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Redskins’ 2014 draft class focuses on depth, not stars

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 11, 2014

It is a process months in the making, a 12-month grind that takes scouts across the country searching for every scrap of information to inform and influence the Redskins' draft board.

But the draft is just one way for an organization to find talent and Washington's 2014 class, eight players deep, is unlikely to radically alter the fortunes of a team that cratered to a 3-13 record last season. Barring a rare, accidental haul of Pro Bowlers, it's simply a small step that provides a nudge forward.

For now, the front office is content with adding depth at a few positions and, if the scouts did their job well, providing flexibility for the future. Analyzing what, exactly, the Redskins fished out of college football's talent pool over the weekend is still several years in the future.

"I don't think you can say we've done well [in past drafts] because of our record," general manager Bruce Allen said last Tuesday in a pre-draft press conference. "I don't really believe in grading drafts because we have a record. The Washington Redskins have got a lot of hardware and flags up there — not through the draft but through other means of player acquisition. We're looking forward to changing that and developing our players."

Without a first-round selection thanks to the trade for quarterback Robert Griffin III two years ago, Washington may not even get an immediate starter out of this year's group.

Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy was the Redskins' first pick after they traded down in the second round from No. 34 to No. 48 overall. He is a pass rusher, though, and will play behind players with similar skillsets in Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo.

Maybe third-round pick Morgan Moses, an offensive tackle from Virginia, can force his way into the lineup at right tackle. More likely, he and fellow third-rounder Spencer Long, a guard from Nebraska, will provide fresh blood on a line that could use it — though new coach Jay Gruden defended his veterans, too.

"We need some size in there and these guys will compete," Gruden said. "But, moving forward, when I got the job here, I wasn't as disappointed with the offensive line as I read about. A lot of people had a lot of things to say about them, but any time you have the chance to add depth with some big kids like Morgan and Spencer, it can only help add to your depth, and down the road, young, good, big offensive linemen are hard to find."

Honesty is a rare quality to find at draft time. Every team insists it added depth at positions of need, landed a top talent, found a hidden gem.But, Gruden admitted, fourth-round pick Bashaud Breeland, a cornerback from Clemson, likely fell to the Redskins because his 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February wasn't elite.

The scouts liked his tackling ability, liked his technique as a cover corner and believe he would have made the leap into a first- or second-round pick if he'd stayed in school for his senior year. He also has the versatility to switch to safety, if needed.

Breeland can also contribute on special teams right away and that is important, too. Washington had the worst special teams unit in the NFL last season and returning with the same cast of players won't cut it. Gruden said as much in another candid remark. It's part of what appealed to the Redskins about Indiana tight end Ted Bolser, who they took in the seventh round.

"What kind of stuck out, [Bolser] runs down on kickoffs like a war daddy," Gruden said. "He's a fun guy to watch running down on kicks and obviously I've mentioned special teams on here a lot."

Teams don't often select kickers in the draft, but the Redskins had a pair of seventh-round picks after again trading down and used one on Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker. He finished fifth in the country in touchback percentage (68.0 percent) and will provide competition to incumbent Kai Forbath, a fine field goal kicker who has struggled on kickoffs.

There are always questions after every draft. Did a team reach too high for a player who would be available later? Did it address every need?

That's not possible, and despite Allen's assurances that "there are no gaping holes on the roster," there were obvious weaknesses left at safety and even on the defensive line, where Gruden said the team hoped to bolster itself heading into training camp by signing some undrafted college free agents.

For now, the organization liked its haul. But that's only the beginning.

"I think everybody's feeling pretty good right now," Gruden said. "We've just got to carry that over into our OTAs and then into training camp, and into preseason games. From a talent standpoint, I don't think anybody can question that we have significantly upgraded our football team."

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