- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2008

After two relatively inactive months in free agency, the Washington Redskins should live up to their freewheeling reputation in this weekend’s NFL Draft.

“We’ve always been an aggressive team,” said executive vice president Vinny Cerrato, who in recent weeks attempted to trade for some of the league’s top receivers in Anquan Boldin, Chad Johnson and Roy Williams. “If there’s somebody there that we like, we’ll make an effort [to acquire him]. We’re not afraid of doing anything.”

Doing something will be easier this year for the Redskins, who hold nine picks — the most they’ve had since 2002. They’re slated to choose 21st in the first round and 20th in the second round (51st overall) today. Cerrato contacted the 10 teams who pick below Washington in the first round as well as those at the top of the second round to gauge their interest in moving up to No. 21, perhaps to choose a quarterback.

“It’s exciting having all these draft picks,”Cerrato said. “Last year, we had the sixth pick and didn’t pick again until the fifth round.”

The Redskins wanted LSU safety LaRon Landry in that draft and got him. They also got their men in Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers with the ninth pick in 2005 and Miami safety Sean Taylor fifth overall in 2004. (They didn’t have a first-round pick in 2006.)

The choice won’t be nearly as easy today unless Washington trades into the top 10. The two players the Redskins watched work out on Thursday — Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling and Oklahoma receiver Malcom Kelly — each could be off the board at that point.

The 6-foot-5, 282-pound Merling, who couldn’t work at the February scouting combine or last month at Clemson’s pro day because of a groin injury that required surgery, might be the most complete end in the draft other than Virginia’s Chris Long. Merling made 17 tackles for losses as a junior in 2007.

As Cerrato said, “The big guys go pretty quickly.” Between 10 and 12 offensive and defensive linemen are projected to be taken before the 21st pick. Only one or two receivers figure to be gone by that point, but Redskins’ need on the defensive line is more pressing: Left end Phillip Daniels is 35, and, at 31, tackle Cornelius Griffin is wearing down.

“We’re not going to sit there at 21 and because we have some older guys on the D-line, we’re going to take a D-lineman [who] we have a third-round grade on,” Cerrato said. “That doesn’t make sense.”

But if the Redskins wait until they’re scheduled to choose again at No. 51, the linemen figure to be less well-rounded types like Miami end Calais Campbell, a 6-8, 282-pound pass rusher who had his best college year under new Redskins line coach John Palermo in 2006.

“Once you get past the first round you’re getting guys that maybe are only good run players or they can only rush the passer or they’re undersized,” Cerrato said. “They’re lacking something.”

The 6-4, 219-pound Kelly lacks blazing speed. His official 4.54 time in the 40-yard dash ranks second-highest among the top 15 receivers — most of his times since have been even slower, leading him to criticize the Sooners’ track and how their coaches ran the workout.

But with the undersized Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El starting, new Redskins coach Jim Zorn is looking to add size and sure hands to his receiving corps.

Kelly, who cracked Oklahoma’s all-time top five in catches and yards in just three years, has both. He was more productive than Texas’ 6-5 Limas Sweed but less so than Indiana’s 6-6 James Hardy. Another option is 6-3 former walk-on safety Jordy Nelson, who caught 122 passes, 11 for touchdowns, as a senior at Kansas State.

“There are not top-of-the-draft guys, it’s more probably late ones and twos and threes,” Cerrato said of the draft’s receivers.

The Redskins have two third-round picks, thanks to a choice awarded for losing guard Derrick Dockery in free agency in March 2006. They also received two compensatory seventh-rounders.

Not that the Redskins plan to sit tight with each selection. They traded up to take tight end Chris Cooley in 2004, quarterback Jason Campbell in 2005 and linebacker Rocky McIntosh in 2006 and traded down before choosing quarterback Patrick Ramsey with the last pick of the first round in 2002.

“We realize the value of draft picks, especially in the [salary] cap era,” said Cerrato, who has only 14 of his 42 selections on the roster. “If you want to pay your starters a lot of money [as the Redskins do], then it’s got to come from somewhere.”

The starting lineup is set — the possible exception is at strong safety, where Reed Doughty was pressed into service after Taylor was fatally shot last November — so the Redskins’ choices today could come at almost any position except quarterback, running back, tight end and special teams.

The offensive line, where all five starters and two of the top reserves will all be at least 31 this year, is a priority. The same goes at cornerback, where Rogers won’t be ready for the start of the season following major knee surgery, and linebacker, where Rocky McIntosh is recovering from a knee operation and 30-year-old Marcus Washington was hampered by injuries the past two seasons.


The Washington Redskins own the 21st pick in this weekend’s NFL Draft, their lowest first-round selection in six years (they didn’t have one in 2006). The Redskins’ have needs at backup receiver, defensive line, offensive line, safety, linebacker and cornerback. A mock draft of writers from each NFL city significantly narrowed Washington’s options for the 21st choice. Here’s who was taken at those positions before the Redskins’ pick:

WR — Devin Thomas, DeSean Jackson

DL — Glenn Dorsey, Chris Long, Vernon Gholston, Sedrick Ellis, Derrick Harvey, Phillip Merling

OL — Jake Long, Branden Albert, Jeff Otah, Ryan Clady, Chris Williams

LB — Keith Rivers

CB — Leodis McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Mike Jenkins, Aqib Talib

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