There is usually great commotion among NFL teams in the days leading up to the draft. General managers have a number of difficult decisions to make: Do we trade up, down, or stay put? Should we fill holes in the depth chart through trades, free agency, or the draft? Can we really draft a player that is likely to destroy our hotel accommodations? The Redskins have been relatively quiet this week because these decisions were predetermined. In trading for Robert Griffin III last year, the Redskins gave up their only Thursday night pick in 2013 and will not draft, barring an unforeseen trade, until the 51st slot. Additionally, the team is right up against the edge of the salary cap. According to recent reports, Washington is only $30,000 under the salary cap with a number of roster spots still to be filled. Essentially, the Redskins are lacking the draft picks and money to add marquee players. This leaves the Redskins with two feasible options: use late round draft picks to add inexpensive depth to the roster or trade picks this year for selections in future drafts. To determine what the Redskins will actually do, we must first examine the biggest areas of need on the depth chart.
1) Defensive backs: The Redskins allowed 282 passing yards per game last season, ranking 30th in the league. That is not good. The addition of E.J. Biggers is unlikely to make a significant dent. As Les discussed earlier, the team recently met with longtime San Diego CB Quentin Jammer. It is unknown whether Jammer is the right fit for the Washington secondary, but it is obvious that the current arrangement of DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson constitutes one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. This has to be the top off-season priority for the Redskins.
2) Middle linebacker: We all love London Fletcher, but he won’t be around forever (even if it feels like he could keep playing indefinitely). Realistically, the 37-year old has a maximum of two more productive seasons playing in the NFL. Fletcher’s playing partner Perry Riley is young and productive, but there is very little depth behind him. Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Cardinals in the off-season, a significant contributor both on defense and special teams. As much as I believe in Fletcher, there’s a lot of wear on that soon-to-be-38-year old body, and the Redskins have no current suitors for his replacement.
3) Safety: Remember that stat about all the passing yards? A lack of talent at the safety position didn’t help. The oft-maligned Reed Doughty returns as the incumbent starting free safety, as the younger DeJon Gomes was unable to hold down the position last season. It’s never a good thing to be benched in order to give Reed Doughty more playing time. On the other side of the field is Brandon Meriweather who played well before suffering an ACL tear against the Eagles last season. His health remains a major question for the Redskins coming into the season. How sold are the Redskins on the development of Gomes? If the second round selection is a safety, we will have our answer.
4) Running back: The extent to which this is a need for the Redskins depends on your evaluation of Evan Royster and Roy Helu. Even running back spastic Mike Shanahan acknowledges the firm standing of Alfred Morris at the top of the depth chart. However, the backs behind him were mostly ineffective in an otherwise effective ground game. Helu figured to be the primary back in 2012 before playing poorly and suffering a number of foot injuries. He had off-season foot surgery in February and plans on returning to the team May. Royster rushed for only 88 yards last season and was used primarily for blocking on 3rd down passing situations. Some believe that both players have untapped potential, but I remain skeptical. With a number of talented rushers available in later rounds, the Redskins would do well to find another late round gem like Morris to serve as his back-up.
Next up: Which players should the Redskins target in the draft?