Washington Redskins Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer
Without a first-round pick, thanks to the trade to land Robert Griffin III in 2012, general manager Bruce Allen will value the picks he has. That means fans shouldn't count on seeing a trade into the first round.
Instead, Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden are more likely to stand pat and wait for the 34th overall pick. They'll probably hope to use it on either an offensive lineman or defensive back, although Allen has indicated team needs won't dictate picks.
Allen feels like his roster is significantly stronger than the one that finished last season 3-13. That is made obvious by a glance at the departures suffered and additions gained during free agency.
But while Allen and Gruden emerged from free agency with flying colors, the real evaluation of the post-Mike Shanahan regime will be made during and after this draft.
Here's everything to know and watch out for during Washington's first day of this year's draft.
Departures and Additions
Naturally, a third losing season in four years put the revolving doors at Redskins Park through their paces. But in all honesty, the biggest loss came from a decision made for the team, not by it.
Inside linebacker London Fletcher's retirement was a blow to a floundering defense. However, most of the other departures were welcomed and have been compensated for. Here's a quick recap.
London Fletcher, ILB
Will Montgomery, C
Fred Davis, TE
Reed Doughty, SS
Josh Wilson, CB
Jerome Murphy, CB
Darryl Tapp, OLB
Sav Rocca, P
Rex Grossman, QB
J.D. Walton, C
Joshua Morgan, WR
On the other side of the ball, snaring ex-Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher was a major coup. He gives the defensive front a prolific inside pass-rusher opponents will have to game-plan for.
Jason Hatcher, DT
DeSean Jackson, WR
Andre Roberts, WR
Shawn Lauvao, G
Ryan Clark, FS
Tracy Porter, CB
Darryl Sharpton, ILB
Adam Hayward, LB
Akeem Jordan, ILB
Colt McCoy, QB
Tanard Jackson, S
This team is certainly more front-loaded with headline talent than it was during the final year of Shanahan's ill-fated tenure. The only question marks concern whether a trio of career special teamers can really offset Fletcher not being on the field or whether an ageing safety can really fix last season's weakest position.
Successful moves in free agency bolstered both the pass rush and pass offense. But pass protection remains a key issue.
The team surrendered 43 sacks a season ago, and at least one draft pick should be spent in this area. The same is true of the secondary, where veteran recruitment will only provide a temporary cure for longstanding ills.
Here are the five biggest needs the Redskins still have to address.
Griffin spent most of 2013 running for his life behind a line that routinely crumbled, particularly against the blitz. A combination of poor talent and a lack of imposing size made quarterbacks an endangered species in Washington.
Protecting Griffin has taken on greater importance after Gruden said the team will use less read-option schemes this season, per The Washington Post's Mike Jones.
The college-style offense made defenses play passively when Griffin was a threat to run. But following major knee surgery last offseason, Griffin's mobility has diminished and so has the value of the read-option in D.C.
If he's confined to the pocket more often, Griffin needs better blocking.
Things might be pretty set on the outside, where veterans DeAngelo Hall and Tracy Porter should be competent starters. But depth and support are weak at this position.
Last year's top draft pick, David Amerson, still needs to refine his game, while E.J. Biggers hardly inspires confidence. The Washington defensive backfield needs another capable cornerback, one who can be a factor in nickel and dime packages.
To many, this is the biggest problem position on the team. In truth, it's easy to flip-flop between wanting reinforcements in the draft or trusting experienced pros like Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather for a year.
Yes, neither veteran sets the pulse racing or conjures images of Washington's very own Legion of Boom. But the other side of the coin says this team was burned a year ago trusting rookies at the heart of its secondary.
The struggles of sixth-round pick Bacarri Rambo, coupled with the season-ending injury suffered by fourth-rounder Philip Thomas, destroyed the pass defense early on.
At least Clark is a proven commodity as the brain of a secondary. Still, it's hard to argue against the need to find a stellar playmaker and heir apparent in an area that has been porous for too long.
Choosing between Sharpton, Hayward and Jordan to partner re-signed Perry Riley Jr. could be a weekly dilemma. Sooner rather than later this team is going to need an established option at this position.
Signing three inside 'backers off the veteran market means Allen doesn't necessarily have to solve that problem this year. But he may not be able to resist if a premium prospect falls to the Redskins early on.
Even with Brian Orakpo wearing the franchise tag, stocking up at outside 'backer remains a need. If Orakpo doesn't play to his talent or simply wants too much money, he'll be gone next year.
While that's only a what-if scenario, the absence of a credible supplemental pass-rusher behind Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan is a reality. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett needs more flexible edge-rushers to really make his blitz-heavy 3-4 system work.
Whether it's a third-down back or another "move" tight end, the Washington offense needs a few more pass-catchers around Griffin. The passing game currently lacks a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, as workhorse Alfred Morris doesn't possess the versatility.
There are also legitimate concerns about the durability of 2013 third-round selection Jordan Reed. He is an exciting roving tight end but one who missed seven games as a rookie.
The roster doesn't contain another tight end with Reed's hybrid dynamism.
Allen and Gruden will surely be happy if they leave this draft having addressed even three of these primary needs with their six picks.
Sticking with the theme of making O-line and secondary help a priority, the following prospects will be Washington's top draft targets.
1. Moran Moses, OT, Virginia
In the Bleacher Report Team Stream video above, CSN Washington reporter Tarik El-Bashir places Morgan Moses at the top of the team's wish list. It makes sense, considering Moses is just the kind of powerful and mobile tackle Gruden needs to bolster the right side of his offensive line.
Current starter Tyler Polumbus is merely serviceable. During the league's owners meetings back in late March, Gruden described Polumbus' performances as "pretty good," per ESPN.com writer John Keim.
"Pretty good" is never going to be the bumper sticker for a team that wants to be a contender. So prospects like Moses will sit near the top of Washington's big board until the second round begins.
2. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Antonio Richardson is another strongly built tackle in Allen and Gruden's thoughts. The ex-Tennessee behemoth had a predraft visit with the team, according to ESPN reporter John Keim.
Like Moses, Richardson fits the mold of bigger, more physical linemen Gruden favored while offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. According to CBS Sports analysts Rob Rang and Derek Stephens, Richardson combines "size, agility, patience and power."
He would be a more physically imposing blocker on a line populated with slight finesse players for the past four seasons. But Allen and Gruden would need their minds eased over concerns about Richardson's knee.
His surgically repaired knee caused some doubts at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to NFL.com College Football 24/7 reporter Chase Goodbread, citing NFL Media analyst Charles Davis.
3. Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
DraftInsider.net writer Tony Pauline credits Washington with serious interest in former Stanford blocking linchpin Cameron Fleming. He is another genuine candidate to supplant Polumbus at right tackle.
WalterFootball.com scribe Walter Cherepinsky describes the 6'4", 323-pounder as "a tough run-blocker and an improving pass-protector." Fleming's expertise in the ground game, gained blocking in Stanford's power schemes, would certainly be an asset in an already dominant Washington rushing attack.
Gruden would also likely be quickly enamoured with Fleming's knowledge or a pro-style playbook and the demands West Coast schemes place on linemen.
4. Jimmie Ward, S, Norther Illinios
The Redskins certainly ran the rule of Northern Illinois ball hawk Jimmie Ward at the Senior Bowl, per CSN Washington reporter Tarik El-Bashir. According to Bashir, Ward met with a number of team officials for a lengthy interview.
It makes sense for Washington to show interest in a natural playmaking safety. Ward proved himself to be exactly that after grabbing seven interceptions in 2013, per cfbstats.com.
He is also a rounded player at his position, showing skills in both coverage and against the run, per NFL.com draft pundit Nolan Nawrocki:
Intense, active and energetic. Zooms around the field and stands out on tape. Aggressive run supporter -- triggers quickly, flies downhill and chops down ball carriers. Breaks on throws and shows short-area burst to close.
Washington lacked a complete safety throughout the Shanahan era. That absence hamstrung many of Haslett's complex fire zone schemes. Ward would be a good fit for the new coaches.
5. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Multifaceted linebacker Kyle Van Noy has some fans among the Redskins staff, according to ESPN.com writer John Keim. He notes that his versatility, specifically the ability move inside or outside, is his main asset.
That quality will surely at least intrigue a team that could use reinforcements at every level of its linebacker corps. The only drawback to adding Van Noy to a defense where linebackers are supposed to be the primary pass-rushers is his lack of production in that area.
He tallied just four sacks during his final season at the collegiate level, according to cfbstats.com.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Here are the players the experts are sending to Washington via the 34th overall pick.
Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr.: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
According to ESPN.com Redskins beat writer John Keim, senior draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both believe middle linebacker Chris Borland is headed to Washington.
Keim quotes McShay explaining, via a conference call, why Borland makes sense for last season's NFC East doormat:
He wouldn't be a bad choice at all. I picture him more as a middle linebacker being protected. He can do a lot of the same things inside in a 3-4 scheme. After [C.J.] Mosley and Borland, there's a real drop-off at that inside linebacker position. You get down to the fourth round probably before you'd feel good about an inside linebacker.
While picking Borland makes some sense, given Fletcher's retirement, this still feels like something of a reach. It's not so much a lack of size, or at least it shouldn't be after years watching mini-marvel Fletcher thrive.
But the 6'0", 248-pound Borland has the look of a player who will make a lot of plays in the wrong areas at the pro level. He will certainly register a lot of tackles, but where will those tackles be made? After positive gains is a safe guess.
What does make Borland appealing is his tremendous versatility. As The Washington Post's Mike Jones has noted, Borland has operated "at multiple positions in different schemes (outside linebacker in the 4-3, middle linebacker in the 4-3 and inside linebacker in the 3-4)."
That flexibility would be invaluable in a 3-4, a scheme based on moving parts, where the linebacker is king.
However, Borland would have to work through a lot of competition after the arrivals of Sharpton, Hayward and Jordan. After signing three players at his position, Allen will have to be particularly enamored with Borland to use the team's primary pick to land him.
Bucky Brooks: Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
NFL.com Media analyst Bucky Brooks believes the Redskins will value protecting franchise asset Griffin above all else. But Brooks shuns commonly mooted targets like Moses and Fleming in favor of Nevada's Joel Bitonio.
Brooks makes a good choice selecting a player who would fit at either tackle or guard on a revamped offensive front. NFL.com draft pundit Nolan Nawrocki cites Bitonio's versatility and aggression as key traits to his game:
Plays with vinegar and seeks to bury defenders -- nasty finisher who runs his feet on contact and consistently blocks defenders off the screen. Extremely tough and durable. Highly versatile -- can play any position on the line.
Considering Washington's O-line was overwhelmed inside as much as it suffered on the edges, a flexible fighter like Bitonio would be a smart pick.
Dane Brugler: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
CBS Sports analyst Dane Brugler thinks Allen would be wise to continue stockpiling playmakers along the front seven. He chooses diverse D-lineman Ra'Shede Hageman as the ideal choice at 34.
Brugler cites Hageman's ability to play end or nose tackle on Washington's three-man defensive front. This is an intriguing option to consider.
On the surface, the rotation is well-stocked up front. However, some of the supposed quality may be illusory.
For instance, 2011 second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins has never really delivered on his early promise. His ability to create a strong push in the trenches has been inconsistent.
Aside from doubts surrounding Jenkins, there are also concerns about veteran Stephen Bowen. The 30-year-old underwent microfracture surgery on his knee last season. At his age, it's difficult to gauge Bowen's likely effectiveness after such a procedure.
Hageman would give Haslett's D-line a disruptive move player up front who could be shifted into different positions and techniques to create blocking mismatches.
Even with more obvious needs to address, Hageman is likely to test Allen's resolve.
Matt Miller: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Bleacher Report draft writer Matt Miller sends Bradley Roby to Washington in a move that would shore up a perpetually shaky defensive backfield.
Miller isn't the only one enamoured with the idea of Roby bringing his opportunistic talents to D.C. The Washington Post's Rick Snider cites Roby's ability to play the slot, make an impact on special teams and eventually emerge as a leader in the secondary:
Roby has good hands to bat down passes and can block punts, too. He could contribute right away as a nickel slot corner and a special teamer — which Washington also needs.
And Roby could develop into a long-term solution at defensive back. The Redskins hope second-year corner David Amerson emerges on one side, but 10-year veteran DeAngelo Hall, who is coming off a fine 2013 season, may only have a couple seasons left. When Hall is done, Roby could step up to give Washington a solid young secondary.
Roby would offer top-end speed, having clocked 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. That level of quickness is something the pass defense lacked in 2013, particularly on the outside.
Yet while few fans would be miffed if Washington went corner with its first pick for a second year running, there are reasons to believe Allen will wait.
For one thing, Hall is still a solid starter. So is Tracy Porter, signed from the Oakland Raiders. Yes, Roby could play nickel corner, but it's easy to think that role will go to 2013's second-rounder, David Amerson.
This is a rebuilding team that should target a guaranteed starter with a pick resting on the cusp of the opening round.
Latest Rumors, Reports and Analysis
Rumor-wise things are pretty quiet around the Redskins, and that's probably a good thing. In fact, the only real noise is coming from Allen and involves one possible selection strategy.
Allen targeting best player available
According to The Washington Post's Mike Jones, Allen feels comfortable looking past need to take the best player available. This is a strange notion for a team that finished with only three wins in 2013.
Taking the best player on the board is a strategy often endorsed, but it's one that can feel like the NFL equivalent of throwing darts at a board. Does it ever really make sense to get clever and abandon obvious needs?
A look at NFC East foe the New York Giants muddies the waters somewhat. Big Blue general manager Jerry Reese is a firm practitioner of the proverbial "best player available" approach.
It is a policy widely credited with landing the Giants two Super Bowls in four seasons between 2007 and 2011. But the Giants have also missed the playoffs four times out of the last seven.
Taking the premium talent on their board has left Big Blue with perpetual problems at linebacker, running back, tight end and along the offensive line.
It's also worth noting how few of New York's top selections in that time have made a credible impact in the pros. Justin Pugh, Prince Amukamara, David Wilson and even Jason Pierre-Paul all remain question marks thanks to injuries, inconsistency or both.
As for the rest, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Phillips and Aaron Ross are either with new teams or stuck on the league's scrapheap.
This isn't kick-a-division-rival day, but the mixed fortunes of rookies in the blue half of the Big Apple helps show the inherent risks in the best-player-available mantra.
It seems like indulging a luxury for a rebuilding team naturally needing many things. Of course, Allen feels successful dealings in free agency have left this roster with "no gaping holes," per AP Sports writer Joseph White, appearing in The Sacramento Bee.
Still, it might be wiser to target players who answer this team's remaining pressing needs, such as the need for skilled O-linemen.
The Redskins like a number of offensive tackles
DraftInsider.net reporter Tony Pauline indicates the team likes offensive tackles Morgan Moses and Cameron Fleming. Pauline believes Washington won't pass on Moses if he's there at 34, while the franchise remains "seriously interested" in Fleming.
This makes sense considering the obvious desire to get bigger and better up front. The team has shown significant interest in a plethora of tackle prospects, per ESPN.com writer John Keim.
He states a number of tackles visited Washington predraft, including Moses and Fleming as well as Antonio Richardson and Jack Mewhort.
What is interesting is that it's beginning to look more likely Moses will still be on the board once Round 2 begins. In a separate report, Pauline states that Joel Bitonio is becoming a prime target for the Carolina Panthers.
If Pauline is right, one of Washington's top targets will be available. Then Allen will have to decide if he goes need or best player.
Kirk Cousins trade not likely
It wouldn't be a Redskins draft primer without some mention of a possible trade involving backup quarterback Kirk Cousins. Dealing 2012's fourth-round pick always seems to be under discussion, but apparently the reality is different.
Allen has stated he has received "no calls" from teams wanting to offer extra picks for Cousins, per ESPN reporter John Keim.
If they move, the Redskins will move down
Don't expect a trade into the first round, but a move backward is possible, according to CSN Washington writer Rich Tandler. He suggests Allen will consider moving back for extra picks.
It's an interesting notion, especially for a team armed with only six picks. But those picks are at the top of each round from the second to the seventh.
In theory at least, Washington ought to be able to land a useful prospect at every stage. After a bigger haul in free agency than last season, Allen might feel he doesn't have to stock up on extras.
Yet if he isn't sold on a particular player at 34, dealing his way deeper into the second round could be inevitable. A pick at the start of Round 2 will be seen by many as access to a first-round-level talent.
This is one rumor that could bear fruit for Washington.
6-Round Washington Redskins Mock Draft
There is a slight change here from my latest mock predictions. The team still picks two O-linemen but makes the second choice a little earlier.
There is still no room for a safety, especially after Tanard Jackson was brought back following his release. It's reasonable to believe Washington is ready to go with experience at the position one year removed from failing with youth.
Round 2, 34th Pick: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
If Moses is still on the board at 34, Allen won't be able to resist making his move. He will give Gruden a true power player to bookend with left tackle Trent Williams.
The only hint of doubt involves concerns about his work ethic, per Real Redskins blogger Rich Tandler. But if those doubts are eased by the time Round 2 commences, expect Moses to hear his name called when Washington makes its selection.
Round 3, 66th Pick: Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
This is where best player available and targeting need strategies converge. If Jeremiah Attaochu is still available at 66, he should be the best player on Washington's board.
The team also needs another skilled outside pass-rusher behind franchise-tag recipient Brian Orakpo. Attaochu is a natural fit for the team's 3-4 defense and met with the Redskins predraft, per ESPN reporter John Keim.
Round 4, 102nd Pick: Dakota Dozier, G, Furman
Gruden will want more size along the offensive front considering he utilized bigger linemen in Cincinnati. It would also be a good idea to beef up the interior in Washington.
The inside trio was routinely mauled by bigger, stronger players in 2013. At 6'4" and 313 pounds, Dakota Dozier could help solve that problem.
He offers a bigger frame along with the agility Washington needs in its zone-based blocking system. CBS Sports analyst Derek Stephens describes Dozier's blend of size and quickness:
Well-proportioned, athletic-looking, muscular frame. Exhibits light feet, a fluid kick-slide, and is a natural bender. Gets good arm extension to keep defenders out of his chest, and utilizes his lower half well to establish leverage on contact and absorb the power rush. Quick off the snap as a run blocker, and gets off the line and into the hole swiftly when asked to trap or pull. Shows good awareness on the move and does a good job of utilizing active hands to hold sequential defenders at bay and maintain course through contact. Can break down and change direction rapidly and exhibits impressive body control to maintain balance in tight spaces, particularly when firing through the line to the second level.
Dozier would be expected to supplant struggling veteran Chris Chester at right guard.
Round 5, 142nd Pick: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris need another big, physical cornerback to help revitalize the secondary. Walt Aikens has the size and press skills to help the Washington pass defense become more physical on the outside.
Since being kicked off the University of Illinois team for theft in 2010, Aikens has applied himself well at Liberty. The 6'1", 205-pounder will be hard to ignore at the top of Round 5.
Round 6, 178th Pick: Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
Gruden won't be able to resist adding Marion Grice's speed and receiving skills to the backfield rotation. Washington was one of 10 teams at Grice's pro day, according to azfamily.com reporter Brad Denny.
Gruden's offense needs a change-of-pace runner and pass-catching back to complement workhorse Alfred Morris.
Not only did they scout Brice for the role, the Redskins also met with versatile West Virginia ace Charles Sims, per ESPN.com reporter John Keim. Bleacher Report writer Mike Freeman also suggested the team was in the running for veteran Darren Sproles back in March.
Gruden obviously isn't impressed by Roy Helu Jr. or Chris Thompson. He will give Grice the chance to make the third-down role his own.
Round 7, 217th Pick: Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
Taking Shamar Stephen off the board in Round 7 would be a great way to end the draft. The 6'4", 309-pounder is thickly built and possesses the strength and takeoff speed to covert to 5-technique end in a 3-4.
If coaches teach him the intricacies of pro techniques, Stephens could prove to be a steal.
The players and rumors discussed in this primer are things to keep an eye on during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL draft. Players who come off the board or the movement of those who wish to trade up will likely impact how Washington proceeds when the team begins its own selection process on Day 2.