The first round of the 2015 SBNation Bloggers Mock ended last week, and we're on to the 2nd round with plenty of talented players on the board. In case you forgot, El Jefe Ken Meringolo went Best Tackle Available(BTA) in the first round, selecting LSU OT La'el Collins at #5 which received the second lowest grade of the first round(C) from the "fans". MockingTheDraft boss Dan Kadar compared Collins to Redskins LT Trent Williams, but brought up the fact that the Redskins are in need of a pass rusher with Brian Orakpo leaving in free agency. Kadar does acknowledge the depth of the OLB position this year, and that a quality pass rusher could be available in the 2nd Round.
La'el Collins, OT, LSU
Washington has boned up its defensive line in free agency, perhaps shifting some need to the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. I was prepared to wrestle internally with selecting Leonard Williams, but with him gone, I am targeting the offensive line.
Washington has attempted to be the smartest guys in the room on too many draft days, selecting the best offensive lineman left in lower rounds -- a strategy that has left our cupboard pretty bare. It is time for us to decide who we think is the best offensive lineman in this draft and put him on the field. From the ground game to the pass game, from protecting whichever quarterback we suit up (serenity now!) to helping Jay Gruden implement and execute his schemes, an investment in the offensive line is imperative. This pick will be called a reach by some, but it adds to an offseason spent rebuilding the trenches. It helps put a foundation in place that the team can build a future contender around. As the home of the Hogs, we take our offensive line seriously in Washington, and it is way past due to dedicate top resources to this precious unit.
When the deadline for the 2nd round pick came, jet-setting Ken Meringolo was on a plane, frantically calling me to give instructions on who to pick in the 2nd round. Ken's wishlist included a safety(Gerod Holliman) or a pass rusher. The news that the Redskins had just traded for FS Dashon Goldson was just breaking, but with Ken passing the GM baton to me, Holliman wouldn't have been the pick regardless. As the picks came in, I waited for one name to be called, but when it wasn't, I knew we had our guy.
Virginia OLB Eli Harold(6'3", 247 lbs) was the combination of need and value I wanted at the top of the second, especially after we went offensive line in the 1st round. Harold has the potential to start, but he is still in the 2nd tier of pass rushers. With Trent Murphy getting the chance to start last year, and showing some potential, Harold does not need to be immediately thrown into the starting lineup. He can be used situationally if he is not ready early, and develop while Murphy starts. If the Redskins don't take a pass rusher early, this could be their plan this season, and that's how it played out in our draft. It also doesn't hurt that Eli Harold grew up a Redskins fan, and said he would love to play for them at the Combine.
Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
The Redskins lost Brian Orakpo in free agency, as expected, and they haven't signed his replacement. The offensive line was addressed in the first round, which means we missed out on the top tier of pass rushers. Eli Harold is easily the best option of the next tier of outside linebackers, and we believe he is a first-round talent this year. Washington used its second-round pick last year on Trent Murphy, and he made his way into the starting lineup last season after Orakpo's third pectoral muscle tear midseason.
Murphy had been a situational player until that point, and once he took over, he showed up better than expected in run defense. He still needs to work on his strength and pass rushing at the NFL level, but was able to put up 2.5 sacks. The coaches want more competition at the position this year, and brought in guys like Jackson Jeffcoat last year for depth/injury replacement. Harold's athleticism and pass rushing ability will give him a chance to earn playing time early.
Dan Kadar offered his take on the pick:
The gamble of not taking a pass rusher in the first round has paid off with Harold still available. Harold is a fringe first-round player. He might come into the NFL as a player mostly relied on to get after the quarterback. That might be what's best for Washington. A player like Trent Murphy, who is very good against the run, could make for a nice tandem with Harold.
Football Outsiders has been using a stat called SackSEER for the last several years to predict the top pass rushers every year using several factors including, "explosion index", 3 cone drill, sack rate, and more. Eli Harold was rated the 4th highest this year behind only Vic Beasley, Randy Gregory, and Bud Dupree.
Projection: 24.3 sacks through Year 5
Scouts, Inc.: No. 31 overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Clay Matthews, Jamal Reynolds
Harold's strong point is his good combine workout, which you might have overlooked given the eye-popping performances put up by some of his peers. Harold's production in college was a little below average, which adds up to Harold being a thoroughly average prospect.
*Note: Eli Harold was listed as a DE at the Combine. You can also compare his results to OLBs at MockDraftable, but that will include players who will play ILB in the NFL.