WASHINGTON — The Super Bowl has been played, which means it’s time for the offseason fun to begin, and few things say “offseason fun” like mock drafts.
We ran through this exercise in early January, shortly after the Redskins season had officially come to an end, but with the rest of the league now getting in on the excitement, it’s time to rehash this old bit.
It’s worth mentioning that all of these projections will change somewhat — significantly in certain cases, slightly in others — over the coming months, especially after the NFL Combine wraps up in less than a month.
But it’s also interesting to see who the top analysts project to the Redskins early on, before the team needs become more readily apparent after players cut are re-signed or traded. (For example, the Green Bay Packers released running back James Starks and cornerback Sam Shields already this week, which gives them a pair of significant needs in the secondary and backfield; the Redskins might have different needs by the time the draft rolls around, considering free agency opens in early March.)
Anyway, without further ado, here’s what we have on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 8.
First up is CBS Sports, where analyst Rob Rang has the Redskins taking Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham at No. 17, citing the Redskins’ glaring run defense problems as the primary reasoning.
“Cunningham, the SEC’s leading tackler in 2016 and a two-time first-team all-conference selection, possesses the speed and instincts to help shore up Washington’s run defense,” Rang says.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Redskins taking multi-talented hybrid defender Jabrill Peppers. Peppers is projected as a safety, where he makes the most sense and would likely play for Washington, but he has been considered in other roles. McShay notes Peppers’ athleticism and return ability as intriguing assets for GM Scot McCloughan.
Four analysts from NFL.com have put out mock drafts in the past three weeks. Chad Reuter goes the way of McShay when Washington is on the clock, putting Peppers in a burgundy and gold jersey next season. Bucky Brooks takes a very different path, naming speedy receiver John Ross as Washington’s first-round pick, a pick that would likely upset some Redskins fans. However, if the team lets both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson walk in free agency, receiver quickly becomes a concern for the offense, and another high-end receiver wouldn’t be a bad thing to consider.
The other two NFL analysts — Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zierlein — both have the Redskins taking Stanford pass-rusher Solomon Thomas. Thomas is an interesting pick. He’s very much a McCloughan pick in the sense that he’s a football player. He might not fit perfectly at any one position, but he can play several and likely thrive in them all. He might slide in as a defensive end or as an outside linebacker in the Redskins defense, but it’s tough to imagine Washington struggling to find a way to use him.
“Thomas is a very dynamic interior pass rusher who I’d love to see line up next to Ryan Kerrigan in this defense,” Jeremiah says of Thomas. “His motor never stops, and his performance against North Carolina and QB Mitch Trubisky in the Sun Bowl wowed NFL scouts.”
Dan Kadar of SB Nation has the Redskins opting for one of the best-named prospects in the draft, Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton. (Charlton’s first name is actually Vidauntae, but he’s known more by the Taco moniker.) Charlton is generally considered incredibly athletic and talented but inconsistent, and his stock could go soaring after the Combine.
Finally, USA TODAY‘s Nate Davis has the Redskins taking cornerback Sidney Jones with the 17th pick. Jones, a 6-foot corner from Washington, would help shore up a shoddy pass defense, but cornerback isn’t the biggest need, especially if you’re of the belief Bashaud Breeland simply had a down season. However, the Redskins could use help all across the defense, and, of course, McCloughan is a very big believer in the Best Player Available draft strategy.