When the Redskins are on the clock with the fourth overall pick in April's draft, they will have a lot of options.
Perhaps they will try to take a quarterback to be the future face of the franchise. Maybe there will be an elite offensive lineman like Russell Okung there for the taking. Maybe they simply go for best player available and end up with someone like Eric Berry, who many fans would probably like to see play for the Redskins. Maybe they trade down and stockpile picks.
Drafting fourth overall, the Redskins obviously will be looking for a player who will start for many years. On a team with so many holes in personnel, that should not be hard to find. Right?
Of course, much depends on what happens in the three picks preceding the Redskins'. I'm going to play out two scenarios. Obviously, it is absurdly early to be making these kinds of predictions, but that's why it's fun.
Scenario #1: The Rams draft Ndamukong Suh with the first pick
In this scenario, the Rams take Suh, the Nebraska DT that is the clear-cut best player in the draft. To my knowledge, the Rams are basically looking at either taking the best player -- Suh -- or the best quarterback, given that Marc Bulger is pretty much done and the Rams are extremely thin at the position. Keep in mind, the Rams have drafted 2 DL in the last three drafts -- Adam Carriker in '07, Chris Long in '08 -- and neither are particularly dominant despite the heavy investment. But Suh has greatness written all over him, so let's say the Rams take him.
The next two teams in the draft -- the Lions and the Buccaneers -- both picked QB's in the first round last year (Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman). That means there is no chance they move on a QB. For now, the odds are these two teams will choose from the following players: Russell Okung, Eric Berry, Gerald McCoy, Joe Haden. (Look 'em up if you don't know them. All are non-QB's).
That means the Redskins, at #4 overall, will be looking at every single quarterback in the draft.
Here's the situation we all fear in the Redskins front office: what if Okung and Jimmy Clausen/Sam Bradford are still on the board at #4?
In my mind, the Redskins will have three choices if this scenario unfolds. First, they draft Okung. Second, they draft Clausen/Bradford. Third, they trade down.
With Okung, the Redskins have their next franchise left tackle. Left tackle is arguably the second-most important position on the offense, behind quarterback. With a strong anchor at left tackle, the Redskins' offensive line improves tremendously, and they can pick at any other position in the second round.
Or, the Redskins could take Jimmy Clausen/Bradford at #4. Now, I have to tell you, I cringe at the thought of drafting a QB this year. It seems as though common sense would say that you have a bigger need on the offensive line than you do at QB, and if the line doesn't improve, who cares who the quarterback is?
But there is other logic that has to be factored in. If the Redskins truly believe Clausen or Bradford is a franchise quarterback, they may have to take him. Think about it -- a quality left tackle comes around in every draft, and often, one can be obtained in later rounds. The opportunity to draft a franchise, top-of-the-draft quarterback and mold him from day one is extremely rare. The Redskins would have their choice of any QB in the draft in this situation -- could they pass on one?
Three of the four teams in the conference championships are led by outstanding, nearly peerless quarterbacks: Peyton Manning with the Colts, Drew Brees with the Saints, and Brett Favre with the Packers Vikings. Although only Manning was selected in the first round of the three, they are unquestionably the key reason why their teams have advanced thus far. The Colts have the league's worst running game (1200 rushing yards); the Saints have the highest-scoring offense led by their passing attack; Adrian Peterson hasn't had a 100-yard game since Week 10.
They are led by elite QB's in their prime. They are more valuable than any other players in football, left tackles be damned. Just check out the MVP voting: all QB's.
If you're a bad team, and you have the chance to get one of those players, you simply must do it. Yes, the Dolphins became a lot better after they led off by drafting Jake Long two years ago, but it was the arrival of Chad Pennington and a defensive resurgence (along with a nice schedule and Tom Brady's injury) that led them to the playoffs just a year after being 1-15. And Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers still shined this season, despite being sacked more than any other quarterbacks in the NFL.
If the Redskins believe Clausen or Bradford is a future All-Pro, it can be argued they have to pull the trigger. The logic is with them. It won't make the Redskins a better team right away, and I still think Campbell should be the starter next season. But Campbell will likely only be around on a 1-year contract if he is signed as a restricted free agent because of the uncapped season. Let him play it out -- we won't be a playoff team anyway -- and let Clausen hold the clipboard and get in some reps in practice.
Remember, the Bengals drafted Carson Palmer when they had Jon Kitna, the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers when they had Drew Brees, and the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers when they had Brett freaking Favre. It can be done, and if one slides to the Redskins at fourth overall and he REALLY is good enough to be an All-Pro (not saying Clausen or Bradford is yet), it's the right thing to do. Jason Campbell is a good quarterback. He is capable of being a starter, no questions asked. But is he the kind of quarterback you simply must have in the NFL today to compete at the highest level? Mark Sanchez and perhaps Joe Flacco excluded, every team that made the NFL Playoffs has a quarterback that is capable of playing at a level higher than Campbell has ever shown. Campbell will still have another year to prove himself, but at some point, the Redskins will have to cut their losses if he doesn't become a better quarterback in more than the statistical sense.
Of course, the Redskins could also get a huge, HUGE draft-day deal and trade this pick with a team that is willing to overpay for the top QB in the draft. I could see a Buffalo, Seattle or Cleveland making a deal to trade up with us. Honestly, this could be ideal. We could end up with a top LT and an obscene amount of future draft picks, which we always would welcome. Remember, it was the Ricky Williams trade deal with Mike Ditka that gave us LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels -- and we still got Champ Bailey.
All three of the teams mentioned pick in the top 10 -- and all three have a much larger need at QB than the Redskins do. Personally, this would be my favorite option. We could still pick in the top 10, have a shot at the 2nd best LT (Okung would likely be gone), and may end up with picks we could use on more OL, a running back, or even a QB later in the draft.
That's probably what all Campbell fans should pray for -- a trade down that results in two more good O-linemen.
Scenario #2: The Rams pick a QB
If the Rams don't take Suh and invest in the QB position, the Redskins' choices become a lot easier.
If Suh isn't gone at #1, he's gone at #2 to the Lions, leaving the Bucs to pick either Okung, Berry, McCoy, Haden, or whoever else strikes their fancy.
Now, let's say Okung is on the board at #4. Here, the Redskins obviously have to take him, given LT is a huge position of need, Okung is the best player, and there is no other pick we could make that would pay off nearly as much. Okung in the fold, second round ahead.
But let's say the Bucs do draft Okung and the Redskins are looking at both the top QB (for argument's sake, Clausen) and the top LT out of the draft.
What do they do here?
Eric Berry is still on the board, and if we picked him, it would give us something close to the Taylor/Landry backfield we all wished we could see. We could make a reach for a different OT like Trent Williams (although his stock could change), grab someone like RB CJ Spiller or top-flight CB Joe Haden...
... Or we could trade down.
This option is always popular. You're giving away a chance at an elite player, but getting the chance to fill more holes with quality players.
If they trade down, possible trade partners include the Patriots (who have 3 second-rounders and the 22nd overall), or Seattle, who have two first-rounders. There are a litany of scenarios, but the Trade Value Chart says we could get Seattle's 14th overall, plus their second rounder and be even, but I doubt that would happen unless there was a marquee player they were really interested in drafting.
Frankly, if the Rams take a QB, the Redskins' pick means a lot less. Today, odds are that Okung will be on the board at #4 regardless of the Rams' pick, but if he isn't, the Redskins' pick collapses in value if there is no sexy QB another team would be willing to trade up for and they can't draft a position of need themselves. If there are no trade partners at #4 and Okung and the top QB are gone, perhaps a player available could help the Redskins transition to the 3-4. My knowledge doesn't point to one player in particular, although perhaps Joe Haden would be a good fit if Carlos Rogers were to hit the road.
So -- what do you hope for? Do you think the Redskins would be right to draft a QB if they thought one was destined to be an elite NFL QB despite other glaring needs? Should they trade down if Clausen and Okung are still on the board? Should they just take an o-lineman, no questions asked?
Let's hear it.