The effects of the trade for Robert Griffin III will hit the Washington Redskins one more time later this week when they surrender the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NFL draft to the St. Louis Rams.
Instead of incorporating a game-changer in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a high-motor inside linebacker in Buffalo’s Khalil Mack or even a potential franchise offensive tackle in Auburn’s Greg Robinson, the Redskins will get their first chance to prove their scouting mettle with the No. 34 pick.
Some of the Redskins’ needs have changed since the free agency signing period began in mid-March, but many remain the same. The unexpected addition of DeSean Jackson greatly minimizes their need for a wide receiver. An interior offensive lineman, needed to boost depth, is less of a priority following the signings of Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn. There will even be less pressure to find an immediate starter at free safety after Ryan Clark signed a one-year deal.
Those moves are about the present, and more often than not, the draft is about the future. Thus, here are five positions the Redskins could still consider with their first pick — and three players at each position who could help them.
1. Right Tackle
Available: Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio, Virginia’s Morgan Moses, Nevada’s Joel Bitonio
The situation: With Trent Williams entrenched as the Redskins’ starting left tackle and under contract through 2015, any potential draft pick who played primarily on that side in college would likely develop at right tackle for two years. Kouandjio, a Hyattsville native and DeMatha Catholic graduate who started 26 games for the Crimson Tide, would be a top-10 pick if it weren’t for questions about his arthritic knees. Moses moved to left tackle for the Cavaliers in 2013 after three seasons at right tackle, while Bitonio, a three-year starter at left tackle, is viewed as more of a wild card given his ability to play both tackle and guard.
2. Free Safety
Available: Florida State’s Terrence Brooks, Minnesota’s Brock Vereen, Stanford’s Ed Reynolds
The situation: Clark will be a stopgap for the Redskins this season — at 35, he’s only on a one-year deal — as they hope that either Bacarri Rambo or Phillip Thomas, both 2013 draft picks, can fill a starting role full-time. Rambo struggled as a rookie, being benched after two starts and falling out of the rotation after his third game, while Thomas missed the entire season after sustaining a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot in the Redskins’ first preseason game. Brooks would be the only logical early-second-round free safety, with Vereen and Reynolds later-round choices. Both safety positions are, by far, the weakest in the draft — and the weakest in several years.
3. Strong Safety
Available: Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward, Washington State’s Deone Bucannon, Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon
The situation: Like with Clark, the Redskins brought back Brandon Meriweather to fill in as their strong safety for a third season — not a bad move, but one that comes with significant risk considering Meriweather’s recent injury history and his pattern of dangerous play. Ward, considered one of the best at the position, also comes with questions after undergoing foot surgery in March, not to mention the quality of competition in the MAC. Bucannon is gaining traction as a potential first-rounder; Dixon is probably in play in the third round.
4. Inside Linebacker
Available: Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, Stanford’s Shayne Skov
The situation: The Redskins brought in Darryl Sharpton, Adam Hayward and Akeem Jordan during the free-agency period — but Sharpton comes with a significant injury history while Hayward and Jordan have been little more than key backups and special teams players during their time in the league. Replacing London Fletcher will be difficult, but Borland would at least make the defense look similar, given his size (5-foot-11, 248 pounds) and his high motor. He’s also somehow succeeded while working with four different linebackers coaches. Mosley is likely a first-round talent, while Skov would be a reach with this pick; there are very few top-level inside linebackers in this draft class.
5. Wide Receiver
Available: Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, Indiana’s Cody Latimer, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews
The situation: This position could be the biggest crapshoot in the draft, with some experts projecting as many as seven players being taken in the first round alone. That helps the Redskins, who have less of a need following the signings of Jackson and Andre Roberts, a versatile inside-outside receiver who spent the last four years quietly racking up catches with the Arizona Cardinals. The Redskins have so many other needs, which makes wide receiver a significantly lower priority, but the 6-foot-5 Benjamin, the 6-foot-3 Matthews and the 6-foot-2 Latimer offer something those currently under contract don’t. The temptation may be too great to pass up.