Redskins Draft Strategy


The omnipresent Jason LaConfora posted on his blog that the more he talks to Redskins officials the more he believes we will bypass DE and WR (the positions most mock drafts including some of my own) have us concentrating on in favor of bolstering the offensive line. The logic is rather simple, and dare I say, for the Redskins highly logical.  Most experts believe the top CBs will all be gone, the best 2 or 3 DEs will be gone and it is a very deep position, and the WRs just aren’t impressing the Skins.  Given the age and relative fragility of our line last year, it is clearly something we need to work on.

This is where the wheels fall of the Redskins logic and LaConfora’s argument, however.  The prime target now seems to be Virginia guard Branden Albert.  Well, sure.  Everyone is high on him all of a sudden, and as you will see in my next mock draft (probably tomorrow) he has vaulted up the boards.  LaConfora admits that the Redskins have been exploring potential trade up scenarios to the 15th (or so) spot to get him, but I doubt it will happen.  Guys like Mike Mayock of NFL Network have him listed as the top TACKLE now even though he played guard in college.  He very likely will be the second o-lineman off the board at this point.

So Albert aside, is this a good idea? The o-line certainly has to be addressed, particularly in terms of depth.  Chris Samuels may have made the Pro Bowl, but I felt he looked a tad more human than in some of his other Pro Bowl campaigns. The right side, as we know all too well, could not stay healthy and while Stephon Heyer was a revelation, the parts we used (mainly Fabini) at right guard left a little to be desired. Before reading this article, I assumed we would use some of the middle rounds to take some of those Joe Bugel specials. Most of the original Hogs were late picks or even free agents (and this was when the draft went 15 rounds). Given that Bugel worked his magic with Heyer last year, I have started taking it for granted that he can do it again if we give him some middle round picks that we have usually not had in past years.

Then again, the DE class is so deep this year that it is entirely possible one of the various DEs that have been linked to us (Quentin Groves, Phillip Merling, Lawrence Jackson) could slide all the way down to our second round pick. So I suppose we could afford to wait on them.

It is also true that some of the big target wide receivers could fall to us later.  Not only do WRs slide every year, but some of the guys who were perceived as first round talents before have slipped in workouts.  Early Doucet, a big target from LSU, drew yawns with his mediocre 40 times but is worth a look in the 2nd or 3rd round.  And some say Limas Sweed is sliding into the second round after being perceived a top 10 talent early on. There is also the intriguing Jordy Nelson who looked like a 2nd day pick but has been garnering attention lately for his excellent hands and route running.  So, it is possible we’ve identified someone like Nelson as a potential midround steal.

One of my favorite parts about this report is that it seems to show a patience and a logic to the process that we’ve lacked in previous Snyder years even with Gibbs running the show.  Rather than making sure the first rounder starts right away, the Redskins forsee a significant problem, the aging offensive line, and are choosing to address it proactively in order to make the transition smoother.  This is what good teams do.  They rebuild constantly through the draft by finding guys to step up into holes that are formed through age and free agency.

I’ll admit that part of me is frightened and bored by this. But I remember a few drafts ago when we had the 9th pick.  The whole world said that we would take Mike Williams from USC if we were lucky enough to have him fall to us. Williams had just broken every one of Keyshawn Johnson’s USC records in one year less playing time and looked like a big talent.  We passed on him for Carlos Rogers and I started throwing things at the television and swearing.  It took me a month to stop swearing every time I thought about Mike Williams.

I still don’t know if Rogers will recover from the ACL, but I KNOW we dodged a bullet by not taking Williams.  This is a team that knows what to do with its first round picks. Look at this list of first rounders in the last 10 years: Landry, Rogers, Campbell, Taylor, Ramsey, Gardner, Samuels, Arrington, Bailey. 8 picks, and 6 of them worked out.  That’s a great percentage and I will go to my grave saying Ramsey would have been fine if Spurrier hadn’t screwed with his head.

So if this team under Snyder who has not been known for its draft strategies but has always gotten its first rounders right says it won’t take a not so great DE just because we could use one, I respect that.  If we take the best player available we probably will end up with an o-lineman or possibly a linebacker.  And given the age of London Fletcher, that’s ok too.  Let’s look at guys that might be around for us at less “need” positions:

Sedrick Ellis DT- I know.  He was supposedly a top 5 talent, but he has been falling.  DT is not a sexy position and few of the teams above us are making it their big priority.  If he slips by the Saints, don’t be shocked if he slides to us, and Greg Blatche will be thrilled and so will I.

Jeff Otah or Chris Williams- If Albert does really rise into the top 15, one of these two guys is likely to fall. Williams is a huge guy with a big frame that projects to get even bigger with NFL training (read:HGH and steroids). He is quick and a great pass protector,  but he could stand to get a little more aggressive.  Otah is the opposite.  He is already huge and could actually lose a little weight to get quicker feet for pass protection but he absolutely crushes smaller DEs.

Rashard Mendenhall RB- With Portis and Betts, this would be a long shot but as long as we’re talking BPA, Mendenhall is likely to be the guy when the Skins draft.  I know, most people have him scouted as a top 10 talent.  But we’ve seen this before.  RBs tend to slide in the draft when there is one obvious superstar.  Human nature makes Mendenhall look worse compared to Darren McFadden, and he very well could slide.  Mendenhall reminds me of a slightly slower Emmitt Smith.  He’s short but has hugely powerful legs and has great power.  Just like Emmitt, he is one of those backs that won’t make you miss but he sometime gets into a pile and you think he’s down and suddenly he comes squirting out and you have no idea how.  Salary cap issues probably preclude us keeping 3 RBs so a trade would have to happen so I doubt this would happen anyway.  But I’d love to see Portis taking the bulk of the load and Mendenhall pushing piles at the goal line and crushing the will of other teams late in games.

Another possibility is trading down out of the first round and collecting more picks (and maybe a future 1st rounder next year like the Cowboys did with Brady Quinn).  The only problem I see with the trading down scenario is that I don’t know exactly who could fall that would turn on a team like Quinn did.  Brian Brohm is not the kind of QB to get that interest and no one below us needs a QB except maybe Green Bay.

At any rate, one of the best things about this discussion is that it has shown we have some excellent options.  I’m excited by the fact that we might be able to address issues of depth and need as the draft goes on, and that our hand isn’t forced at all.  We can move around the board or stay put at will and we can let the draft come to us.  It is going to be exciting!