Strange but true: the Redskins may not be able to rely on free agency to improve their roster in 2011. Sure, neither the owners or the players association is looking to end the free agent system as we know it, but unlike the NFL draft, there’s no current plan or parameters for a free agent season. We know, as fans, that no team is going to be forced to play its season before signing its picks from the 2011 NFL Draft. Free agents, maybe. When free agency parameters are re-established by the collective bargaining agreement, it may still be a question as to whether a free agent period can be initiated for the 2011 season, or whether all players with expiring contracts should be tied to their teams until released from their contract or 2012 free agency, whatever comes first.
What this means for the Redskins is that they may have to fix all of their needs to play a 2011 season with just seven selections. They have more than seven needs, obviously, but if they needed to narrow their offseason shopping down to just seven positions, here’s what the Redskins would have to address this year:
This model assumes zero player movement in the NFL. The Redskins have an upcoming contract situation at the corner position that makes it an unavoidable need, but in this scenario, player movement is locked entirely so it becomes a 2012 need. Along those lines, there’s no reason to waste a valuable pick on the position in 2011, having a full roster at the position.
What will be harder is deciding what position to spend those valuable early picks on. To me, the scarcity issue gives us an easy answer in the first round: if 3-4 DEs Cameron Jordan or Marcell Dareus are there, you’ve got to take one of them. Players of their caliber that can start on the DL will not be available later on. If both of them are gone, the team is going to have to add depth later, but I wouldn’t address that issue in the second round.
The second round pick, to me, is so much more important to the Redskins if only because the first round pick will be largely determined by the value of who is available at the no. 10 pick. The main place I would target in the second round would be a pass rusher, because 3-4 pass rushers who will play the scheme at a first round level figure to be in huge supply in the second round. Names like Jabaal Sheard (Pitt), Justin Houston (Georgia), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), or Akeem Ayers (UCLA). The only question is whether they’ll be able to pass over all that value and make a pick that will help the passing offense. Perhaps one of the quarterbacks who will be around in the second: Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick, or Pat Devlin. Or an underrated receiver who was a college TD machine, such as Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Vincent Brown (SDSU), or Titus Young (Boise St). This is also the spot where the best guards are going to be taken, including Rodney Hudson (FSU), Mike Pouncey (Florida), Stefen Wisnewski (Penn St), and Danny Watkins (Baylor). The Redskins need all of those players. They can have just one. That’s how important the second round pick is.
If we assume they stay with the value and draft and outside pass rusher, they would have successfully filled their main defensive front holes with their early round picks, but passing on a QB in the first two rounds means that the Redskins would have to address their QB situation with a fifth round pick. Fortunately, this is a pretty good draft to do that in: franchise type prospects will be available late, the Redskins just really have to hope to get lucky. The biggest problems with late round passers is that they are indistingulishable from one another. If they weren’t, the good ones would always go higher.
If Kaepernick or Devlin is there in the fifth round, that’s an easy pick, especially if the Redskins haven’t yet addressed the quarterback position. Let’s say that they are well evaluated, and both get drafted on day two while the Redskins sit idle thanks to trading their picks. Then the best player available will likely be Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien or Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi. I like Tolzien a little more in terms of talent, but pro systems seem to come naturally to Stanzi. As a late round rookie who may end up taking a majority of the snaps with the Redskins, Stanzi is likely more pro-ready, but Tolzien is the one with franchise upside. I’d take Tolzien. I’d also address the interior line need in this round, with Jake Kirkpatrick out of TCU. I think history has shown that if you have to choose between drafting an offensive position and waiting on an offensive position, waiting on the receiver position gives one the greatest chance of success.
If receiver is pushed to the sixth round, my target is probably TCU’s Jeremy Kerley, because even with Brandon Banks, I think the Redskins need more advanced players with return value. I also think a couple of other mid major prospects could be steals if Kerley isn’t there: Greg Salas from Hawaii, or Jordan White from Western Michigan. Their other sixth round pick comes from the Justin Tryon trade. The biggest remaining need at this point is DL depth. The Redskins don’t need to find a player who needs to develop into a starter, they just need a body who can rotate in an execute an assignment better than the backups who are currently playing. Damik Scafe, from Boston College, comes from a college system that has seen many a player translate to the 3-4 defense. He would be good depth in our system.
In the seventh round, the Redskins should be trying to pick up defensive players whose limited health might have dropped their draft stock past where they should have been drafted. I think if the Redskins are going to try to address a need in the seventh round, they’ll need to do something creative like that.
I don’t necessarily recommend the Redskins avoid offense — specifically quarterback — until the fifth round, but unless Blaine Gabbert or AJ Green is there at no. 10 (spoiler: they won’t be), the most helpful players will likely be on the other side of the ball, and when the Redskins get to the second round, they’ll likely decide the value is there on defense as well. This looks like a very different mock draft if the Redskins choose a QB, WR, or RG in the second round, and there will certainly be quality names available. As long as the first round pick gives the Redskins a great player, and the second round pick fills a need, the Redskins will do well in this draft.