INDIANAPOLIS — The Redskins enter a key part of the 2017 draft process this week at the NFL Combine.
Put aside for a moment questions about general manager Scot McCloughan and his absence from Indianapolis. Washington is still pushing forward with its interviews and evaluations. There are plenty of needs from defensive end, defensive tackle, safety and maybe wide receiver. Don’t be surprised if a cornerback is in the mix, too. There are a lot of good ones this year. Running back could be an option just based on the talent in this year’s draft.
With that in mind, here are five early possibilities to go to Washington at No. 17 in the draft, which begins April 27 in Philadelphia.
Malik McDowell, DT
Michigan State defensive tackle has the size to be a dominant player at 6-foot-6, 295 pounds. He could easily provide versatility along the line. McDowell didn’t have a great junior season, though. Something was missing. Some draft gurus have him dropping late into the first round or out all together. ESPN’s Todd McShay has him going No. 16 in his latest mock draft. That’s only one spot above Washington, which is desperate for help there. McDowell’s sacks dropped from 4.5 as a sophomore to 1.5 as a junior. The Spartans also weren’t very good. There are red flags here, but McDowell’s workout on Sunday will go a long way toward pushing him back to the middle of the first round. If he tests well, he can make up for some of the concerning tape. His ability to generate an interior pass rush might be too tempting to pass up.
Solomon Thomas, DE
Stanford defensive end might have risen too high already for the Redskins, who again need help everywhere along the defensive line. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said in a call last week that Thomas can play outside on run downs and inside on passing downs. In other words – he can stay on the field. That matters. Thomas is 6-foot-3, 273 pounds. He might be better suited for a 4-3 defense so that has to be taken into account. But you can figure that stuff out. Washington needs players capable of stopping opposing running games. Thomas can do that and more.
Alvin Kamara, RB
Everyone is focused on Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and with good reason. They are dynamic players and should go in the top 15. If either falls to 17 the Redskins might have to pull the trigger on principle. But here’s the thing: Kamara might be a solid choice, too. If running back is a priority, Kamara ran just a tick slower than Fournette (4.51 to 4.53) at Friday’s workouts. There are questions. Why wasn’t Kamara used more at Tennessee? No. 17 might be high for now, but that speed combined with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes Kamara an intriguing option.
Derek Barnett, DE
Another Tennessee product, but one who could slip instead of rise. That might work out for the Redskins, too. Barnett has a big day on Sunday because he’s not expected to test exceptionally well. But just watch the film. Again, he might be best suited to coming off the edge in a 4-3 scheme. But the Redskins play a lot of that anyway. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker with someone this productive in the SEC. Barnett led that conference in tackles for loss (19) and sacks (13). Film does still trump workout numbers sometimes. Barnett makes a good case for that.
(Editor’s note: Barnett did not participate in drills on Saturday due to an illness.)
Sidney Jones, CB
You can’t have enough and if the Redskins think they can get a strong defensive line player in the second round then why not take a shot at a high-level corner. You can always move Bashaud Breeland to safety. In the modern NFL, coordinators will find ways to get talent on the field. Draws comparisons to former Washington Huskies teammate Marcus Peters, who had a fantastic rookie year for Kansas City in 2016. Jones has good size at 6 feet, 186 pounds. He’s a playmaker with three interceptions in 2016, but may need some time to gain the strength necessary to cover big receivers.
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