It’s no secret the Washington Redskins took a huge step backwards last year, going from 10-6 to 3-13. To make matters worse, they won’t get the high draft pick that normally accompanies a disastrous season, thanks to the continuing debt of the Bob Griffin trade. So instead of their first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft coming second overall, it’s now 34th. Needless to say, they’ll absolutely have to put together a strong draft class together to right the ship for first year HC Jay Gruden.
Which brings us to their draft strategy. The primary needs are somewhat simple: OT, OG, CB, ILB and OLB.
A powerful run-blocking right tackle should be the main focus with their first pick, depending on the board obviously. If Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) or Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee) is still there at 34, it’d be tough to pass them by. Both would be an immediate upgrade over Tyler Polumbus, who’s penciled in to start as of now. It should be clear after last season that QB Griffin needs much better protection if he’s going to stay healthy and get back to where he was in 2012.
At number 66 overall, the Redskins should look to some of the 3rd tier cornerbacks that have fallen. Loucheiz Purifoy (Forida) and Keith McGill (Utah) are two very athletic playmakers with some decent size, especially for the latter. Purifoy was at one time a shoo-in for the first round, then struggled last year and ran poorly at the Combine, causing his draft stock to take a hit. The talent is still there, though.
McGill offers a tremendous size/speed combo at nearly 6-foot 4, 215-pounds running a 4.51 40. He fits the next wave model of DBs with length who can run. Either one would be the heir apparent to DeAngelo Hall after this season, and could push David Amerson for playing time immediately.
At pick number 102, the ‘Skins fourth round pick, if Trent Murphy (OLB, Stanford) is available, GM Bruce Allen should begin doing cartwheels. Murphy was another guy who at one time was thought to be a first rounder, but has seen his stock stumble with a poor showing at the Combine. He’s got a ton of experience playing in an odd front and knows how to get to the QB.
If he’s gone, as he likely will be, they should look to James Gayle (OLB, Virginia Tech), a fast and explosive athlete with a tremendous competitive fire who’s a surprisingly underrated pass rusher at this point. Either would fit in obvious passing situations, and would afford us some security in case Brian Orakpo leaves for greener pastures next season.
In the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds, the Redskins should just take the best player available, with eyes on OG and ILB. Yawin Smallwood (ILB, UCONN) and Max Bullough (ILB, Michigan State) are guys to keep an eye on in this range, and both would be terrific fits in the middle of Washington’s 3-4. John Halapio (OG, Florida) and Anthony Steen (OG, Alabama) would also be intriguing targets, as both are good run blockers who play with good leverage.
Obviously, if someone falls that shouldn’t, and there’s a steal to be made, strike while the iron is hot. For example, if Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame) were to shockingly fall to the third round, then by all means focus on him and not necessarily CB.
The Redskins won’t necessarily use this draft strategy (at all), but if their draft went something like the one above, they’d have to feel pretty good going into the ’14 season.