Washington Redskins Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions, Post-Combine
Defense will be the order of the day at the top of May's draft for the Washington Redskins. Impressive results at the combine by a number of wide receivers shouldn't have altered this team's pressing need to get better at both the front and back end of its defense.
In fact, it is the front seven that could the receive most attention early on. Circumstances created by free agency should dictate that reality.
Washington has several members of its front seven, both starters and rotational players, scheduled to hit the market. That reality demands reinforcements.
The team may also opt for more experienced recruits to bolster its secondary one year after striking out with rookie starters.
Here is what a full mock should look like for Washington after the Combine.
Round 2: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt being on the board when Washington picks 34th overall will be too good for general manager Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden to resist.
Tuitt is something Washington has had a difficult time acquiring via the draft, namely a natural 3-4 front seven linchpin. The 6'5", 304-pounder isn't a conversion project.
Instead, he is a ready-to-go-now, 5-technique defensive end who can absorb blockers and push the pocket. Those are two things the Washington D-line didn't do enough of in 2013.
Allen and Gruden know veterans Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker have struggled with injuries. They missed all of last season with lengthy, complicated ailments that demanded surgery.
The brittle and aging pair also carry high salaries that could easily make them cap casualties.
An honest assessment would also conclude 2011 second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins has yet to recapture the promise he showed prior to tearing his ACL in his first preseason.
For this scheme to ever work the way it should, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett needs playmakers up front. Tuitt is certainly that, as Rob Rang of CBS Sports highlights:
Tantalizing upside. Highly athletic frame despite massive size. Impressive combination of length, power and surprising quickness. Scheme versatility for the 3-4 and 4-3, possessing the size of most interior linemen while maintaining the quickness to provide a rush off the edge.
At best, Tuitt is projected as a very late first-rounder, and there is every reason to believe he will still be on the board at the start of the second.
For one thing, his final season with Notre Dame was just average. It is also unlikely that many teams will covet a natural two-gap, 3-4 defensive end with their first-round pick.
Tuitt's stock will have also dipped slightly after he missed the combine with a fractured foot, reported by NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
The fracture is only a "small" one according to Jeremiah. While it is unfortunate for Tuitt, it could be fortuitous for Washington.
The team can select a true 3-4 lineman who would help improve the production of Haslett's whole scheme.
Round 3: Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
In his post-combine mock draft, Bleacher Report writer Matt Miller has Washington taking inside linebacker Shayne Skov at this spot. It is a pick that would give Jim Haslett another natural 3-4 defender to plug into the front seven.
Skov mastered the scheme during his time at Stanford. Like any good 3-4 linebacker should be, Skov is solid in every area of defense.
He has good size to shed interior blockers and stuff inside running lanes. He is also quick enough to track ball carriers sideline to sideline.
Skov also boasts good timing on the blitz, as well as being a competent zone defender. In short, he is an obvious fit for the demands of a flexible 3-4 scheme.
Washington has an immediate need for a player with Skov's skills at the heart of their linebacker corps. London Fletcher has retired, Perry Riley Jr. is a free agent and depth is highly questionable.
Although Wisconsin's Chris Borland appears to have become something of a fan favorite among Washington supporters, Skov is the more complete player and superior system fit.
Nabbing both Tuitt and Skov would significantly bolster the Washington front seven and ease the burden on a rebuilding secondary.
Round 4: Craig Loston, S, LSU
The need for help at safety has been ongoing for the last four seasons. Fortunately, there is plenty of value at the position in this draft, and Craig Loston is as good as pick as Washington can make in Round 4.
He was a steady, consistent safety at LSU, a school with a tremendous recent record of sending skilled defensive backs to the pros. Cornerback Morris Claiborne and safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid have all become NFL starters since leaving the Tigers in the last two years.
Loston fits in D.C. not because he is a ball hawk, but because he is a tough box defender and natural strong safety. Brandon Meriweather is liked at the free safety position, although quite why is anybody's guess.
In fairness, the veteran did become a little more dependable as the torturous 2013 campaign wore on. The real problem is a lack of athletic range at strong safety.
Reed Doughty is a willing gamer, but his less than solid physical qualities are exposed too often. Thankfully, Washington will be buoyed by the return of last season's fourth-rounder Phillip Thomas.
Yet he will likely find it tough to supplant Doughty immediately, after missing his entire rookie season due to Lisfranc surgery. But Thomas does have real potential, and that could convince Gruden and Allen into not making safety a priority with an earlier pick.
The pair will also know they have options in free agency. A player like Buffalo Bills ball hawk Jairus Byrd may be out of their price range, but even if he is, there are still names like T.J. Ward, Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Clemons to consider.
All of these factors make Loston excellent value at this stage. His 4.65 speed running the 40-yard dash at the combine was not particularly impressive. But Loston is a player who works best closer to the line and uses his savvy to be in the right positions.
His major drawback is a worrying similarity to Meriweather, pointed out by Rob Rang: "Loston's aggression gets the better of him, at times, as he'll duck his head into tackles (which could draw flags or lead to injury) and sometimes fails to break down adequately, relying on hitting rather than tackling to knock ball carriers to the ground."
Secondary coach Raheem Morris will have to earn his keep by curbing those bad habits. It is work worth doing to refine a smart and fearless safety who can provide immediate help.
Round 5: Michael Schofield, T, Michigan
At this point, Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen take time away from the necessary work of retooling the defense and land a real gem in offensive tackle Michael Schofield.
The ex-Wolverines standout has enjoyed a stellar pre-draft process. He earned plenty of plaudits at the Senior Bowl, according to NFL.com College Football 24/7 writer Mike Huguenin, citing draft reporter Mike Mayock.
Schofield also helped himself at the combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 5.01 seconds, indicating the quickness the converted tight end possesses.
Schofield is a good fit in Washington because of his skill as a natural right tackle. That is a position sorely in need of upgrade due to the uninspiring play of Tyler Polumbus.
In the zone scheme run in Washington, Schofield has steal potential.
Round 6: Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
Washington may be able to wait until the later rounds to find help at cornerback. That should put Bennett Jackson on the team's radar in Round 6.
Expect Bruce Allen to make a big push for New England Patriots ace Aqib Talib in free agency. It is a bid that has a good chance of success.
The team tried to land him last offseason, according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today. The Patriots are also unlikely to offer Talib the type of money he might want, according to CSN New England reporter Tom E. Curran.
There is real hope Allen can reunite Talib with Morris, who coached him when the two worked for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With DeAngelo Hall also having been re-signed, and last year's top pick David Amerson ready to improve, cornerback may not be as pressing a need as it appears.
That's why Jay Gruden and Allen can wait to add a prospect at a position where Josh Wilson, E.J. Biggers and Jerome Murphy are all free agents. Jackson fits the bill as a quick-footed, physical cover man.
At 6'0" and 195 pounds, he suits the necessary reshaping of this secondary into a bigger, more bruising unit.
But Allen can also be encouraged by how Jackson used the combine to prove he has speed to go with his physicality.
He ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds, revealing solid field-stretching quickness. Jackson also posted a 38-inch vertical jump, along with a very impressive 128.0-inch broad jump.
This is a big cornerback with the size and temperament to play press, as well as the agility to go up and snatch the ball.
Round 7: L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri
Jay Gruden likes big receivers and his offense needs a burner on the outside. That makes L'Damian Washington the perfect choice in the seventh round.
The former Missouri flanker showcased his tremendous speed at the combine. The 6'4", 195-pounder ran the 40 in 4.46 seconds.
Washington can add that deep threat element that was missing from last season's passing game. But he will certainly need to work on his basic mechanics, as NFL.com draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki notes:
Classic body-catcher with small, skillet hands -- consistently smothers and traps the ball. Does not track the deep ball well and adjustments look unnatural. Very inconsistent hand placement. Has a very skinny build and plays small in the run game -- does not finish blocks.
But there is enough raw potential in Washington's game to warrant a gamble. Gruden got good production from Marvin Jones, a former fifth-round pick, when he ran the offense for the Cincinnati Bengals.
He won't mind taking a chance on another late-round receiver.
This group of players represents wise use of Washington's selections. They all answer the most relevant team needs.