ESPN's Todd McShay released his fourth mock draft this morning, and continues the trend of predicting the Redskins will take an outside linebacker to replace Brian Orakpo. In Mock 1.0 and Mock 2.0, McShay gave Washington Missouri DE/OLB Shane Ray. In last month's Mock 3.0 he moved Nebraska OLB Randy Gregory down to the Redskins. In Mock 4.0, the OLB train moves on to Florida's Dante Fowler, Jr. Randy Gregory's positive test for marijuana has only moved Randy Gregory down one spot to the New York Jets in this mock, but he could fall further than that next month. Gregory already had several on and off the field concerns entering draft season, and failing the idiot test at the Combine could cost him millions in guaranteed money.
Dante Fowler, Jr. has become a popular pick for the Redskins, but with Gregory dropping more and more, he could be selected before the 5th pick. The top OLB prospects in this year's draft class have been rotating in and out of the top five over the last month. The only OLB that McShay has not mocked to the Redskins yet, has been Clemson's Vic Beasley, and I wouldn't be shocked if he's the Redskins pick in McShay's final Mock before the draft. He has predicted Beasley to the Saints at #13 in his last two mock drafts.
Team's have their draft boards set by this point in the process, and most of this movement is media/fan overreaction, but things like Randy Gregory's failed test can shake up boards for multiple teams. The issue is there is still not a clear, consensus top 3-4 OLB in this year's draft. Everyone has their favorite, but is there an elite talent there, and if there is will they even be available at #5? The Redskins could pass completely on OLBs at the top of the draft, especially if they trade down and feel there is better value there in the 2nd round. Only 31 days until the draft.
Analysis: The Redskins need a pass-rusher, with Brian Orakpo gone to the Titans, and they have several options to choose from here including Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and Vic Beasley. But new GM Scot McCloughan has always put emphasis on edge players with a little bit more size, and Fowler fits the bill as a more complete player (albeit slightly less explosive) than those other three guys, with a more filled-out frame and who can set the edge better against the run. He also has the athleticism to play 3-4 outside linebacker (ran an impressive 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine).
My look at NFL draft prospect Dante Fowler http://t.co/ja2n4hyto9— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) March 30, 2015
When teams look for pass-rushing outside linebackers in the draft, they often have to convert a player that played defensive end in a 4-3 system while in college. Transitioning to 3-4 outside linebacker puts added pressure on a young player. Instead of just focusing on rushing the passer, they have to learn how to rush from a two-point stance and drop into coverage. A lot of the time, they have to work hard to add weight, although that's not always the case. Washington has been through this before when it drafted Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, both of whom were 4-3 ends in college.
But Florida pass rusher Dante Fowler doesn't have to worry about this. He has the benefit of having played in a hybrid system in college. He's already at the ideal size and weight for an outside linebacker at 6 feet 3, 261 pounds. While other pass rushers in this class, like Vic Beasley and Randy Gregory, are having to bulk up, Fowler has already proven he can play at the ideal weight.
The advantage of playing in a hybrid scheme in college is huge for Fowler. He's proven he's versatile and can be used as a piece to move around and rush from different positions. Not only does he line up across from the left tackle, he can flip to the right side, play 4-3 end with his hand in the dirt or even shift inside to rush from the inside linebacker spot.