1. On April 30 later this year, the NFL will kick off the 2015 draft in Chicago. Unless my math is off, that is about 104 days away, hence the beginning of a 104-part effort to convince everyone--including myself--that drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is the right thing to do. The drum is out, and the beating has started.
2. Fortunately for me, I have relevant experience that I can apply to this endeavor. In addition to teaching my young children not to touch a hot stove or approach a pack of rabid wolves, I have also been somewhat successful in demonstrating the value of daily hygiene as well as "what not to wear" (SPOILER ALERT: it's Dallas jerseys). As you can see, helping people discover knowledge that they were actually born with is kind of my wheelhouse. Drafting offensive linemen in the first round is the NFL equivalent of knowing not to eat your own feces. Every single offensive lineman doesn't have to come from the first round, but it doesn't take Carl Spackler to know when you are about to treat yourself to yet another helping of excrement.
3. There has been no shortage of holes to be filled on the Redskins roster in recent...decades. The truth is that credible cases could be made for any number of positions to be targeted in the first rounds of past drafts. Even going into the 2015 draft, we all know that there will be players available at #5 who don't play offensive line who could be impact players for this organization. Still, I don't believe there is a better investment that this franchise can make in itself at this point than bringing in one of the top offensive tackle prospects.
4. When making the case for Andrus Peat in Will's mock draft earlier this week, I laid out the argument that an improved offensive line impacts pretty much every area of need we have. It would contribute to the development of the quarterback position. It would cause defenses to play both sides of the line honestly. It would likely lead to more efficiency on the offensive side of the ball, increasing total first downs and overall time of possession which would give the defense some breathing room.
5. Having Trent Williams, a Pro Bowl left tackle, does not mean "we are good at tackle." It does not mean we are limited in the resources we can invest in right tackle. Gone are the days when a significant drop off in ability from left tackle to right tackle was something you could get away with--pass rushers come from everywhere now, and they are all fast, strong and freakishly gifted. Gone are the days when right tackles played right tackle because they "couldn't cut it at left tackle." I was reminded of this point (thanks Neal!) this week. If your right tackle is playing right tackle because you don't trust him to play left tackle, you should probably be criminally charged with reckless endangerment of your quarterback. In short, all the literature I have read (if you google it, is it still called "literature"?) suggests that the performance of the right tackle in today's NFL (the one our Redskins happen to play in, by the way) is just as important as that of the left tackle.
6. We all know that McLovin' leans toward the BPA (best player available) style of drafting football players. We can all agree that at #5 overall, there are likely to be at least a couple--or a few--players that qualify as best available, depending on who is making the call. I would argue that in the rarefied air of the top five draft picks, the best offensive tackle on the board is in line to be considered among the best players available. I have heard people say this draft features "good but not great" offensive tackles. If our right tackle was "good but not great" in 2014, it says here that would have been worth two more wins than we got. We will learn a lot more about the top OT prospects between now and the end of April, and I am guessing that at least one or two will distinguish themselves as worthy of being taken in the top five. If McLovin' wants to, he can absolutely sell us on an offensive tackle as the best available player.
7. What about Trent Williams? Does taking an offensive tackle threaten his role on this team--now or down the road? Simply put: No. Trent will be due a sizable raise soon, and I am pretty sure we have no excuse not to give it to him. The new guy will be on a rookie contract for at least the next four seasons. That means that for the foreseeable future, we would have two above average tackles (theoretically) without breaking the bank. By the time the new guy was up for a contract renewal, Trent will be closing in on 30 years old. At that point, if things have gone well, you would consider the cost of keeping both guys, but you would also have the option of drafting a new tackle in the first round of a future draft. See what I did there? I created a position of strength through the draft and then I used a future draft pick to replenish it. I know...crazy.
8. Part of my reasoning for burning #5 overall on an OT stems from our repeated willingness over the years to hang back and select from the picked over crop of offensive linemen. To me, this is nothing short of gutless as it pertains to addressing an area of need. While other teams identify and draft players for which they hold conviction, we have been content to shop out of the lost and found bin. The best is when we declare, "We wanted this guy all along!" Really? You mean the parade of offensive linemen we have drafted in the middle rounds who have made next to ZERO material contributions to this franchise? I don't think McLovin' is gutless. I think he is the kind of guy who says, "[Insert OT name here] is the best offensive tackle available and we are in position to take him, so we will." Let some other team root through the OT dumpster in the later rounds. That has clearly not been working for us.
9. Drafting a blue-chip offensive tackle is not giving up on Morgan Moses or Tom Compton, either (or any other tackle who reports to camp to compete for a spot). History teaches us that we will need to plug in a backup tackle at some point of the season. That player could very well have to finish the season--or the postseason--on the field, so the cultivation of young talent along the line is simply beyond paramount. We can't expect Trent to be able to hobble to the finish line of every season. We can't expect to win games with washed up offensive linemen on the field. The necessity of developing Moses into a competent tackle would be as important as ever. In fact, you could argue that developing offensive tackles should be the goal of every team in the NFL. Revolutionary...I know. It just might be crazy enough to work.
10. Building on that theme, we just hired an offensive line coach that league experts consider to be among the best at what he does. Dan Snyder is paying him an ungodly amount of money to ply his trade in Washington. Bill Callahan will surely be tasked with increasing the competency of players currently on the roster, but to me, it makes a hell of a lot of sense to give him a fresh-faced blue-chipper to mold. Don't be fooled into thinking that hiring an above average coach is a substitute for adding talent on the field. This isn't a Disney movie. Unless that coach can suit up and play right tackle at a higher level than who we already have, the need to upgrade remains. Wouldn't it be refreshing to put an extremely talented rookie in the hands of a coach that we are begging to come in and work his magic on a unit that is so essential to being able to win games? If we do this, maybe that turd in the pool will turn out to be a Baby Ruth after all!
To be continued...