Biggest Questions Washington Redskins Must Answer over Draft Week
Despite its 3-13 record in 2013, Washington was able to steal two high-profile free agents, DeSean Jackson and Jason Hatcher, from its NFC East rivals.
But if the Redskins' past forays in free agency tell us anything, the team's going to need a successful draft to call this offseason a success.
With that said, here are the biggest questions Washington must answer over draft week.
Should They Trade Down in the 2nd Round?
With the first round of the NFL draft getting a day all to itself, there's plenty of time for teams to negotiate a trade to move atop the second round.
Owners of the No. 2 pick in the second round, the 'Skins are sure to be on the receiving end of such trade inquiries.
Already minus a first-round pick, trading back could be a viable option for the team to fill its biggest need: safety.
Out of the range to select top safety prospects Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, the No. 32 pick seems to be too high of a landing spot for Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon, both viewed by Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com as borderline second-round picks.
Factor in the long-term deals on the horizon for the likes of Brian Orakpo and Robert Griffin III, and trading down and acquiring more draft picks would seem to also be an effective way for the team to supplement the lack of salary-cap space in the coming seasons.
Should QB Kirk Cousins Be Traded?
Face it, any scenario in which Kirk Cousins is the starting quarterback is not a good one for the Redskins.
As an insurance policy or just competition for Griffin, Washington can't justify keeping Cousins. In a league in which Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel and Geno Smith are viewed as potential starters, there's a team willing to give Cousins a shot at a starting job.
With yet another weak class of rookie quarterbacks set to enter the league, now would seem to be a good time to pull the trigger.
Selected in the fourth round in 2012, Cousins should be a goner if a team offers a third-round pick.
A free agent after the 2015 season, another year buried behind Griffin could make Cousins' trade value look similar to Ryan Mallett's right about now.
Entering the final year of his rookie deal, ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss suggests the trade interest in the former third-rounder is waning because of his lack of playing time and pending free agency. Why trade for a player when you can get him for free in one year, right?
Although Cousins' track record trumps Mallett's, a similar line of thinking from potential trade suitors could make it difficult for Washington to net a quality draft pick if it waits any longer to deal him.
Draft the Best Player Available or Fill the Biggest Need?
In the event that Washington does hold on to its first pick, the team will have to weigh taking the best available player versus filling a pressing need.
Although there's a larger need at safety and inside linebacker, a draft rich in receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle prospects could lead to a high-end player falling into the Redskins' laps.
Two prospects that fall on both sides of such a scenario are linebacker Chris Borland and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
An NFL-ready prospect lacking in upside, Borland could immediately be plugged into the starting lineup and perform adequately in place of the retired London Fletcher.
Blessed with the elite tools that teams covet from offensive line prospects, Kouandjio has All-Pro potential. Heavily reliant on his raw ability at the collegiate level, though,he will need some time to develop before he is ready to start.
Coming off a 3-13 season, taking the best available player would seem to be the easy choice.
But fueled by the high-profile signings made this offseason, owner Daniel Snyder may have a preference for immediate contributors early in the draft.
Will They Draft Insurance for Brian Orakpo?
A good—but not great—player, Orakpo will be a tough player for the 'Skins to sign to a favorable long-term deal.
Set to make $11.455 million, with 39.5 career sacks in five seasons, Washington can't justify giving Orakpo that type of money in a long-term contract.
Considering that Paul Kruger parlayed nine sacks into a $40 million deal, though, you know that some team will be willing to.
Lacking a viable alternative to replace Orakpo with—should he leave or get hurt again—Washington should be looking to acquire a pass-rusher in the draft.
Touted by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) as the draft's second-best prospect at the outset of the year, linebacker Anthony Barr is a prospect who could fill this void.
Currently rated by Scouts Inc. (h/t ESPN.com) as the No. 31 prospect in the draft, Barr could still be available when the 'Skins pick atop the second round.
If the team decides to fill a more pressing need with its first pick, then pass-rushing prospects like Kyle Van Noy, Ronald Powell and Khairi Fortt are worth a look in the latter rounds.
How Can They Improve on Special Teams?
With a veteran-laden roster, starting opportunities won't be plentiful for Washington's 2014 draftees—hence the need for their contributions on special teams.
One of the worst special teams units in the NFL in 2013, the 'Skins got very little from rookies like Brandon Jenkins and Bacarri Rambo.
Aside from improving on kick coverage, the team could use a return specialist—if the team's third-string tight end, Niles Paul, serving as the primary kick returner didn't already tell you that.
Ideally, Washington would seek a prospect that could double as a third-down back to supplant Alfred Morris in passing situations.
Two players that fit these criteria are De'Anthony Thomas and Dri Archer. Explosive game-breakers, the presence of either prospect would boost a return unit that was last in kickoff return and 28th in punt return average last season.
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