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Redskins draft needs

Hat Tip: Extreme Skins.

Ryan Wilson is being kept busy by Fox Sports, Football Outsiders, and AOL Fanhouse covering the NFC East (and thus the Redskins). Earlier today he wrote on the NFC East's Draft Needs. He ranks the 'Skins:

  1. Defensive tackle: The Redskins struggled against the run -- especially between the tackles -- and starters Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a could stand some competition. Kedric Golston was a surprise in '06, but finding a natural run stuffer to clog up the middle is a priority.
  2. Defensive end: While the run defense was bad, the pass rush was worse. The Redskins managed 20 sacks, good for last in the league. Andre Carter was part of the 2006 All-Star free agency class that has, for the most part, fallen flat on its face.
  3. Cornerback: Shawn Springs is the best cornerback on the roster, but there isn't much competition. Yes, Smoot is back in D.C., and Carlos Rogers is a former first-round pick, but finding more secondary help -- coupled with an improved pass rush -- will do wonders for Gregg Williams' self-esteem.
  4. Guard: Derrick Dockery signed a huge deal with the Bills and, to date, Washington has re-signed Todd Wade and brought in Ross Tucker, but together they still don't equal Dockery's production.
  5. Safety: The problem isn't Sean Taylor -- he is one of the hardest hitters in the game. It's that he has no one to put him in position to make plays. That responsibility formerly fell to Ryan Clark, before the club let him sign a modest deal with the Steelers last off-season.
I do not disagree strongly with the five needs listed. Guard is the biggest starter question mark, as it isn't clear whether Mike Pucillo or Todd Wade or someone else will take the reigns. The Defensive Line is oooooold with Phillip Daniels, Cornelius Griffin, and Big Joe Salave'a all over the three decade mark. As Ryan points out, we were horrid against both the run and the pass last year. Cornerback isn't as immediate a need as the others, as we still have Shawn Springs. Though his unwillingness to take a paycut this offseason (and why would he?) could signal his future exit from the Redskins. Safety is still a question mark as we're starting Pierson Prioleau (who hasn't yet distinguished himself in any role on this team outside of backup) followed by Omar Stoutmire. Two of last year's Safeties, Adam Archuleta and Troy Vincent, are no longer with the team. And it was clear that Vernon Fox, despite getting some PT at that position, is not ready to take over starting duties.

Ryan Wilson is an acute Football mind, so I disagree with him at my own peril, though the risk involved is less than I make it out to be given that I haven't any credibility to lose. But allow me to rank where I think we are heading into the Draft in three weeks:

  1. Defensive End. I have no problem committing serious Football positions on the basis of Football Outsiders statistics, as those guys are just brilliant and approaching NFL analysis on a whole different level than many casual fans -- myself included. And what their 2006 Defensive Line breakdown shows is that the Redskins were worse pass rushers than they were run stoppers, relative to the rest of the league. Whereas the 'Skins finished 30th against the Run, we were dead last in sacks, with a 4.3% Adjusted Sack Rate. That's horrible. Despite some changes in the secondary and linebacking unit, and even granting that Andre Carter looked better as the year went on, the Redskins haven't really done anything to bolster their pass rush besides let Phillip Daniels get a year older. He's, uhh, 34. But he looks 33!
  2. Defensive Tackle. I have no problem throwing a draft pick on this and recognize the immediate need to get Cornelius Griffin a future replacement. He'll turn 31 this year and simply isn't the man we had stuffing the middle and breaking down pockets in 2004. His decline has been steady, as has his increasing proclivity for injury. We'd be wise to expect a decline in his productivity. That said the reason I push DT behind DE is that I think the 'Skins have done some things in Free Agency to bolster our dismal run defense, if not at this particular position. The addition of London Fletcher to replace smallish Lemar Marshall at ILB should help in keeping runs in check, to a degree. And the replacement of Warrick Holdman with either Rocky McIntosh (hopefully) or else Lemar Marshall can only be counted as an upgrade as well. Holdman was a liability pure and simple. Finally, unlike Defensive End, the Redskins do have a very green, young player at this position who can develop significantly and will benefit from an additional year of experience. Kedric Golston was a remarkable surprise pickup in the 6th round of last year's draft and has thankfully played quite beyond expectations. While I find it crazy to predict Phillip Daniels (or Griffin or Joe Salave'a at their respective ages) at 34 is going to improve drastically in '07, I think Golston can only and should get better.
  3. Guard. Our Offensive Line, like our D-Line, is getting kind of sort of old and it wouldn't hurt to try and fix it in the present rather than waiting for injuries or else rapidly declining play to force the issue a year or two from now. I rank this higher than Safety mostly because I feel like we can get very good value at this position in the later rounds. I think it's possible, over the course of a few years, to replenish an offensive line with Day Two picks, especially given that I think Joe Bugel is about as sharp an Offensive Line Coach as exists in the National Football League.
  4. Safety. Speaking of Safety... I think this is below Guard (as Wilson ranked it) simply because we aren't in need of a massive youth movement at this position as we are with Offensive Line. I don't know that Prioleau is a reliable starter though it was intimated by Tom Friend that he had already won that job from Archuleta last year prior to his injury. That's encouraging. The team added Omar Stoutmire and still has Vernon Fox backing up the position, and he picked up some valuable starting experience last year. I wouldn't cry if the team picked up Laron Landry out of LSU, which is one reason I push this above Cornerback. In other words, the reason this is above CB is because, focusing only on 2007, I'm more comfortable with the personnel we have at CB than I am at Safety.
  5. Cornerback. Meaning in the longterm I think Ryan Wilson is right, that the Redskins are going to have to address this position. Fred Smoot is coming off a disappointing year in Minnesota. While I'm comfortable with him at the #2 spot, should Shawn Springs be pushed out of town in '08, I'm not sure Smoot is ready for the #1 spot. 2007 will be instructive on that point, I've no doubt. But given his performance in '06, even if Smoot is ready for the #1 I wasn't sold on Carlos Rogers as a reliable #2 (although I really hope he changes my mind on that with a rebound from his Sophomore slump). Behind that it is newcomer David Macklin and then Ade Jimoh. As Cornerbacks cannot be replenished on the cheap in Free Agency, we're going to need to throw a first day draft pick or two at this position by 2008 at the absolute latest. Since we don't have many 1st day picks in 2007, I wouldn't predict us picking up a Corner (on Day One) even if we traded down. That said, it wouldn't shock me if we scooped a guy in the late rounds to try and get a diamond in the rough.
Wilson also predicts who we may have to settle for if we trade down in the first round. He picks:
Who they will have to settle for: If Washington manages to trade down to the bottom half of the first round, they may be in business for a defensive end. Florida's Jarvis Moss or Georgia's Charles Johnson are possibilities.
Some other names to throw around would be Adam Carriker or, if we can somehow move down farther, Tim Crowder. Finally, Ryan provides some insight on Day Two, which is rare and much appreciated given the dearth of information on who specifically the Redskins are after:
Who they may have their eyes on in the later rounds: Other than their first-round selection, the 'Skins only have late second-day picks (a fifth, two sixths and a seventh). In that sense, they have greatly improved their chances of finding a diamond in the rough. Wyoming free safety John Wendling is 6-1, 220, runs the 40 in 4.48 range, shows great athleticism, and, most importantly, was a national finalist for the 2006 Draddy Trophy, which is awarded each year by the National Football Foundation (NFF) to the top football scholar-athlete in the country. He could be the on-field coach to get Taylor back on track.
Without knowing anything about John Wendling, Wilson's praise of him certainly compels me. Ryan Clark wasn't known for being the best athlete on the field and was considered missed largely because of the impact he had on Sean Taylor. If you can find another smart player to put Taylor in the best position to make plays, I'd go confidently into the season at the Safety position. Sean Taylor = Meast.