As a fan you never stop tracking the personnel of your team. And once they are out of the playoff hunt, you find yourself already looking forward to the next season—a better team of course. This is where free agency, contract stipulations, potential early declarations and the draft starts getting recognition.
Free agency is so unpredictable, especially with all the contract restrictions and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). As a Skin's fan, you actually regret it. There are teams out there that are willing to spend and it can work out. Honestly, I wouldn't mind Snyder opening up the checkbook for Sidney Rice.
But I digress...
The NFL Draft actually brings some consistency to the offseason. There is no denying that fans analyze their team's personnel. More so, those in the top 10. It's the first step to address multiple positions for teams rebuilding or anticipated to be a few players away from competitiveness. The Draft is also the compliment to make good teams even better.
As for Washington, they're a little more than few positions away. No matter what Shanny might say.
The following slide show predicts what players will be available when the Skins have their first pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.
No. 90 - DT Auburn Nick Fairley
With the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, you have the honor of having the most scrutinized choice of the year.
I'm not too high on the QB class this year. With that being said, the new regime in Carolina will have to assess the potential talent in Clausen and determine if he is the QB of the future or a good backup. Most of the time, when there's a new head coach, he likes to bring in his own guy.
Whatever they do, there's no denying the QB position needs to be addressed. And that may be in the draft.
There isn't a QB this year that is worthy of the No. 1 pick. So Carolina takes DT Auburn Nick Fairley.
The Panthers were 23rd against the rush this past year. Fairley can't be a wrong choice for a team that's rebuilding. What better place to start than the defensive line.
DE Clemson Da'Quan Bowers
With a promising start to the McDaniels era, it was the exact opposite in the end. The questionable personnel decisions didn't help.
They were 25th against the pass and 31st against the rush, adding to the defense is obvious. With John Fox at the helm, he begins with the defensive line by adding DE Clemson Da'Quan Bowers.
He's the best available at the defensive end position to put some needed pressure on the QB.
With Champ Bailey most likely on the way out, a CB wouldn't hurt.
Fox will address this position sooner rather than later.
DE/DT Alabama Marcell Dareus
A lot of questions surrounded Buffalo, especially due to how they began the season. But something clicked. Then there was the question of whether the Bills were ever going to win a game.
They were competitive in games no one thought they would be, but fell short. Especially when the rush defense was last in the entire league. To shore up the defensive line and improve against the run, Buffalo takes DE/DT Alabama Marcell Dareus.
The Bills will consider a QB of the future here, but if they passed last year, they'll do the same here.
Fitzpatrick did enough to earn another year. A WR will also be on their mind.
WR Georgia AJ Green
It was a promising year for Cincinnati. Last year they won their division which led to a playoff berth. However, it was just the opposite this year. Now questions surround the personnel of the head coach and starting QB.
QB Carson Palmer showed signs of greatness this year, but there was also questionable decision making, leading to turnovers. Ochocinco had a down year and there is a question if he'll back with the team. T.O. still proved that he has worth and Benson was consistent in the running game.
On defense, 27th against the rush, explains the need for help along the defensive line.
But since the top two DL are off the board, the desire to add to an aspiring young receiving corps and the question to re-sign Ocho, the Bengals take Georgia WR AJ Green.
He's the top WR in the draft. Adding to an already promising receiving core can make the Cincinnati passing attack dangerous.
DE/OLB Texas A&M Von Miller
Arizona's season truly proves how one player can affect a team.
With Kurt Warner retired, the ultimate question that surrounded the offseason was who was going to be the starting QB on Opening Day. The obvious assumption was Leinart, however; Whisenhunt decided differently.
It then became not a question of who was going to start Opening Day, but who was going to start each week. The inconsistency led to the offense becoming ranked last in rushing and second to last in passing.
Because the QB position needs to be addressed, Arizona will strongly consider one here.
With some added depth to the offensive line, especially with the current personnel on offense, the Cardinals can win with a veteran QB.
They do need a QB for the future, but not addressing it with their first pick. The defense requires more attention. The defense ranked 30th against the rush and 23rd against the pass. Arizona addresses the defensive line by drafting Texas A&M DE/OLB Von Miller.
Cleveland found out this year that they have some promising stars in QB Colt McCoy and RB Peyton Hillis. Despite their efforts, the offense still ranked 20th in rushing and 29th in passing.
McCoy needs some weapons on offense and the Browns will consider drafting a WR here. But since AJ Green is off the board, they address the defense instead.
Cleveland begins by taking UNC DE Robert Quinn. Ranked 27th against the rush, Quinn will bring some stability to the line.
CB Nebraska Prince Amukamara
With Singletary providing some stability the year before, he was awarded the full-time position at head coach. He installed the mindset of a tough defense and it showed by being ranked sixth against the rush, despite being 24th against the pass.
The offense fell in the middle of the heap. RB Frank Gore is one of the most dangerous threats in the NFL when he's healthy.
But with another inconsistent year behind starting QB Alex Smith, the passing offense stalled along with the ability to put up points. Despite weapons such as TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree.
Now a new regime is in. Installing a new system normally compliments new personnel. Harbaugh will consider drafting a QB for the future here, but not this high. The pass defense is addressed instead by taking the top CB in the draft in Nebraska's Prince Amukamara.
QB Missouri Blaine Gabbert
When it comes to a Jeff Fisher coached team, you expect a winning consistency. That assumption didn't hold true this year due to bad defense and inconsistent play at the QB position.
With Jeff Fisher out, and currently no replacement, this pick is the most questioned. Whomever the Titans hire as the new head coach, the QB position needs to be addressed with dire need. Vince Young is gone and who knows how long Kerry Collins will be able to play.
Tennessee is far from a few positions away from being competitive, so there is no need for a veteran QB.
The defense also needs to be looked at, but QB takes priority. The Titans make Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert their QB for the future. Hoping he can improve a 25th ranked pass offense. Collins will also be present to provide guidance until Gabbert gets his shot.
The Titans then look to address the defensive position the rest of the draft with the QB question answered.
In the offseason, there was hype that Dallas was going to be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium. Obviously that didn't happen.
They were 26th against the pass. This year showed that the defensive line needs to put more pressure on the QB, and the secondary needs some consistency.
Head Coach Jason Garrett would like to go defense here, but the offensive line is aging.
There is no doubt that there is some promising talent at the skill positions on offense. Dallas can score points when they have Romo protected and actually playing.
Once Romo went out, the offense went with him (no complaints here).
The Cowboys add some youth to the offensive line by drafting the top OT in Colorado's Nate Solder to keep Romo upright.
DE/OLB Missouri Aldon Smith
What I've been waiting for.
It was a promising year for the Redskins with a new regime in Shanahan and Allen. Fans believed that despite a new head coach and new systems to be installed, the Skins would still be competitive. Washington had their moments, but it was obvious that they are more than a few positions away from a win now attitude.
This mindset was actually a disguise.
Even with the addition of QB Donovan McNabb, it's difficult to have a dangerous offense while installing a new system, especially with an average receiving corps, inconsistent line play and injuries at the RB position. Despite that, an emerging wide receiver in Anthony Armstrong and running back Ryan Torain were put on display. WR Santana Moss proved his worth.
With McNabb most likely on the way out and the resigning of Moss, they could draft at either position with their first pick. QB Blaine Gabbert and WR AJ Green are already off the board.
With that, Shanahan could either reach for his QB (not named Newton) or take the next best WR in Julio Jones. Don't think Shanahan pulls the trigger on a QB, just yet, and Julio Jones isn't worthy of the No. 10 pick either.
He gives the defense some needed help instead.
The Haynesworth situation was just bad. Installing a 3-4 without the personnel for it showed this year. They were 26th against the rush and last against the pass. It's not a question of whether the 3-4 works or not, (actually I saw a lot more turnovers this year) it's that you need the personnel to do it.
The nose tackle position would be desired, but the top ones are gone. A free safety would be nice to boost the secondary, but there isn't one worthy at 10.
The Skins will also consider a cornerback here. Instead, Shanahan drafts Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith. He'll bring some needed pressure on the QB, along with the quickness to cover in space opposite Brian Orakpo.
As for the rest of the draft, I see Shanahan addressing the QB position on offense and the front seven. I think his track record for finding his QB later on will happen. Remaining picks will not only focus on the defensive line, but adding some needed depth at the CB/FS positions.
The offense needs a true No. 1 receiver and interior offensive linemen, but they may be addressed in free agency instead.
With a combination of smart decisions in this year's draft and free agency, the Redskins can be more competitive sooner rather than later.