So, here we are, one week away from the 2011 NFL Draft, and as usual, the Redskins have many needs and only a handful of draft picks with which to address them. As of now, the Skins have the following picks for this year's draft:
Round 1: Their own pick, the 10th overall.
Round 2: Their own pick, 41st overall.
Round 5: Their own pick (position of the rest of the picks TBD)
Round 5: The Saints pick from the Jammal Brown trade.
Round 6: Their own pick
Round 7: Their own pick Round 7: From the Colts for Justin Tryon
Note: at this point, lets remember the Skins still have Fat Albert Haynesworth as well as Donovan McNabb on their roster, but neither is likely to be wearing burgundy and gold next season. Haynesworth is going to go down as one of the most expensive, lazy, unmotivated and disappointing free agent acquisitions in NFL history. McNabb, who was expected to finally deliver some long-needed stability at QB, had the worst statistical season of his career, and never seemed to find his stride in Kyle Shanahan's version of the West-Coast offense. Both players should be traded for picks, but because Haynesworth was such an epic fail and McNabb was so publicly (and inexplicably) derided by the Skins brass, the trade value of both players is at an all time low and the Skins would be delighted to get a mid-round (3rd, 4th, or 5th) pick for either of them.
This offseason, the Skins made a solid free agent pickup by adding safety O.J. Atogwe, formerly of the Rams. He is an athletic playmaker in his prime, and should be utilized well by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Atogwe thrived under Haslett in St. Louis when Haslett was a coordinator and head coach from 2006 through 2008. The Skins really needed to pair vicious starting strong safety Laron Landry with someone more capable than stopgaps Reed Doughty and Kareem Moore, who both realistically are no better than special teamers. The addition of Atogwe gives the Skins one of the best safety tandems in the league, a distinction the Skins have lacked since the untimely passing of Sean Taylor in 2007.
The Skins also have two very talented tight ends in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. Cooley, who was recently voted by ESPN writers as the fifth best TE in the NFL, has been one of the lone bright spots on the Skins offense over the past few years, but needs to eliminate the uncharacteristic dropped passes he committed last season. Davis, who backs up Cooley but could probably start on a majority of NFL teams, seems poised to break out this season. He showed flashes of brilliance in 2010 with 48 catches for 509 yards and 6 TDs.
Unfortunately for the Skins, safety and tight end are the only positions where the Skins don't have a need. Virtually every other position could use an upgrade. Let's take a look:
QB: as mentioned before, McNabb's days in D.C. are numbered. Rex Grossman came on well last season, actually putting up better numbers in Kyle's system than McNabb, but is not currently under contract. John Beck is the only QB on the roster other than McNabb, and there has been little indication the Skins have much faith in Beck as a starter. Beck was uninspiring in his limited tenure as a starter in Miami, and probably is not going to get handed the keys to the Skin's offense by the Shanahans. The popular notion is that Mike Shanahan wants to grab a young signal-caller in this year's QB-rich draft. Options include Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Mallet, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, and Colin Kaepernick. The 10th-overall slot is probably too high to use on any of these prospects, so it will be interesting how the Skins address this situation. It seems they have two options: one, use the 10th overall pick on another position, and try to grab one of these QBs in the second round at 41st overall, or two, given the dearth of picks, trade the 10th overall down a bit, pick up one of these prospects in the lower half of the first round (where all of them project to in terms of value), and get an extra second-round pick in the process. As an alternative to drafting a young QB, it is possible the Skins could go looking for a free agent such as Carson Palmer, who is fed up in Cincy and threatening retirement. However, Palmer is old and brittle, and Bengals owner Mike Brown has thus far refused to consider letting go of the once-elite passer.
HB: The Portis era came to an end last season when the talented but battered back was supplanted by the emerging Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams. These guys did pretty well last season, further cementing Mike Shanahan's reputation for making productive starters out of no-name running backs - think Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell -- all unheralded, lowly-drafted players that each had one or more 1,000 yard seasons under Shanny. Even though Torain and Williams were serviceable last season, both are injury-prone and are not cornerstone backs. Shanahan will almost certainly pick up another runner in the later rounds of the draft.
WR: Santana Moss had an great season in 2010, putting up career numbers. Anthony Armstrong came out of nowhere to emerge as a deep-threat, but his effect on the game was only occasionally felt because his contributions were not consistent. Malcolm Kelly has still yet to realize his potential and better produce this year if he wants to avoid unemployment. Brandon Banks was one of Shanny's pet-projects that panned out, and the scrappy speedster proved to be quite the return-man, but he is too small and unpolished to compete for much more than special team responsibilities. Although the Skins have always deployed Moss at split end, his diminutive size and blazing speed projects better to a slot role, where he could plausibly be a Welker-type weapon. The problem is that the crossing lanes can only be exploited by such a slot receiver when a legitimate deep-threat exists out wide. Just look at how much better Welker was in 2009 when Randy Moss was split out wide as opposed to 2010, when defenses could direct most of their attention to Welker instead. In '09, Welker had 123 catches for 1349 yards. In '10, Welker had only 86 catches for 848 yards. Unless Kelly has a miraculous turnaround, the Skins will desperately need a tall, strong, sure-handed receiver. First-round prospects that fit this bill are A.J. Green and Julio Jones, although Green will most likely be gone before the 10th pick and Jones has a bit of an injury concern with a fracture in his foot. Jones may be available and is definitely a pick to consider at 10 overall, but the Skins have so many needs that they might have to forgo the WR position until a later round. Should they do so, there are some other prospects they should keep in mind that will fit their need: Torrey Smith of Maryland is a local kid who should definitely be on their board. He is fast, agile and sturdy, and has been compared to Reggie Wayne by scouts. Smith is ranked to go around 30-40th overall, and thus might be available when the Skins pick at 41 overall in the second round. Also, the Skins should consider Jon Baldwin from Pitt, who is big, fast and talented but has some maturity issues.
OL: Last year, the Skins made a pretty fool-proof decision to spend their first-round pick on left tackle Trent Williams. After perennial pro-bowler Chris Samuels retired, this move was quite necessary and Williams did not disappoint. Despite struggling with a couple nagging injuries that lasted all season, the young tackle held his own at arguably the game's toughest position, successfully battling against the fearsome D-linemen of the NFC East. Shanny referred to Williams as the most talented tackle he has ever been around, and his comment is noteworthy as Shanahan's specialty is developing excellent o-linemen. The rest of the Skins line still needs work. Center Casey Rabach is old and has never been an elite player. Jamaal Brown, who was acquired from the Saints, is a natural LT who was forced to play RT last season with the drafting of Williams. Brown has recently grumbled he'd rather play LT, and has yet to show that he is truly comfortable with his role on the team. Overall, the interior of the O-line is just not stout enough to protect against the monster pass-rushers unleashed twice a year by the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys. Guards Kory Lichtensteiger and Will Montgomery are serviceable at best. This year's draft has several solid offensive tackles such as Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Nate Solder. All of these guys are projected to go smack in the middle of the first round. If the Skins were use their 10th overall pick, or even better trade down just a bit to the middle of the first in exchange for an extra pick somewhere later and grab one of these guys, they absolutely could not go wrong. At guard, the Skins should take a long look at Mike Pouncey. His brother Maurkice, was drafted by the Steelers last year and was a pro-bowler as a rookie. In addition to this promising lineage, he is an instinctive, strong guard who has been evaluated by several scouts as a potential ten-year starter.
DL/LB: These positions should be discussed together because they are intimately tied to the defensive ineptitude displayed last season. The Skins defense, running a 4-3 in 2009, was a top-5 unit. In 2010, after Shanny made the switch to a 3-4 without the necessary personnel to do so, the defense plummeted to nearly dead-last in the NFL in yards allowed. Much of this failure was due to a D-line which was ill-equipped to execute the 3-4. The success of a 3-4 hinges upon the size and ability of the nose tackle. The Skins did not have this foundation in place. Haynesworth cried about being a NT as opposed to his usual 4-3 DT role because he was worried about his sack stats decreasing. The Skins shrewdly signed Ma'ake Kemoeatu as the alternative. His massive size and above-average ability made him ideal for the role but he struggled to rehab his torn ACL. In addition to have a solid NT, the Skins sorely need to add pressure rushers from the DE and OLB positions to make the scheme work. End Andre Carter was terribly suited to the 3-4 and has been released. Adam Carriker, a near-first-round bust in St. Louis, resurrected his career and will likely play quite a bit next season. At linebacker, Brian Orakpo is an elite rusher, but cannot do everything himself. The ageless and legendary leader London Fletcher will hold down the MLB spot along with Rocky McIntosch, but one more OLB that can really rush the QB must be added. The Skins probably won't added a NT, as Kemoeatu recently has stated he has finally recovered and the Skins probably think he is capable of at least getting a shot to hold down the position next year. That leaves us with needs at OLB and DE - of the two, the draft will be deeper at DE. DE prospect Robert Quinn is reportedly high on the Skins board, however he is the only DE they'd consider taking at 10th overall. DE Adrian Calyborn is an intriguing prospect, he has first-round talent but may slip because he suffers from Erb's Palsy, which causes occasional paralysis in his upper right arm. If he does slip, the Skins could look to grab him with their 41st overall pick in the second round. As for OLB, the unquestioned top prospect is Von Miller, but he will almost surely not be available by the tenth pick. The drop-off after Miller is steep at OLB. The Skins will have to look at value options in the later rounds. Someone like OSU's Ross Homan comes to mind, an instinctive, active, tough player who is projected to go in the latter half of the draft but could possibly start at the next level.
CB: at corner, the Skins have solid starters, but lack depth. Deangelo Hall is an elite athlete, who at his best can cover anyone, but sometimes has off games where he just looks ordinary. The other starting CB, Carlos Rogers, has become notorious for having hands of stone, dropping one potential interception after another. This is surely frustrating, but his excellent coverage skills and tackling cannot be discounted. The Skins are not in a position to to take any of the elite corners in this draft because they have so many needs elsewhere, but a depth pick in the later rounds would be prudent.
Altogether, with so many needs at so many positions, the Skins really cannot go wrong in this year's draft. As long as they don't make any Cerrato-esque blunders, such as picking three receivers in the second round and a punter 168th overall that couldn't make the team, they should be able to fortify several critical areas.
To be concise, here is what I would do. Trade the 10th overall down to somewhere between 15-20, and grab an extra second rounder in the process. Use the first round pick to select one of the excellent OTs that are available in this year's draft. Then, use the two 2nd round picks on a QB and and a WR/DE, whichever better one is available. After that, plug in holes at OLB and NT. Last, look at HBs and CBs.