Top 10 NFL Draft Prospects Who Fill Washington Redskins' Biggest Need
Entering free agency, it was no secret that the Washington Redskins were in dire need of a facelift for their secondary.
Aside from placing in the bottom half of the league in pass defense, Washington's back end was even carved up by Christian Ponder last season.
Nonetheless, nearly two weeks into the NFL's annual spending spree, the signing of cornerback Tracy Porter and the re-signing of Brandon Meriweather stand as the team's top moves.
Some upgrades, right?
Ask Washington general manager Bruce Allen, as Mike Jones of The Washington Post did, and the pairing of Meriweather and Phillip Thomas could solve the team's conundrum at safety.
At cornerback, though, the team is far from set.
Letting Josh Wilson walk in free agency is a start. But Washington would be naive if it thinks a combination of David Amerson, DeAngelo Hall and Porter will hold up against the likes of Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Nick Foles.
Fortunately for the Skins, a cornerback-rich draft could be the elixir to this problem.
In need of a corner that, ideally, can immediately bump Porter out of the team's nickel package, the following prospects will be ranked on how quickly they can transition to the NFL game.
At the same token, with Hall set to turn 31 during the 2014 campaign, a prospect's starting potential will also be a factor.
Considering that Washington only tallied 19 interceptions in 2013, you can add ball skills to the equation as well.
With that said, here are the top 10 NFL draft prospects who fill Washington's need at cornerback.
10. Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State
Routinely beat by opposing receivers in 2014, to Josh Wilson's credit, he did limit yards after the catch with his sure-tackling ability. Also an asset in run support, this aspect of Wilson's game will be missed.
In cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, the Skins could have a prospect capable of emulating Wilson on the latter front.
Consistently among the top tacklers on his Oregon State teams, Reynolds also proved to be a ball hawk. Reynolds tied for first in the Pac-12 in interceptions with six.
Capable of playing in multiple coverage schemes, Reynolds is NFL-ready, but he still comes with his faults.
As CBSSports.com's Rob Rang notes, "[Reynolds] can get a little grabby (especially on double-moves), subtly shoving receivers as they turn to hamper their progress."
Ultimately, it's Reynolds' starting potential that leaves him this low on the totem pole. Without the size and top-end speed that teams covet, it's hard to overlook Reynolds' undisciplined play.
9. Jaylen Watkins, Florida
Despite owning prototypical size and top-end speed—it's in the family, his brother is former Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins—Jaylen Watkins was often overshadowed in his collegiate career at Florida by Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy.
So much so that Watkins was moved over to safety in his senior season.
As NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki states, "Watkins could most ideally fit in the slot, with enough physicality to defend the run and fine short-area cover skills to match up with shifty receivers."
A jack-of-all-trades player, Watkins' value lies in his versatility. Lacking the ideal ball skills—he has only three career interceptionsWatkins profiles as a No. 3 corner.
8. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Diminutive in size, Lamarcus Joyner still doesn't shy away from making contact. CBSSports.com even went as far as to say that "NFL scouts will be hard-pressed to find a better inch-for-inch defender in the country" than Joyner.
Still, despite Brugler's praise, it's questionable if Joyner can excel as an outside corner. His lack of top-end speed, coupled with what he gives up in height, makes him a liability in man coverage against bigger receivers.
With that said, the best place for Joyner is covering the slot. Faced with smaller receivers, who are more quick than fast, Joyner's weaknesses can be masked.
But with the likelihood that he never becomes more than a No. 3 man, Joyner is confined to the No. 8 spot on this list.
7. Keith McGill, Utah
Possessing excellent size and athletic ability—at 6'3", he had a 39-inch vertical leap and ran a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash—Keith McGill is a receiver playing cornerback.
But in that assessment, there are both positives and negatives. While his receiver-like size keeps him from being a victim in 50-50 balls, his aversion toward contact is troublesome.
This was a sentiment that CBSSports.com's Rob Rang touched on in his write-up of McGill:
While physically imposing, McGill shows only average toughness, too often hand-fighting with smaller receivers' blocks downfield rather than aggressively defeating them and attacking the ballcarrier.
A bit hesitant when forced to break down and make tackles in the open field and can resort to lunging attempts at arm tackles rather than driving through the ballcarrier.
Aside from his Deion Sanders-esque tackling, McGill's durability and NFL-readiness is also in question.
A junior college player prior to attending Utah, McGill only played in five games in 2011 and missed the entire 2012 campaign because of a shoulder injury.
With the 2013 season practically serving as his lone exposure to high-end competition, it's doubtful that McGill would be ready to contribute as a rookie.
So while the starting potential is clearly there, this fault in McGill's game keeps him confined to the No. 7 ranking.
6. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
In a similar mold to McGill, Stanley Jean-Baptiste also has great size for the cornerback position. Unfortunately, the similarities don't just end there.
During his time at Nebraska, tackling proved to be an adventure for Jean-Baptiste. Additionally, he struggled when matched up with quicker receivers.
Despite these limitations, it's Jean-Baptiste's ball skills that scream starter.
As Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com notes, Jean-Baptiste proved to be very effective playing the ball in his limited time as a starter. In 17 career starts, he had 21 pass breakups and six interceptions.
Provided he isn't moved to safety, Jean-Baptiste should see the field more than McGill as a rookie, utilizing his press-man coverage skills to neutralize opposing receivers.
5. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Seeing time at linebacker, safety and corner in his time at Virginia Tech, a defense could use Fuller in a variety of ways, particularly as a blitzer.
Not the greatest athlete, Fuller is best suited playing zone coverage.
Due to his lack of strength, Fuller struggles in press-man coverage. Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com went as far as to call Fuller a "string bean with limited room to get much stronger."
While Fuller has first-round talent, this knock, as well as his injury history, make him unworthy of being selected with the Skins' second-round pick.
4. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Possessing excellent ball skills and elite speed—he ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash—Bradley Roby could be an impact performer as a rookie in Washington.
At his best in zone coverage, Roby excels when he can read the quarterback's eyes and drive on the football.
Not great in press-man coverage, one knock on Roby is that he allows opposing receivers to shield him from the football too often. But with the physical traits he possesses, this is an aspect that Roby can improve on.
NFL-ready with starting potential, Roby is the first prospect worthy of being selected with Washington's first pick.
3. Jason Verrett, TCU
Despite lacking prototypical size, Jason Verrett makes his living by getting physical with opposing receivers.
Similar to Cortland Finnegan in that regard, Verrett is also an explosive athlete. At the combine, he registered a 4.38 40-yard dash and a 39-inch vertical leap.
It's because of these innate gifts that Verrett can recover when he's beaten off the line of scrimmage.
Destined to be, at the very least, a team's nickel corner the moment he's drafted, Verrett has an upside of a No. 2 corner.
2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Well schooled in press-man coverage, Darqueze Dennard joins Justin Gilbert in the elite category of cornerback prospects.
A good, but not great, athlete, the divide between Dennard and Gilbert is courtesy of what Dennard wasn't asked to do at Michigan State.
A member of one of the nation's top defenses, Dennard wasn't challenged deep downfield often because of the team's stout front seven.
Owning just adequate straight-line speed, he ran a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com questions his "straight-line speed."
Additionally, as Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com highlights, Dennard played very little zone coverage in college.
Even with that said, Dennard projects to be a No. 2 corner the moment he dons an NFL uniform. A disciplined player and solid open-field tackler, a trade would need to occur if Washington has any plans on selecting him.
1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
An owner of the requisite size and speed that teams covet, Justin Gilbert has the production to match his tantalizing athleticism.
In his career at Oklahoma State, Gilbert had 12 interceptions, seven of which he had in his senior season.
Then there's the glowing report that NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki gave Gilbert:
A big, fast, athletic, man-cover corner capable of locking down receivers and creating big plays in the return game. Is the most physically gifted cover man in this year's draft and has the athletic talent to walk into a starting job and match up with big receivers from Day One if he continues to work at his craft after a big payday and prepares like a pro.
Compared to Terence Newman by CBSSports.com's Rob Rang, Gilbert is the clear-cut top cornerback prospect in the draft.
While Washington would have to trade up to acquire him, the Skins' improved pass rush would make the tandem of Gilbert, Amerson and Hall very formidable.