As the NFL Free Agency period, and the NFL Draft inch closer and closer, the speculation of which positions rank higher in need, and the players who could potentially fill those positions, grow with each passing day. Yes, tis the season where amateur general managers come out of the woodwork to post their thoughts, big boards, and mock drafts.
For Redskins fans, this has become a science. This year, by the genius that is Steve Shoup, we were all introduced to the Mock Draft Simulator on Fanspeak. It has entertained some, and completely consumed others. It is a fun, realistic way to make your mark as a future GM.
I have been getting a lot of emails from people asking me which way I am leaning in the draft, and which positions and players will best fit our needs with our top pick. I've tried getting back to as many people as I can, but I still have many who question the defense, especially defensive line, with the 34th pick.
Since we can't really agree on a certain position or need that trumps all others(and frankly, what fun would that be if we did), maybe we can just try ruling some positions out in the 2014 NFL Draft. So, without further ado, here is my first attempt.
Let me start by saying that this reasoning is not because I feel the position doesn't need upgrading; I think it does. Moreover, my reasoning stems from three things:
First, we have spent a lot of high picks in the last five years on the defensive line. Defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker, call them what you will, but Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan play on the, or close to the, line of scrimmage. They are both defensive linemen in theory. Moving on from these two, we have also spent a high draft pick on Jarvis Jenkins, and put a priority on defensive line in free agency a few years ago by bringing in Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen. Actually, over the last five seasons, we have had a total of six picks in the top two rounds(yeah, that's pretty bad). Of these six picks, four went to the defensive side of the ball, and three were defensive linemen or 3-4 outside linebackers.
Second, the 2014 draft is not loaded with talent on the defensive front. I have two players with first round grades that I feel would fit our needs at defensive tackle/nose tackle, Louis Nix from Notre Dame, and RaShede Hageman from Minnesota, and I think both of these players get selected in the first round. After the first round, the talent level falls off significantly. Some have mentioned Stephon Tuitt, but I think he is vastly overrated, and after reviewing extensive tape on him, I don't even have him in the top half of the second round, non the less as a consideration for the 34th pick. The next highest prospect I have that could fit our defensive front would be DaQuan Jones from Penn State, but I view him as a late second-early third round prospect.
Finally, I would much rather enter the draft having our defensive front set. I think re-signing or franchising Orakpo is about 99% likely. I would like to see us re-sign Chris Baker too, as I like his motor and versatility. The missing piece to the puzzle would be to sign a free agent like Linval Joseph or Cam Thomas to play defensive end. This would give us an immediate plug-and-play option, who would be an upgrade to Bowen and Carriker, and could allow one, if not both players, to be cut.
A front three rotation of Cofield, Baker, Jenkins, Joseph/Thomas(or another free agent) Neild and Goldston would be good, when paired with Orakpo and Kerrigan on the outside. I would certInly like to see the new staff have at least one more season to evaluate the play of Jarvis Jenkins before writing him off, and if Jenkins shows up to camp with a chip on his shoulder, and in good playing shape, he may surprise many.
With so many holes on this team, and not enough picks in the draft to even make a dent in those areas, we need to be wise, and consider value vs. need when we select at pick 34. It would be wise for us to have addressed defensive line before we enter this draft, so we don't enter April with a big NEED. If a player like Nix or Hageman were to fall to us in the second, you absolutely consider them, but the pressure will be off, and the staff can focus on other areas that need upgrading that have much better value in the draft.