- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Could the Washington Redskins go with a running back with their 17th-overall pick in the upcoming draft?

ESPN’s Mel Kiper thinks so.

The draft guru’s most recent mock draft has the Redskins selecting Florida State University running back Dalvin Cook.

It’s an interesting prediction, given  the Redskins appear to be a bit crowded already at running back. Coach Jay Gruden has said he believes Robert Kelley will be the Redskins’ feature back next season. This past season, as an undrafted rookie, Kelley rushed for 704 yards on 168 carries and scored six touchdowns.

Gruden also has a lot of trust in Chris Thompson as his receiving back and speaks highly of Mack Brown’s potential as a running back. And while he was a healthy scratch frequently this season, former starter Matt Jones has shown flashes of brilliance, as long as he’s able to hold onto the ball.

But on closer look, Kiper may have a point.  While the Redskins would seem to have more acute needs on the defensive line or at safety, many of the best options at those two spots will likely already be off the board by the time Washington picks.

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, Michigan’s Taco Charlton, Stanford’s Solomon Thomas and UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley are projected to be selected as defensive ends, while LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker are projected to be selected prior to No. 17 as safeties.

Charlton and Thomas, In particular, have seen their stock rise since last fall.

Charlton originally was seen as a late first-rounder, but his final game at Michigan was an eye-opener. In the Wolverines’ 33-32 loss to Florida State, Charlton finished with five tackles, two for losses. The senior also added a sack. The breakout game capped a year that saw Charlton finish with 13.5 tackles for losses and 10 sacks.

Thomas, a defensive end loaded with potential, recorded 8.5 sacks this season with Stanford, sixth-highest in the Pac-12. And while he only has two years of college football under his belt, Thomas’ size and speed have fueled his rise on NFL draft boards.

This offseason, the Redskins’ Chris Baker and Ziggy Hood both become unrestricted free agents. With no guarantees that either in on the 2017 roster — and a lack of a pass rush from the Redskins line anyway — the Redskins need for edge rushers could be critical.

The Redskins would presumably rather address their 28th-ranked defens than their 3rd-ranked offense, but if none of those defensive line or safety options are on the board at No. 17, they might have to settle for Cook.

That term “settle,” however, probably needs some context.

Cook rushed for 4,464 yards in three years as a Seminole — including 46 touchdowns on the ground. Cook left Florida State as the all-time leader in rushing yards, and his 2016 season of 1,765 yards is a single-season record. His 5,399 career yards from scrimmage is a conference record.

Kiper thinks the career ACC rushing leader — if he’s still on the board — would be too good for the Redskins to pass up, but as is usually the case when it comes to mock drafts, there’s little to no consensus on what Washington will do at No. 17.

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco, for example, has the Redskins selecting Budda Baker, a safety out of Washington. Kiper doesn’t even have Baker as a first round selection. And Prisco doesn’t even have Charlton going in the April 27 first round. NFL.com’s Charley Casserly has Cook going No. 8 overall to the Carolina Panthers and Thomas to the Redskins.

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