I know people tend to believe Redskins GM Scot McCloughan drafts solely on a "Best Player Available" strategy, but I do not believe that is 100 percent accurate. I truly believe Scot, like most good general managers, uses a "value vs needs" approach to the draft. For example, if players on his board are rated in the same tier, even though one player may be viewed as the "Best Player" at his respective position, I believe the choice come down to what is needed more.
I think you saw this strategy play out with our first round picks in the last two drafts.
In 2015, McCloughan chose offensive linemen Brandon Scherff over Leonard Williams and Vic Beasley. There was no doubt that Scherff was probably the safest pick for Scot, but many argued that Williams and Beasley were the more talented of the three. Fact is, McCloughan vowed to get bigger, tougher and nastier along the trenches in his introductory press conference, and Scherff checked of all the boxes. He also filled a big need at the time.
Last year, McCloughan selected TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson with the 22nd pick of the first round. Vernon Butler, Kenny Clark and Robert Nkemdiche all remained on the board when Doctson was selected, but Scot was looking at the future with this pick, knowing we had two pending free agent wide receivers who would both be on the wrong side of 30, and who have underperformed their current contracts. I believe Scot also coveted length and speed in his wide receivers, and Doctson fit this mold.
This year, the Redskins are not without many needs. There are, however, a few positions that can't be considered in the first round even if they are viewed as the best player available.
I am leaving quarterback out of this on the assumption a long-term deal or franchise tag is given to Kirk Cousins.
Offensive line - I'm lumping this group together for the sake of simplicity. Fact is, we have two starters who were first round picks, and two who were third round picks. Morgan Moses was viewed by many as a first round talent, and was even envited to the NFL draft, where he sat in the Green Room for the first two nights without being selected. It's great to have a totally drafted offensive line, but in the age of the salary cap, this is a very tough task. The Redskins will enter 2017 with four starters all being drafted and developed by the team, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with having one younger free agent starter amongst the front five. Lauvao may be on his way out, but don't expect a first round guard to replace him in the draft.
Tight End - Jordan Reed is one of the best young tight ends in the game today. Although the thought of a more complete tight end like O.J. Howard as a complement in-line option to Reed is very tempting, the front office simply can't afford to ignore other huge needs on this team. Sure, one can argue Reed can't stay healthy, and his next concussion may be his last, but we can't draft out of fear.
Running Back - Man would it be fun to have a running back like Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook scaring the hell out of defensive coordinators, but we have four capable running backs on the team - Jones, Kelly, Thompson and Brown, and another enigma in second year player Keith Marshall, who was on injured reserve as a rookie. Until we get other holes filled, a big-name running back will have to wait.
Wide Receiver - It's possible we lose both Garcon and Jackson's this offseason, but that does not mean we need to go to the wide receiver well in back-to-back years in the first round. We've seen quality pass catchers can be found in later rounds, and via free agency. Scot does not want to become Matt Millen 2.0.
Edge - Regardless of whether it's a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end, the Redskins have four players who can fill that role currently, and be effective in doing so. Ryan Kerrigan made another Pro Bowl after posting 11 sacks in 2016. Trent Murphy has his best season last year, posting 9 sacks and three forced fumbles. Preston Smith hit a sophomore slump, but has immense potential, and Junior Galette signed another one-year deal after suffering his second season ending injury in as many years. Overall, the position is covered regardless of the scheme new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky chooses to run.
Strong Safety - There is no doubt a true free safety is a top need for the Redskins. Strong safety, however, is a position we can go without in the first round. Su'a Cravens tweeted towards the end of last season, that he will be moving to safety, and given his body type and physicality, one can only assume he will be a true strong safety. Now, some services list draft prospects like Jamal Adams as a strong safety, but in my opinion, he is a true safety, without a definitive label. If he happens to slide to 17, and SS is listed after his name, he should be selected regardless.