WASHINGTON — To be clear: The Redskins have a lot of needs and nothing they do in the first round of the 2017 draft would really be that surprising. But some things would be more surprising than others.
There’s a lot of stuff going on with the Redskins these days. But with the NFL draft barely two months away, the offseason is about to kick into full gear. The NFL Combine will be held Feb. 28 to March 6, and the draft coverage will immediately ramp up once that starts. Once the numbers from the Combine are out, draft prospects will see their projections fluctuate and big boards will be adjusted and readjusted dozens of times ahead of the draft itself.
In the meantime, the deadline will pass for teams to designate a franchise player — in all likelihood, Kirk Cousins will be one of those players.
Shortly after that, the free agency period opens. The majority of the relevant free agents will have found a new team within a week, giving teams more than a month to fully prepare for the draft while picking up stragglers in the free agency market.
Now, onto the draft stuff.
Washington, headed by Scot McCloughan (kind of), will have the 17th pick, leaving them in a good position to move up or down, or select from a strong crop of prospects. The Redskins will most likely not be moving up, and it’s far more likely that they’ll move down, which is exactly what the latest mock draft from Dan Kadar of Mocking The Draft suggests they’ll do. Kadar has the Redskins swapping their pick with the Seattle Seahawks’ first-rounder, taking “at least” their second-round pick in exchange for moving down nine spots in the first round. He then has McCloughan taking Washington safety Buddha Baker with the 26th pick, which would likely make a lot of fans around Washington quite happy.
Baker is also the pick for Washington in Pete Prisco’s latest mock draft, thouhg he forecasts McCloughan snagging him with the team’s original No. 17 pick. Baker, who has drawn comparisons to Bob Sanders and Tyrann Mathieu, is an undersized free safety, but he has a penchant for making big plays and excellent tackling ability. He is frequently praised for his heart, competitiveness and instincts, and he certainly fits the bill as one of those “football players” that McCloughan loves so much.
The other safety frequently billed as a Redskins target is Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers; Todd McShay and Lance Zierlein both have the Redskins taking him in their latest mock drafts. Peppers is an incredibly athletic prospect, but he is sometimes knocked for his questionable fit at any one position. However, the Redskins need plenty of help in the secondary, as noted by Zierlein.
“This is probably earlier than I personally would go with Peppers, but with DeAngelo Hall on the back end, Peppers would be allowed to play in space and be deployed all over the field like he was at Michigan,” Zierlein notes.
As for additional secondary help, there isn’t much to be found in mock drafts around the web, though Chad Reuter has the Redskins drafting LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White.
The wildly differing opinions continue moving down the defense. Jared Dubin has the Redskins taking UCLA outside linebacker Takkarist McKinley, while Rob Rang has them taking Vanderbilt outside linebacker Zach Cunningham. Meanwhile, Will Brinson moves inside and projects the Redskins to take Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster.
“Fall-in-the-lap situation for Washington, who lands a thumping middle linebacker capable of playing from the first day,” Brinson says of Foster and the Redskins. “This is a tricky draft for the Redskins, who also are going to need a lot of help at wide receiver with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon likely to leave.”
Continuing on down, both Dane Brugler and Ryan Wilson have the Redskins going with Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell, who is remarkably athletic for a player of his size and would theoretically provide Washington the space-eating interior lineman it lacked a year ago. Charley Casserly, on the other hand, has Washington going with defensive end Solomon Thomas, a pass-rusher from Stanford who would also help shore up the run defense.
Moving to the other line, Daniel Jeremiah has the Redskins drafting coach Jay Gruden’s favorite position, a guard. More specifically, Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, who played a lot of tackle in college but is projected to be a good fit at guard or even center in the pros. Washington certainly could use help at the interior of the offensive line, but that’s perhaps not Gruden’s favorite choice of these mock drafts.
As far as other offensive candidates go — that is, players who play offense, not players who offend the head coach — Bucky Brooks thinks the Redskins address the receiver position, which might suddenly end up being a need for them if both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are not retained. Ross is perhaps the fastest receiver in the draft, and at 5-foot-11, he’s not as undersized as many speedy receivers are. He’s got the potential to be one of the best deep threats in the NFL, and he has upside as a returner, but the Redskins would likely be better served using a second or third-round pick on a receiver instead of a first-rounder.
Finally, Mel Kiper has the Redskins exiting the first round with Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, who could be a significant asset for them but, like Ross, is probably a reach for Washington at No. 17.
To recap, in the above we have:
The only positions not addressed in the 14 mock drafts are: quarterback, tight end, offensive tackle and center (though Lamp did play tackle in college and is projected by some to play center in the NFL).
To help illustrate how spread diverse the takes on this draft are, SB Nation put out a pie chart for each team representing the frequency each player is mocked to them, using a compilation 38 mock drafts. Here’s what the Redskins’ breakdown looks like:
The most frequently mocked player to Washington is McDowell, at 21.1 percent. Three other players — Cunningham, Ross and Peppers — tied for second-most frequently mocked, at 10.5 percent, followed by the surprise pick of Penn State running back Christian McCaffrey, with 7.9 percent. Baker (5.3 percent) is the only other player to receive special mention, as a whopping 34.2 percent of the graph is dedicated to the “others” category. The Redskins and Baltimore Ravens are the only two teams with such a large percentage of its hypothetical draftees falling in the “others” category.
In other words: Nobody knows what the Redskins are going to do with the 17th pick.