Stock Up, Stock Down for Washington's Top Draft Targets
Washington has many needs in the 2014 draft, and as such there has been a lack of clarity over who Jay Gruden should be taking, especially with the 34th overall pick.
Without playing a down of football, a player's draft stock can plummet. Whether it's off-field concerns, injury history or a lack of overall commitment to football, scouts and GMs will be removing names from their big boards at a mortifying rate.
Let's have a quick look at who has been mocked to Washington, who benefited from the extra two weeks before the draft and who will be feeling very nervous indeed.
Stock Up: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
If anyone has benefited from a little extra time this year, it's Cyrus Kouandjio.
Knee concerns in an offensive lineman can spell death for his draft stock, but Kouandjio had time to combat the rumors of arthritis and obtain the services of Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews sent out a memo to all 32 NFL teams, assuring them that Kouandjio's knee is not a problem and should be ignored when assessing his future. Of course, Andrews also happens to be Washington's team doctor.
While the lineman's stock has fallen, he's been able to claw some of it back and is being projected as an option for Gruden at the top of the second round. John Keim at ESPN highlighted Kouandjio's run blocking as a strength, but worried about his balance in the passing game, which led him into trouble at Alabama.
However, he would offer an immediate upgrade over Tyler Polumbus. Kouandjio could be dropped in as a bookend to Trent Williams and offer some stability at right tackle from Week 1.
The knee will remain under scrutiny, but Gruden will have spoken to Andrews at length. If he makes the move, he will be confident in Kouandjio's ability to perform at a high level.
Stock Down: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
It wasn't long ago that Austin Seferian-Jenkins was being talked about as a first-round talent, and The Washington Post's Mark Bullock marked him as a TE option with Gruden's first pick.
However, a series of poor interviews have reportedly caused his stock to plummet.
As Charlie Campbell at WalterFootball.com stated:
We've spoken with teams selecting early in the second round that need help at tight end, and they said they won't be drafting Seferian-Jenkins because of his personal makeup. They like him as a player and believe he is a first-round talent, but with his off-the-field concerns, they plan on passing on him.
If Gruden wants to take a chance on Seferian-Jenkins, it's unlikely to be in the second round. Even with the demise of Fred Davis' career, Washington has more pressing needs than tight end right now. If Seferian-Jenkins should fall to the third round, that would represent much better value.
Stock Up: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Jimmie Ward was being projected by Tarik El-Bashir of CSN Washington as a third-rounder around the time of the Senior Bowl, but has since risen to be worthy of first-round discussion by Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen.
Safety remains a concern for Washington, even with the addition of Ryan Clark and the return of Phillip Thomas. From looking like a good option in the third round, Ward could now be gone by the time Gruden makes his first pick.
Despite his lack of prototypical size (5'11" and 193 pounds), Ward plays bigger and is unafraid of contact, bringing both physicality and versatility to the defensive backfield. Capable of being many things to a defensive coordinator, Ward has played downhill as a strong safety, in coverage over the top and defending the slot.
Ward is bound to rise up the boards of GMs looking to bring value to their picks. At the very least, Ward could be a fearsome contributor on special teams. While they invariably want more than that from their first pick, special teams was a huge weakness for Washington in 2013. There's no doubt that Ward would make his mark there.
Stock Down: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Despite the powerful moves made in free agency, Gruden and Robert Griffin III are in need of a big-bodied receiver to offer a red-zone target. Kelvin Benjamin was supposed to be going in the first round, but a poor combine showing has seen his stock free-fall ever since.
That wouldn't actually be the worst thing for him, either. He's not a polished receiver, by any means. He doesn't look natural running routes, while drops have often been a feature of his game at Florida State.
Potential is what Washington would be getting here. At 6'5" and 240 pounds, he's got ideal size to dominate defensive backs. The hope among an NFL staff will be that the rest can be coached.
Stock Up: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
At 5'9" and 189 pounds, Jason Verrett doesn't immediately fill a need for Washington. Nevertheless, his intense competitiveness and impressive instincts—along with a strong showing at the combine—have seen him rise up draft boards.
In 2013, it was easy to see where the holes were in Jim Haslett's defense. Poor tackling and a lack of ability in coverage surrendered big plays across the year—much as it did the year before. Adding Verrett would fix some of that, as well as adding some fire to the secondary.
Despite these qualities, taking him with the 34th overall pick still seems like a reach. With receivers continuing to come out of college bigger and faster, Verrett would likely be outmuscled at the line of scrimmage. His slight frame has also meant an inability to stay healthy, and teams will have concerns about his longevity.
Verrett has a huge amount of talent, but despite his rise, just wouldn't be the right move to make this early.