Washington Redskins Mock Draft: 6-Round Predictions Post-Week 1 of Free Agency
General manager Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden addressed some pressing needs during the first wave of free agency, but it was not their primary issue.
They added a wide receiver to a thin position group, along with a more powerful interior O-lineman. The pair also bolstered the defensive front seven with an accomplished interior pass-rusher.
But even after a few savvy moves, the Washington brain trust has to find a safety or two, as well as more beef for the offensive front. There is also room for another pass-rusher.
Here are fresh six-round projections for Washington with the team's initial free-agency moves now done and dusted.
Round 2: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews will be too good to pass up for a team that still needs help at wide receiver. Despite signing Andre Roberts and bringing back Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson, Gruden needs an outside weapon who can stretch the field.
Matthews showed off that skill when he posted a 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. That speed, combined with a 6'3", 212-pound frame, makes Matthews ideal for Gruden's version of the West Coast passing game.
His skill as a route-runner and his reliable hands will also be a boon to quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was let down by some of his receivers in 2013.
Although there are other positions of need, don't think Gruden has finished bolstering his team's receiving talent. He told Mike Jones of The Washington Post that improving the position is an offseason priority: “I think it’s something we have to look at very closely, both free agency and this draft.”
There are simply too many able receivers likely to be available at the head of Round 2 for Gruden to ignore.
Adding Matthews to a stable of targets that already includes Roberts, Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed will give Griffin all the weapons he needs to rebound from a rough second season.
Round 3: Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
Declining to dip into the veteran market for a safety is the only blemish on an otherwise excellent start to free agency by the post-Mike Shanahan Redskins.
But the position that arguably did the most to undermine the defense in 2013 cannot be ignored this May. That is why Allen and Gruden won't hesitate to pluck Ed Reynolds off the board at the top of Round 3.
The former Stanford Cardinal ace represents awesome value at that stage for a team with rag-tag options at the safety position. Reynolds is a cunning free safety who matches stealthy agility as a covering defender with an appetite for punishing contact.
The obvious drawback to his game is a limited number of splash plays. He picked off only one pass in 2013, per numbers via cfbstats.com.
But while there are more productive safeties in this draft class, such as USC's Dion Bailey, few can match Reynolds' reliable intelligence. A dependable presence who can be trusted to do the little things right is something Washington has needed at safety for too long.
Reynolds answers that need and could allow Brandon Meriweather to move to strong safety. That's where the veteran's bone-jarring hits and attacking mentality might be better-suited in this defense.
The Redskins could still re-sign Meriweather, according to ESPN.com reporter John Keim. He could partner Reynolds, while 2013 fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas, who missed his rookie year due to a Lisfranc injury, works his way into the lineup.
Round 4: Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor
Even after tabbing ex-Cleveland Brown Shawn Lauvao to add greater power inside, the Redskins still need more beef in the trenches.
That will lead them to Cyril Richardson, a mammoth guard Griffin knows well, at the start of Round 4. Richardson blocked for Griffin when the dual-threat quarterback won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor.
Richardson's experience in Baylor's fast-paced, spread-style attack fits well with what the new regime in Washington wants.
Gruden wants to get bigger along the front, without sacrificing the athleticism and mobility that defines the team's highly successful zone-blocking scheme.
In late-February, Gruden told Mike Jones of The Washington Post that he wants the right balance up front:
That’s something we’re battling. Those are good players, but sometimes on third and eight, they get pushed back a little bit. They’ve done some great things in their career, obviously.
But if you get the bigger guys that don’t move quite as well, then you lose Alfred Morris and his strength, and that’s the outside zone and the stretch and finding lanes and holes to cut through. So, it can come back and bight you if you want to go big, depending on what you’re doing.
At 6'5" and 329 pounds (at least), Richardson certainly offers more size. But it is his agility that can make him an instant starter in D.C.
Richardson can push to supplant free-agent bust Chris Chester at right guard to complete a makeover of last season's dire interior trio. Gruden is already rumored to be shifting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger to center to replace recently released Will Montgomery, per ESPN.com Redskins reporter John Keim.
Even if he doesn't make the grade right away, Richardson's time at tackle means he can provide invaluable depth at multiple positions.
Round 5: Howard Jones, DE, Shepherd
The fact that Washington showed interest in Anthony Spencer, per Brandon George of the Dallas News, and also lost Darryl Tapp to the Detroit Lions, shows the team wants more pass-rushers on the outside.
Shepherd defensive end Howard Jones is an intriguing prospect the Redskins should consider. He logged 35 sacks during his days playing Division II football.
That number may have come against dubious competition, but such dominance at any level, is evidence of an obvious flair for rushing the passer.
Jones possesses both the lean frame and natural acceleration of a classic edge-rusher. What he needs is to work on basic technique.
If defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and outside linebackers coach Brian Baker can teach Jones a few tricks, he will quickly become a useful sub-package pass-rusher.
The Redskins hoped they were getting that kind of player in the same round in 2013. But Brandon Jenkins didn't make an impact.
Jones certainly can in a scheme that lets him do what he does best.
Landing Jason Hatcher, one of the best signings of this offseason, reduces the need to target D-line reinforcements in the draft. But Haslett's 3-4 system will still need another pass-rusher on the outside.
Round 6: Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
After adding veterans Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton, along with bringing back Perry Riley Jr., Washington can afford to wait until the later rounds for more inside linebacker help.
Once the Redskins target the position, Allen and Gruden should give a long look to bruiser Andrew Jackson. At 6'1" and 254 pounds, Jackson offers the physical power Washington doesn't have enough of at the heart of its 3-4 defense.
There are some issues concerning Jackson's temperament, though. He was suspended for breaking team rules at Western Kentucky.
But when he was on the field for the Hilltoppers, Jackson was highly productive and consistent. In 11 games in 2013, he tallied 55 total tackles, including 8.5 for a loss, per cfbstats.com.
If Gruden and Allen can ease their minds about his temperament, Jackson would be a good value pick. He might not be starter-ready at the position, but the Redskins don't need him to be.
The Redskins are also said to be interested in free agent Akeem Jordan, per Chris Russell of ESPN 980 Washington. It's unlikely the team has finished adding options at inside linebacker, in either free agency or the draft.
Round 7: Richard Rodgers, TE, California
Gruden's offense needs another tight end. Fred Davis is gone, while Reed had durability issues as a rookie.
The team intended to meet with former Houston starter Owen Daniels, per ESPN's Adam Caplan. Targeting Daniels indicates Gruden is looking for more than just an in-blocker to complement Reed's skills as a "move" receiver.
The new head coach also wants another steady pair of hands at the position. Enter Richard Rodgers, a great value pickup in the draft's final round.
Rodgers has not spent a lot of time playing tight end, having entered the collegiate ranks as a wide receiver. But the 6'4", 257-pounder proved to be reliable target at Cal.
Despite his classic in-line size, Rodgers is also flexible enough to be moved around a formation, a must in today's NFL.
CBS Sports analyst Rob Rang sees Rodgers as a "Joker" tight end or H-Back. Given how little Gruden tends to use a fullback, Rodgers' ability to play H-Back could be particularly useful.
With the right coaching, this raw and willing raw athlete can be molded into a useful pro pass-catcher.
Another week of free agency is likely to alter a pick or two, but the general pattern for Washington's plans in the first days of May is becoming a little clearer.