The 2017 NFL draft is 6 weeks from tomorrow, and the mock drafts have been projecting all kinds of players and positions for the Washington Redskins over the last few months. This week, there are 19 mock drafts featured, and 9 players projected for the Redskins. We have 4 players on defense, and 5 on offense, including two different QBs.
Alabama LB Reuben Foster is the most popular pick this week, and a lot of Redskins fans would be ecstatic if the Redskins addressed the ILB spot early with a top talent in the draft. The other top options this week are S/LB Jabrill Peppers and DT Malik McDowell. Another ILB, Zach Cunningham rounds out the list of defenders.
On offense, we get two of the top RBs in the draft in Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette. The Redskins address the guard position with Forrest Lamp. And they address the long-term question marks at the QB position by drafting Kirk Cousins eventual replacements in Deshaun Watson or Mitchell Trubisky.
Which player makes the most sense for the Redskins?
Reuben Foster, ILB Alabama (6)
Washington smartly added Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee to the defensive line, so the need for a middle linebacker elevates. Foster can be the leader of Washington’s defense with his range and ability playing from the middle.
The Redskins surrendered an average of nearly 120 yards per game on the ground in 2016 and only three teams (the Chargers, Bills and 49ers) allowed more than their 19 rushing touchdowns. Foster was kicked out of the Combine after a run-in with medical personnel but his talent is undeniable. Possessing remarkable closing speed and the physicality to intimidate, he could prove a steal at this point in the draft.
We have a new name for the Redskins. After tackling defensive line issues with Michigan State's Malik McDowell in the previous four mocks, let's have Washington's linebacking receive a boost in the form of a relentless tackler. Foster drops this far in small part because of positional value, but mostly over his meltdown at the NFL Combine. If he can calm fears during any future meetings and workouts, Foster should remain a top-20 pick. Will Compton and Mason Foster are back, but Washington's run defense needs a thumper like Foster inside.
Foster will be a steal if he falls this far, as he should start in the middle for a decade.
Jabrill Peppers, S/LB Michigan (3)
Peppers is a unique athlete, with the ability to excel at the nickel position as well as play as a high safety. He will also be a major difference-maker on special teams.
Now that Peppers showed he's perfectly capable of handling deep-half responsibility, the Browns will grab him up.
The Redskins could use young talent in the middle of their defense with upgrades on the defensive line, linebacker, and safety. Here is a safety who could help the Redskins defend against Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Peppers had a good 2016 season for Michigan with 72 tackles, 16 for a loss, four sacks, one interception, zero pass breakups and one forced fumble. He was electric on special teams and especially phenomenal on punt returns, taking one for a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder was excellent as a sophomore in 2015, recording 45 tackles with 10 passes broken up and zero interceptions.
Sources say they see Peppers (5-11, 213) as a hybrid safety/linebacker in the NFL. He has the athletic skill set to play pass coverage, but often can be caught flat-footed. His ball skills aren't special either, as he made just one interception in his collegiate career, which was from catching a tipped pass. Thus, some sources think Peppers would fit best as a safety in the middle of the field. That would allow him to make plays off his instincts, and he could be a weapon in pass coverage on tight ends, blitzing quarterbacks, playing zone, and defending the run. There is no doubt that Peppers has a ton of athletic upside. He could play safety and dime linebacker, similar to Deone Bucannon. Peppers should also be used on special teams as he is a dangerous weapon there.
Malik McDowell, DT Michigan State (3)
McDowell has an impressive blend of size, athleticism and power to be effective from multiple positions along the defensive line.
Michigan State's Malik McDowell reminded everyone at the NFL combine why he was once considered a top-10 talent.
The 20-year-old defensive lineman tested exceptionally well. At a solid 6'6" and 295 pounds, McDowell ran an impressive 4.85-second 40-yard dash. He then worked his way through positions drills with a grace that belies a man of his size.
His raw physical tools were always apparent, though. Teams are concerned about his maturity and work ethic.
"He's just a little lazy, and I worry about whether he is going to be a self-starter," an NFC North scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein.
The Redskins continue to rebuild their defensive line. McDowell has drawn comparisons to 49ers standout rookie DeForest Buckner. Both failed to meet expectations in their final collegiate season, but had off-the-charts talent that enabled them to dominate regardless whether they played inside or outside. Top needs: DL, S, ILB
Dalvin Cook, RB FSU (2)
Cook had been going higher in my previous mock drafts, but other positions came off the board first in this one. Cook is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball, and he does a nice job of maximizing his run blocking, as evidenced by his nation-leading 90 forced missed tackles last season. He hits the edge as well as any running back in the class, and that same big-play ability is on display in the passing game, where he can create mismatches out of the backfield or split out wide.
Some character red flags and a deep running back class could lead to Cook falling a bit, but he's far too talented to drop out of the first round. Running back is a big need for the Redskins, and Cook is an explosive playmaker who's also an adept pass-catcher out of the backfield. He looks like a true three-down back in the NFL.
Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson (1)
Washington sort of made its bed here. That’s not to say that the Redskins have to take a quarterback early, but with Kirk Cousins all but certainly preparing for his final season (and even 2017 is in doubt) with the franchise, they should be looking. And here, they get the most NFL-ready option at No. 17.
QB or not QB: QB. If there is a run early, though, picking up a Nathan Peterman or Brad Kaaya later on makes sense.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB North Carolina (1)
By slapping the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins a second time, it’s clear that Washington is not completely sold on him as a long-term answer at quarterback, and Cousins may not even want to be there anyway. If either side of that coin is true, the Redskins need a backup plan at the position, and by grabbing the mobile, big-armed, and accurate Trubisky here, they give head coach Jay Gruden a year to develop him as Cousins’s backup before asking him to carry the offense.
Forrest Lamp, G/C Western Kentucky (1)
Zach Cunningham, ILB Vanderbilt (1)
I want to give the Redskins a safety, inside linebacker or a five-technique, as they desperately need to upgrade the interior of their defense. One of the top players available happens to fill one of those positions. Zach Cunningham is the sort of player the Redskins have coveted over the years; he has the size and experience that Washington prefers its prospects to have.