get a starting OT.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 18, 2014
If teams towards the back-half of the first round think they can wait on offensive tackle, the Redskins would benefit from that strategy at the beginning of the second round.
The odds of Tyler Polumbus returning next season as the Redskins starting right tackle may not be Powerball-esque, but they're long. Martin could make an immediate impact on the right side of the line while also serving as insurance should anything happen to Trent Williams at left tackle.
David Yankey, G, Stanford
There's nothing wrong with playing it safe.
Should Stanford guard David Yankey make it to the second round, the Redskins would have an instant starter staring them square in the face.
Rumblings in the D.C. media point to Washington possibly releasing last season's inconsistent starting right guard, Chris Chester. Such a move would provide $2.7 million in cap savings, via overthecap.com.
Assuming that the Redskins do release Chester and elect not to address the guard position in free agency, Yankey (6'5", 313 lbs) would fill a major need at an affordable price.
Last season, the unanimous All-American led the nation's No. 1 offensive line against No. 2 schedule in the country, via GoStanford.com. His list of collegiate accomplishments would even make some Hall of Famers blush.
Spending an early-round pick on an interior linemen isn't sexy, but it's smart. Yankey's risk is minimal; little should intimidate him at the pro level. He played on one of the biggest stages in college football and has prior experience protecting an elite quarterback—some kid named Luck.
If Yankey's name, among others, is still on the board when it's time for the Redskins to turn in their card, expect a lot of high-fives in the war room.
Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Provided that Washington decides to draft Polumbus' replacement at right tackle, one name gaining steam in expert circles is Virginia tackle Morgan Moses.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Moses as his 34th overall prospect going into the NFL combine. Taking it a step further, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah projects Moses going No. 20 overall in his latest mock draft.
From Miller after the Senior Bowl:
The Senior Bowl week didn't show Moses dominating every drill, but what was most encouraging was his development and progression throughout the week. He showed he was coachable. If a team can refine his footwork, his natural strength and athleticism will make him a premier left tackle at the next level.
The Redskins would want Moses (6'6", 325 lbs) to play right tackle, something he did for two of the three seasons he was a full-time starter in college.
Virginia's football program doesn't have a history of striking fear into anyone, but its reputation for churning out NFL-ready offensive linemen is impressive. If Moses can follow in the footsteps of former UVA greats Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, he'll have a nice pro career.
Moses is also a Richmond native, the same city that will play host to the Redskins' training camp for at least the next seven years.
Don't discount general manager Bruce Allen's penchant for acquiring players who grew up in close proximity to the Washington D.C. area. In the past, Allen has identified draft prospects and free agents alike who are familiar with the Redskins and their history.
Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
Redskins starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger weighs 284 pounds—a featherweight compared to most of his NFL counterparts.
Regardless, a massive interior lineman who can do it all would fit into any scheme. And while the lighter Lichtensteiger looks to be locked in as a starter next season, the other guard position could be available to a young bruiser like Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson.
Phil Savage, Executive Director of the Senior Bowl, believes Jackson (6'4", 340 lbs) has a bright future:
Gabe has a classic OG build with long arms, big hands and girth in his lower body. A consensus All-SEC selection, he has the strength to secure the bottom of the pocket and the power to knock people off the ball in the run game. He is tough, has enough lateral athletic ability and the brute force to be a long-time starting guard in the NFL.
At 313 pounds, Stanford's Yankey is probably better suited to execute the zone-blocking scheme employed under former head coach Mike Shanahan. But if Gruden does decide to beef-up the interior line, Jackson could be a perfect fit.
Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor
Guard Cyril Richardson is a name worth mentioning simply given the fact that he protected Robert Griffin III's blindside at Baylor.
When Griffin left for the NFL in 2012, the 6'5", 335-pound Richardson made the move from left tackle to guard and dominated college football, earning unanimous first-team All-American honors his senior season, via BaylorBears.com.
Richardson, however, was underwhelming at the Senior Bowl and will have to put on a great performance at the combine and his pro day to combat that.
If the Redskins do end up drafting Richardson, it would be for three reasons: He fell to the third round and they didn't draft a guard in the second; Gruden wants to acquire larger interior linemen; and he received an endorsement from Griffin.