The Washington Redskins are somewhat in limbo entering the 2015 NFL Draft. They technically have a franchise passer to go to war with if you consider talent and upside, but they also really don’t know at all what they have in quarterback Robert Griffin III. Second-year head coach Jay Gruden is patching things up on both sides of the ball, and as bad as things looked a year ago, this Redskins team might actually be some competent quarterback play away from taking a big, positive step forward. The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is whether or not RG3 is the guy.
Do the Redskins just keep building their defense and hope for the best, or do they scrap RG3 while they have a top draft pick and start over? That’s one key question. Let’s tackle that and the rest as we break down Washington’s biggest needs on both sides of the ball as the 2015 NFL Draft draws closer:
Offensive Needs: QB, OL
Is RG3 the guy? Great, go get a right tackle to shore up the offensive line. Doubt that would make a difference because he runs blindly into pressure? Then consider Marcus Mariota if he falls. I don’t think Mariota or Winston will be around for the taking, though, so even if Grude hates RG3’s guts, he’s not taking a passer in round one. Of course, someone like Bryce Petty could be fun to try out in round two, and at the worst it’d offer competition in the quarterback room. We know RG3 isn’t getting it from freaking Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins. Other guys the ‘Skins could/should consider are Garrett Grayon or Sean Mannion, who are two interesting, stable quarterbacks who should be available in rounds three or four.
Since the Redskins aren’t taking a quarterback in the first round, let’s move on to their only other glaring hole on offense: Right Tackle. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff projects best on the right side due to good size, strength and a mean streak. Washington has a small o-line and they lack consistency. He’s going to help the ground game and should do a decent job at protecting RG3 on the right side. Stanford’s Andrus Peat is another guy to think about, although I think he’s probably a better fit on the left side. He can still play either side, though, and some feel he has more natural ability and better upside than Scherff. If the elite pass rusher they want isn’t here when they pick early in round one, I think they take one of these guys. If they don’t take a tackle early, they could target guys like Cedric Ogbuehi or Corey Fisher in round two or possibly even round three if either slide.
Defensive Needs: S, CB, LB
The offensive chatter is fun, but if the right guy is there when the Redskins look to hand in their fifth overall pick, it’s going to be a defensive player. I’m not really sure it’s possible for every single one of their favorite impact defenders to be gone after four picks, so I doubt they chase an offensive tackle and with no quarterbacks worth reaching for, I doubt they go quarterback. It’s going to come down to linebacker or the defensive line. Washington did bring in Stephan Paea and Ricky Jean-Francois on the outside of their d-line, but they can still get better at defensive end. Signing Terrance Knighton probably takes care of nose tackle, however. That probably eliminates Danny Shelton from the equation, but Leonard Williams is obviously in play if he somehow falls (he won’t). Regardless, due to their activity in free agency, the defensive line isn’t nearly the pressing need it would have been.
That puts the secondary and linebacker (pretty much everything but the d-line) under a microscope. The Redskins traded for Dashon Goldson, but he was a bust with Tampa Bay and Ryan Clark retired. Safety could be an even bigger problem this year than it has been (and it’s been huge for a while). Unfortunately, there really isn’t a safety worth taking the plunge for at the fifth spot. Landon Collins is certainly in the mix, but Washington might just roll with the guys they brought in via free agency. With them not reaching for a safety here, it’s fairly likely they’ll still grab at least one in the middle rounds of the draft. James Sample is an interesting prospect who tackles well and plays with a nice, physical style. He’d help the run defense right away, but a lack of experience could hinder his ability in coverage. That’s fine, since he’s being drafted to develop, not to start right away. You can throw corner in with safety, too, since DeAngelo Hall needs to be replaced ASAP and the Redskins’ biggest woes are with their pass defense. They’re not going to be able to land a stud corner, but Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a really talented guy that should slip due to health concerns. Plucking him out of the third round would be a steal.
All of this other stuff matters, but the Redskins really need to address their pass rush. Brian Orakpo has been hurt off and on the past few years and now he’s actually just flat out gone to Tennessee. The ‘Skins need to replace him in general, while landing an impact pass rusher in the process. Picking #5, they should be able to do that. Getting that pick right could be the trick, as scouts have mixed feelings about the stud pass rushers, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and Dante Fowler. I doubt they can go wrong with any, but the guy they’ll probably want if he’s there is Fowler. Gregory has the highest ceiling of the lot, but Fowler might be the most steady presence that can come in and consistently help against the run and get after the quarterback, as well.
Washington’s biggest problems are their pass rush and the play under center. In a perfect world, they land an elite pass rusher that helps pull a formerly shaky defense together and RG3 manages games while DeSean Jackson takes the top off defenses and Alfred Morris punches them in the mouth. There’s potential for a turnaround in Washington and the talent is there to make a leap. Of course, everything likely still falls on whether or not RG3 is going to continue to face plant. If he doesn’t, the Redskins could be back in business in 2015. If he does, they’ll wish they did everything they could to land Mariota.