Washington Redskins' Biggest Combine Takeaways
The frenzy of the NFL combine has come and gone, and we're left with an excess of numbers that dictate the value of over 300 NFL hopefuls. For the Washington Redskins, the 2014 combine could very well dictate the early success of Jay Gruden's tenure as head coach.
Numbers alone don't tell the story, but they go a long way towards deciding between prospect A or prospect B. This distinction can change a team for better or for worse.
Without a first-round pick, the Redskins will have to scrutinize the early talent to see who may fall out of the first round that fits their need, or what middle-round prospect is a better fit or value pick.
Here are just a few things the Redskins should take away from this year's combine.
Talent Is Deep at Positions of Need
The Redskins have needs across the board, or so it seems, and this draft is deep at most of the important ones. Defensive line talent is through the roof, even if you removed Jadeveon Clowney from the crop.
Defensive backs and linebackers are another excellent group, boasting a lot of talented players who don't fit the prototypes of their positions.
Washington, in dire need of size on the interior of their offensive line, will find an array of versatile and experienced prospects in the middle rounds of the draft.
If there is any consolation for not having a first-round pick, it is knowing that there is enough talent to help the Redskins restock under Jay Gruden.
Not Having a First-Round Pick Hurts
Disregard entirely the need for young, high-end talent on both sides of the ball. The Redskins could have shopped their second-overall pick around to acquire more picks to fill out their needy roster.
With teams like Jacksonville, Oakland, Cleveland and Minnesota clamoring for new quarterbacks, Washington might have been able to trade out of the top five while still having a shot at elite prospects in the top 10 or top 15.
A top-15 pick is still better than having no first-round pick at all. Even better is having a top-15 pick along with a mid-second or third-round pick.
A top-15 pick could have netted the Redskins the best safety in the draft in Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Chris Borland's Combine Should Hold No Bearing on His Draft Stock
Chris Borland is the definition of a football player. His combine numbers, height and speed don't matter when you look at what he has done on the field for Wisconsin.
He measured in at 5'11" weighing 248 pounds and clocked a 4.83 40-yard dash, none of which are considered ideal for his position.
However, Borland was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, which boasts past winners LaVar Arrington, James Laurinaitis, Charles Woodson, Shawn Springs and Ryan Kerrigan. He recorded 17 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, three interceptions and 44 tackles for loss in his career.
Borland's instincts and on-field presence may remind fans of London Fletcher or Zach Thomas, who are among the best linebackers of the last 20 years and were written off as being too small to succeed in the NFL.
Size Isn't Everything
Aaron Donald is one of the top defensive linemen when it comes to talent on the field. Though he stands just 6’1”, his 63 tackles for loss, 27.5 sacks and professional demeanor make him an excellent draft prospect.
Like Chris Borland, his numbers show the impact he can make on the field in spite of his lack of ideal size.
The Redskins shouldn’t allow details like height and weight to dictate their picks. Talent and on-field ability matter more than an inch or two in height. And technique is just as valuable as size in the trenches.
It is one of the pitfalls of the combine to focus so much on prototypes and ideals.
Top Pick Needs to Be Receiver or Defensive Back
Though a top free safety may be out of the question in the second round, the draft will be loaded with corners and receivers talented enough to be first-round picks.
Jordan Matthews and Allen Robinson are safe bets because of their size and production. Martavis Bryant lacked top-end production playing alongside Sammy Watkins at Clemson, but offers big-play potential even though he lacks refinement.
Cornerback is a deep position this year and because not every team needs one, some players with first-round grades will fall to Washington with their first pick in the second round.
Bradley Roby and Kyle Fuller should both be available, but offer different benefits. Fuller may transition more as a slot corner to begin with, while Roby plays more physical and has a higher ceiling.
With the exception of David Yankey at guard, there aren't many players that would fall to the Redskins and override their needs in the secondary and at receiver.
Playmakers Are Everywhere at Receiver
Jay Gruden likes to stock up on talent at receiver, which does not bode well for the current state of the Redskins roster. However, the 2014 draft should have a ton of talent to choose from both early and late.
The safe options are Jordan Matthews and Allen Robinson, who entered the combine with excellent college numbers and solid measurements.
Donte Moncrief doesn't have the big numbers, but has the size, speed and ceiling to be an excellent option opposite Pierre Garcon. He posted a 4.4 40 and a 39.5-inch vertical leap, making him both a deep threat and a red zone target.
A slot receiver like Mike Campanaro would be an immediate upgrade for the Redskins, who lacked a consistent presence running the underneath routes.
Surefire Offensive Line Talent Lacking Outside of First Round
Outside of the elite left tackle prospects and some highly rated guards, there aren't a lot of unquestioned offensive linemen to be found in the second or third rounds. The Redskins need to beef up the middle of their line, but can't compromise mobility for size in their zone blocking scheme.
Miami's Seantrel Henderson started his career with a ton of hype behind his 6'7" frame, but failed to play to expectations. He's got the size, but questions about his consistency and technique remain.
Colorado State's Weston Richburg is a smart player with all the technique in the world, but he's only physically adequate, and lacks ideal size to stand up against bigger defensive linemen at the NFL level.
Then there's a player like Billy Turner. Though he appears to have the perfect size, football IQ and ability, he suffers from playing for North Dakota State, which makes many doubt the level of competition he faced.
Gamebreakers Available Late
Tevin Reese and Dri Archer are explosive athletes who don’t have the tools, whether physical or otherwise, to make a seamless transition from college to the pros. They don’t have first-round grades because they lack all of the dimensions of the top prospects.
What they do offer is the ability to make an impact on one single play.
Because they lack the multidimensional skills of the higher rated prospects, they’ll fall to the later rounds where teams are more likely to take chances on potential over proven production.
Archer recorded the fastest 40 at the combine this year at 4.26, just .02 seconds shy of Chris Johnson's combine record.
He may not have the size to carry the load as an NFL running back, but he can make plays in a hurry if given the chance.