7 Names Every Washington Redskins Fan Should Know Ahead of 2014 NFL Draft
As the pool of quality free agents dries up, teams are now shifting their focus toward the upcoming 2014 NFL draft.
But in the case of the Washington Redskins, their focus isn't hemmed in on the most recognizable names in the draft.
Without a first-round pick, Washington will have to rely on its scouting staff to identify the hidden gems in this year's draft class.
In need of an infusion of talent at safety, linebacker, receiver and along the offensive line, here are seven names that every Redskins fan should know about ahead of the 2014 NFL draft.
Jack Mewhort, OT
With the release of center Will Montgomery and the signing of guard Shawn Lauvao, Jay Gruden has made it a point to upgrade a unit that surrendered 43 sacks in 2013.
With the left side of the offensive line all but set, Washington can focus on finding replacements for the two remaining weak links, Tyler Polumbus and Chris Chester, in the draft.
Judging from the team's failed pursuit of tackle Donald Penn in free agency, Polumbus' starting position would seem to be the more tenuous of the two.
But by drafting tackle Jack Mewhort, the Skins could gain someone who is capable of replacing either player in the starting lineup. In four years at Ohio State, he saw playing time at every position along the offensive line except center.
While his master-of-none skill set could make Washington hesitate to throw him into the starting lineup as a rookie, Mewhort's versatility would give the team a high-level option to plug in at four positions in the event of injury.
Antonio Richardson, OT
Far from the technician that Mewhort is, Antonio Richardson utilizes his innate gifts to neutralize opposing defenders.
Since he played his college ball at Tennessee in the vaunted SEC, some of those defenders, like Jadeveon Clowney, were top NFL draft prospects.
A massive tackle at 6'6" and 326 pounds, Richardson meets Gruden's mandate to get stronger up front. The coach expressed his desires in an interview with Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio, via The Washington Post.
Touted to have "the deepest and most impressive toolbox of all the tackles in the 2014 class in terms of natural ability and size/athleticism combination," by Rob Rang and Derek Stephens of CBSSports.com, Richardson would be a steal for the Redskins in the third round.
Devin Street, WR
While the signing of DeSean Jackson greatly bolsters Washington's downfield attack, the move does little to solve the team's woes in the red zone.
In 2013, the team only scored on 52 percent of its red-zone trips.
With a litany of undersized receivers already on the depth chart, the Skins should target a receiver with size in the draft to address this problem.
At 6'3" and with a 37-inch vertical leap, per NFL.com, Devin Street fits the billing.
The all-time leader in receptions (202) at Pittsburgh—the same school that produced Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Bryant and Jon Baldwin—Street could grow into a larger role if he improves his route running and fills out his frame.
Nonetheless, with his ability to win jump balls and box out defenders, he should see some action in goal-to-go situations as a rookie.
Ronald Powell, LB
Projected to go in the fifth or sixth round by CBSSports.com, Ronald Powell's sliding draft stock has nothing to do with his ability.
He was one of the top defensive prospects coming out of high school, but injuries have derailed this once promising pass-rusher.
At Florida, he tore his ACL twice and missed the entire 2012 season.
Called a "physically gifted, inconsistent, college “Buck” (hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker) with crude strength and athleticism," by Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com, Powell would slot in nicely as a backup to Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan in Washington.
A potential starter if he can improve his technique and regain the athleticism he displayed prior to injury, he could serve as a solid insurance policy for Washington in the event that Kerrigan and Orakpo aren't locked up to long-term deals.
Christian Jones, LB
In response to London Fletcher's retirement, Washington signed three linebackers in free agency: Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward.
Although Sharpton and Jordan have starting experience, whether due to injury or play, they haven't established themselves as starting-caliber players.
Enter Christian Jones.
After seeing time at inside and outside linebacker, as well as defensive end, at Florida State, Jones could need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
Nonetheless, there's no question that he has the tools to be a quality starter, as Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com notes: "Chiseled, height-weight-speed see-and-go reactor with intriguing athleticism, versatility and upside who shows in flashes, but leaves evaluators wanting more. Play will reach another level if/when his processor speed catches up to his physical talent."
Capable of covering tight ends, he would be an asset for a Redskins team that has to face Jason Witten, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz on a biannual basis.
Jimmie Ward, S
In Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark, the Redskins have two short-term options at safety.
But even with young safeties Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas backing them up, it's questionable if the long-term answer is currently on the roster.
Rambo struggled as a rookie, and Thomas missed the entire year to injury.
While it's unlikely that Washington can net an immediate starter in the draft without a first-round pick, there are some safeties who could grow into starting roles with some grooming.
One such player is Jimmie Ward.
Slightly undersized, he posted impressive numbers in his collegiate career. According to NFL.com, he tallied 300 tackles and 11 interceptions in his three seasons as a starter at Northern Illinois.
While he is a sure tackler with cornerback-like cover skills, the level of competition that he faced could lead to a steep learning curve as a rookie.
But with a solid track record on special teams—he blocked four kicks in his collegiate career—Ward could find his niche there early in his career.
Slotted to go in the second round by CBSSports.com, Ward's lack of NFL readiness could give Washington pause in selecting him with its first pick.
Deone Bucannon, S
Whereas Ward makes his bones in coverage, Deone Bucannon earns his keep as an enforcer.
In describing Bucannon and his game, Rob Rang of CBSSports.com stated the following: "Boasts an imposing build with broad shoulders and a thick, muscled-up top half. Best attribute may be his explosive hitting, as Bucannon at times appears as though he is shot out of a cannon, unloading on runners and receivers crossing the middle and forcing fumbles."
While his interception totals state otherwise—he has 15 career interceptions—his coverage skills alarm NFL scouts.
This much was evident in what NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki had to say about Bucannon: "Average speed—struggles to recover from missteps and will not track anyone down from behind. Some tightness in his hips. Man-coverage limitations (struggles to match with slot receivers)."
Although this scouting report is cause for concern, so long as he is placed near the line of scrimmage and paired with a safety who is proficient in coverage, Bucannon should develop into a starting-caliber defender.