The Washington Redskins have managed to win just 7 games the last two seasons; during that span 18 NFL teams won more than 7 games in 2014 alone. The Washington Redskins are not a good football team, that is no secret; and that is why General Manger Scot McCloughan was brought in to fix an organization that has desperately needed fixing for far too long.
It's no secret that the only way to maintain consistent success in the NFL is by drafting and developing and maintaining your own players. Look at the best teams, the teams that are in the playoffs year in and year out, the Green Bays, Seattles, and New Englands of the NFL. Do those teams make many splashy moves in free agency? No. Do those teams have complete rosters and solid depth throughout most positions? Yes. Why? Because they draft well, not just for need, but the best football player available when they are on the clock.
With McCloughan calling the shots in D.C. the days of attempting to fix the Redskins in one offseason with big name free agent additions are over, and McCloughan will focus on the long process of rebuilding the Redskins through the draft. In simpler terms, that means one thing: drafting the best player available no matter the position, in every single round moving forward.
Yes, need does play a factor. However, not as much as most fans think it does. For example, if McCloughan has two players graded out very similarly, and one happens to play a position of need, you likely draft the player who plays the position of need. Need only comes into play when two players are graded out very similarly.
However, that does not mean that because, say, the offensive line and safety are the two positions that need the most help, that the Redskins should focus only on those positions in the early rounds. That's simply not how drafting works.
I get it, the Redskins could use upgrades at arguably every position across the line except left tackle. So why wouldn't the Redskins use their first round pick to help fix a shaky line at best? Well there are a few reasons:
First of all, if you draft a tackle in the top five, you better have faith that that guy is going to protect your quarterback's blindside for the next ten years. Fortunately for the Redskins, they have one of the best, young left tackles in the game, so that is not a need.
Secondly, as of right now there isn't even an offensive line prospect worth a look in the top five. You have players like Brandon Scherff who has a lot of room to improve in pass protection and whose ultimate position might be guard, La'el Collins who has the potential to rise up boards but certainly isn't a slam dunk pick either, and T.J. Clemmings who has all the physical tools but is extremely raw and forces you to bet on that raw potential.
Yes, a lot can and will change between now and the draft. Players will rise and fall, and an offensive lineman could even rise up all the way to the top five. However, even if a prospect like Collins or Andrus Peat rises that high, you simply do not take a right tackle that high. Luckily for the Redskins, this is a deep draft for defensive talent, and if a tackle rises up the board it could put the Redskins in a position to trade back into the first round, gain additional picks and still draft an impact player like Dante Fowler, Landon Collins, or Danny Shelton to name a few.
Lastly, I truly do not believe that the Redskins view the offensive line as much of a problem area as most fans do. Let's take a look at every position other than left tackle:
Shawn Lauvao was terrible in his first year in D.C. it's as simple as that. However, I don't believe that the Redskins will look to replace Lauvao yet for one reason; the hiring of Bill Callahan. Callahan's hire will result in a change in philosophy. Callahan, Gruden, and McCloughan agree on one thing, the need for bigger offensive lineman. Lauvao may be more successful under Callahan in a power based scheme. I won't deny that the Redskins could obviously use an upgrade over Lauvao, but you can't fix everything in one season and I don't anticipate Lauvao going anywhere just yet.
Kory Lichtensteiger did a solid job in his first season transitioning from guard to center. However, there are a few problems here as well. Starting with the fact that Licht will be 30 heading into the 2015 season with no true backup on the roster, and ending with the fact that he is just under 300 pounds. The Redskins simply need to add some depth and some beef to this position, and the draft may be the best place to do it. Cameron Erving or B.J. Finney are both enormous prospects that would add some size and strength to the middle of the line. Erving is the most intriguing prospect to me, due to his athletic ability and his versatility to play multiple positions across the line. Finney would be more of a project, but that wouldn't be a terrible thing. The Redskins can't afford to not add depth to this position, but they would be fine if Licht started again in 2015 allowing time for a prospect like Finney to be groomed to be the guy moving forward.
Chris Chester will likely be gone due to his age, poor play, and his contract situation. That leaves an opening for a few options. Internally the Skins have Spencer Long and Josh LeRibeus, but I would put my money on Long who was drafted by Gruden. There are also some some intriguing guard prospects in the draft such as Laken Tomlinson, A.J. Cann, and Arie Kouandjio. Drafting another young guard would give the Redskins some depth and competition at both guard spots. In addition to the draft there are some intriguing free agents including: Mike Iupati, Clint Boling, and Orlando Franklin.
This is the one position that the Redskins will have no choice but to look outside their roster for an upgrade. Tyler Polumbus will not return, and although Tom Compton is a decent backup swing tackle, I don't anticipate him being brought back for any reason other than that. Right Tackle is one position I anticipate the Redskins dipping into the free agency pool. Grabbing a player like Bryan Bulaga, Joe Barksdale, or Doug Free would go a long way in improving the offensive line woes. However, there are some options in the draft as well, including Rob Havenstein, Austin Shepherd, Daryl Williams. No matter if it is from the draft or free agency, the Redskins must upgrade the right tackle position.
So will it take a first round pick to finally see some improvement in the offensive line? I do not believe so. First of all, there are some young prospects in free agency, and I would be surprised if the Redskins don't sign at least one starter on the right side of the offensive line through a free agent acquisition.
A scenario that I've become a big fan of is grabbing a starting caliber right tackle and guard in free agency, and nabbing Erving in the second round of the draft. That would make for possibly three new starters joining Trent Williams in the trenches, without sacrificing a first round pick (Williams, Lauvao, Erving, Boling, Bulaga as an example). Under this scenario, even if Lavauo continuous to struggle you have Spencer Long on standby, waiting to step in.
The bottom line is there are a lot of ways that the Redskins can go about improving their offensive line, and the Redskins cannot afford to go another offseason trying to patch together a starting caliber line. However, no matter how they go about fixing the line whether it be more through free agency or the draft, there is no doubt in my mind that the Redskins will not need to use their first round pick to do so.
With a roster featuring holes across the board, the Redskins simply cannot afford to reach for a tackle at number five overall and miss out on a possible immediate impact player (Ray, Gregory, Fowler, Shelton etc). They cannot do it. The Redskins have to start the rebuilding process the right way, by selecting the best player available. I have faith that McCloughan will do that, by not selecting a right tackle at number five overall.