4 Early First-Round Prospects Who Could Fall to Washington
As with any draft, there will be surprises.
Will Gruden go for the best player available, or will he try to address Washington's remaining holes and risk over-reaching out of need?
Talk this time of year will turn to tumbling draft stock, late climbs up team boards and workouts that divided opinions. We trust no one, but that doesn't stop everyone from speaking.
Read on for four top talents who could drop out of the first round and into Washington's grateful arms.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan's path to the draft hasn't been the most straightforward.
If he'd declared last year, it's possible he would have been a top-five pick.
This year, he faces arraignment on three assault charges.
Red flags like that make a difference, and teams will start looking at other players.
For his part, Lewan remains upfront about the issue, addressing it when speaking to reporters at the combine. Per ESPN's Michael Rothstein:
I wasn't in any fight of any kind. I was actually breaking something up and some guy said that I slugged him, but that's not who I am off the field, that's not the kind of person I am.
It might seem that way because of the way I play football, but that's not the way I am as a person.
On paper, Lewan seems too talented to fall out of the first round. Any one of the Ravens, Dolphins or the Rams could take him before Gruden makes his first pick, but the fact remains that Washington is in need of a tackle.
It's true that Lewan is a left tackle, and transferring a player from a position he's played since high school isn't a sure-fire winner, but there's no doubt the Michigan lineman has the determination to pull it off.
At the combine, Lewan outlined his focus on the field. Per Eric Edholm at Yahoo! Sports:
My main focus in my game is to give my running back an opportunity to gain yards and give my quarterback the opportunity to be successful in the pocket.
My job doesn’t get many highlights, or stuff like that. I love doing what I do, whether it’s right tackle, left tackle, center or guard. It doesn’t matter as long as I have the opportunity.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Washington is in need of a big-bodied receiver who can go over the middle and make tough catches under pressure. Leonard Hankerson's recovery timetable remains unknown, which leaves David Gettis as the tallest receiver on the roster at 6'3".
At 6'5" and 240 pounds, Benjamin should be a lock for the first round. However, NFL.com's Gil Brandt wrote on Twitter that Benjamin canceled a workout with an NFL coach because "he was too tired."
That doesn't translate well.
There also comes a point when a receiver stops being a receiver and becomes a tight end. Despite measurables that compare favorably with Calvin Johnson, Benjamin doesn't have the same pace, and his route-running isn't anywhere near as polished.
He needs work, but his upside makes him worthy of a first-round choice.
Should he drop to Washington at No. 34, he would make a welcome addition to an offense that is already looking potent to start the 2014 season.
Louis Nix, DL, Notre Dame
Louis Nix is worthy of a top-10 pick, but his problems with tendonitis in his knees over the last two years—eventually requiring surgery—could cause some teams to go cold on him. His weight has also been an issue, and he has struggled to stay in shape.
Nix played around the 350-pound mark at Notre Dame, but he has returned for a new season overweight and lacking conditioning.
Washington fans have seen this problem with Josh LeRibeus, so know how damaging it can be.
However, it's still difficult to see Gruden passing on Nix if he fell to No. 34. He's strong enough to hold multiple blockers, but if left unblocked he'll crash through the line and kill the play. His weight works to his advantage at the line of scrimmage, as he can stand up to double-teams and still put pressure on the quarterback.
There aren't any better nose tackle prospects in this draft, and with Barry Cofield due to count $7,677,500 against the cap this year, Washington would be wise to look at other options.
Nix would be a steal in the second round.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Bradley Roby ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine, which got him a lot of attention. He looks like a lock for the first round right now, but there's no denying his flaws.
Watching tape of his 2013 season at Ohio State, it's startling how eager he is to fall for double moves. He's too aggressive in trying to go for the interception, which allows receivers in behind him and leaves him with work to do. He's got the pace to recover, but he also misses some tackles in space through poor technique.
After the season Washington endured last year through non-existent tackling, Roby is a risk.
However, a lot of the weaknesses on display last year could have been said of David Amerson in 2012, and he grew into his role more as the season progressed. Roby is an interesting player, and with the right coaching, he could be a standout cornerback in a few years.
At 5'11" and 194 pounds, he can get out-muscled by bigger receivers, but his aggression is his ally in this respect. Roby is a competitor unafraid to get in and play with the physicality of a bigger defender.
Along with Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, Roby is a prospect the Redskins should have on their board, as they look to rebuild the secondary under Gruden.