10 Names Every Redskins Fan Needs to Know Before the 2014 NFL Draft
The wait has been painful for Washington Redskins fans, but it's almost over.
After months of exhaustive speculation, coupled with a two-week pushback, the first round of the NFL draft is just two days away. Twenty-four hours later—barring an unlikely trade—Redskins general manager Bruce Allen will begin to put the proverbial cherry on top of what has already been a wildly successful offseason.
Let's take a quick-hit look at the names that you should become familiar with before the Redskins make their first selection, No. 34 overall. Note that second-round prospects who cannot play defense and special teams or protect the quarterback need not apply.
Joel Bitonio, OT/G, Nevada
The versatility of Nevada's Joel Bitonio could be attractive to the Redskins when they are pondering who to select at No. 34 overall.
Bitonio's NFL.com draft profile notes that he "can play any position on the line" and is "extremely tough and durable."
On a conference call with reporters last week, NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock sang the praises of Bitonio, via CSNWashington.com's Rich Tandler:
A guy that nobody is talking about that I love is Joel Bitonio from Nevada. Most people assume he's a guard. I watched him handle Anthony Barr. I watched him against Florida State. I watched him against Boise who has a good edge kid in DeMarcus Lawrence.
I think Bitonio will start day one at right tackle and I think he'll be there at 34.
While it's paramount that the Redskins employ quality linemen to protect Griffin in 2014, it's equally important to have versatile pieces in case a key member of the O-line goes down during the season. The 6'4'', 302-pound Bitonio checks both of those boxes.
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
There's little doubt that Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward could make an immediate impact on the Redskins defense this upcoming season.
The third-team AP All-American hauled in seven interceptions, had 10 pass break-ups and made 95 tackles last season, via NIUHuskies.com. But there's more as to why Washington would contemplate drafting him with its first pick:
He plays special teams.
Ward (5'11'', 193 lbs), according to NIUHuskies.com, holds a school record with four blocked punts. MLive.com's Justin Rogers notes in his evaluation of Ward that unlike many top upperclassmen, he continued to play special teams his senior year.
With safeties Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather on one-year deals, the arrival of Ward would give the Redskins another young safety to groom alongside second-year man Phillip Thomas, who missed his rookie season with a torn Lisfranc ligament in his foot, via Brian Tinsman of Redskins.com.
The boost that Ward would provide to the worst special teams unit in the NFL last season also cannot be understated.
Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo has been talked about at length in this space, and the rave reviews keep coming.
Current ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Bill Polian told the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer that Su'a-Filo is a gem of a prospect:
Guards with unique athleticism and size are at a premium, and Su'a-Filo is one of those. If you're a passing team, such as the Colts were and Broncos are now, you're looking for a more athletic kind of guard. If you're a power-running team like the 49ers, you're looking for more of a big, powerful road-grader, run-blocker type.
Su'a-Filo is really a combination of those. He can do anything, and he'd be a fit for any team.
Polian went on to tell Farmer that Su'a-Filo (6'4'', 307 lbs) is "without question" the best interior offensive lineman in the draft.
Whether it's pass-protecting for Griffin or paving the way for Alfred Morris on a 3rd-and-1, the Redskins must continue to improve the interior of their offensive line. Though they signed former Cleveland Browns guard Shawn Lauvao in free agency, it's not enough.
Su'a-Filo would be an upgrade over both Lauvao and incumbent starter Chris Chester. He'd also make life easier for all of the dynamic playmakers on the Washington offense, most notably Griffin.
Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Add Washington State's hard-hitting safety Deone Bucannon to the list of players that Redskins fans should have on their radar before this Friday.
Last season, Bucannon (6'1'', 211 lbs) led the Pac-12 in tackles and was tied for first in interceptions. According to his NFL.com draft profile, Bucannon "likes contact and is a physical tackler." It also notes that he "covers kicks and has an ideal mentality for special teams."
ESPN.com's John Keim came away impressed after evaluating Bucannon:
He competes and he plays physical. Late in blowouts, you can't tell the score by the way he plays. He also played a lot of special teams -- both punt and kick coverage. You get the sense that he just likes being on the field.
Keim also pointed out that both Bucannon and Thomas have similar skill sets. Down the road, it can be argued that the aforementioned Ward may be a better fit in Washington's secondary.
Bucannon is widely viewed as the draft's fourth-best safety behind Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Ward.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Should Washington choose to bolster the cornerback position early in the draft, Ohio State's Bradley Roby deserves serious consideration.
This from Roby's NFL.com draft profile:
Urgent, confident, competitive athlete with an intriguing combination of speed, suddenness, ball skills and tackling ability. Has broad appeal given his scheme versatility, and should be able to contribute readily as nickel slot defender and special-teams contributor. Has a ceiling as a No. 2.
If drafted by the Redskins, the 5'11'', 194-pound Roby would immediately compete with Tracy Porter for the No. 3 cornerback position and could eventually form a nice tandem with second-year corner David Amerson.
Last month, Roby pleaded guilty to physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, via ESPN.com's Austin Ward.
Will this run-in with the law have any effect on his draft status?
NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah still has Roby going in the first round in his latest mock draft. In ESPN.com's three-round mock draft (subscription required), NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has Roby as an early second-rounder.
And in his final mock before Thursday, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Roby headed to the Redskins at No. 34 overall.
5 More for the Road
Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Borland going to the Redskins at No. 34 overall in ESPN's three-round mock draft (subscription required). Bleacher Report's Matt Miller's projects Borland to Washington at No. 66 overall in his final 2014 mock draft. I wrote about Borland at length in January.
Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
CSNWashington.com's Tarik El-Bashir told Bleacher Report in the video above that Moses is No. 1 on his Redskins big board.
Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian
Verrett may not have ideal size, but his on-field resume speaks for itself. He also "routinely made 'wow' plays on special teams coverage," according to his CBSSports.com draft profile.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
There are legitimate questions about his durability, but Kouandjio could be a steal for Washington if he's available on Day 2.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
It's unlikely Shazier slips to the second round, but his athleticism makes for an interesting conversation in the Redskins' war room if he's still on the board.
All statistics and player information are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.
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