In case you haven’t heard, the NFL draft gets underway tonight. The Redskins will be spectators for the first round unless what Mike Shanahan said was a “million to one” shot comes home and they are able to trade into the first.
That means that the Redskins’ first pick will come in the second round, the 51st overall selection. All of the experts and analysts out there are saying that while this draft may lack star power at the top, there is plenty of depth and some very good talent will be available well into the second round.
Who will the Redskins take? Not to be Captain Obvious here, but it depends on who is there. There are a lot of ways those first 50 picks could fall. The Redskins’ could be looking at a bunch of players they want and need when their selection rolls around at about 8 p.m. on Friday or they could feel like they are picking through leftovers.
The most likely scenario is that they will be that they have a few different players to choose from. What do the Redskins do if that’s the case? Shanahan said yesterday that if it were close between multiple players, the one at the position of need would win out.
So what are the positions of need? If you’ve been paying any attention this offseason or if you paid any attention to the games in 2012 you know that the defensive backfield is in need of some help. They have both of their starting cornerbacks under contract but DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are both free agents after this year and the play of both was suspect at times last year. Safety is in worse shape, with no returning starter at free safety and strong safety Brandon Meriweather coming off a November ACL injury.
It seems that safety is the bigger immediate need. But if there is a cornerback who is helmet and shoulder pads better than any safety on the board when pick 51 rolls around, the corner could well be the pick.
The other position that could be considered a need is wide receiver. The Redskins are pretty well set for this year but given that it usually takes a year or two for receivers coming into the league to be effective they may want to get their hands on an offensive weapon for RG3 and start developing him now.
You could justify spending that second-round pick at a few other positions. Right tackle could use an upgrade. Both starting inside linebackers are in the final years of their contracts. Starting tight end Fred Davis is playing on a one-year deal. And there is always the possibility of there being an impact player on the board who is simply too good to pass up.
But it still all comes back to safety. The Redskins are coming off a 10-6, division winning season. They have competent cornerbacks. They can line up four wide receivers that all had more than 500 receiving yards last year. If they need an inside backer next year they do not command top dollar on the free agent market. Kyle Shanahan can scheme around having a mediocre right tackle. But, as we saw in the Meadowlands last October, you can’t coach around having a hole where your last line of defense should be. If they want to take the next step and make a run in the playoffs they have to fix that hole.
Whether or not there is a safety the Redskins want at 51 depends on what the other teams do. Safety is one of the stronger areas in a strong draft. This could make teams in need of a safety—and there are quite a few of them—believe that they can address some other positions in the first and second rounds and grab a safety in the third or fourth. Obviously this would be the Redskins’ ideal scenario giving them a draft board with all but the top few safeties still in play.
The worst case scenario would be for there to be a run on safeties early in the second round. Let’s say the Bills and Jets decide to go safety with the eight and 10th picks in the second. The Dolphins and Chargers could figure it’s time to get their guys and then a couple more go off the board and all of a sudden there is not a safety who is worthy of pick 51. They then would turn their focus to the cornerback and wide receiver sections of their draft board.
The more likely scenario is somewhere in between with a few safeties the Redskins thought might be there gone but still a good group from which to choose.
There are a lot of possibilities and my prediction—truth in advertising, it’s more of a guess—is that South Carolina safety D. J. Swearinger will be Redskins’ selection with the 51st pick. He’s has the speed and cover ability to be the last line of defense, the ball instincts to help the defense get more takeaways and a physical nature that will make the middle of the field a more inhospitable place for opposing receivers.
If Swearinger is the pick he might not be able to start right away. They might have to work him into the lineup as the season goes on as he gets used to the speed of the NFL and learns the complexities of the Redskins’ defense. He could be starting by Thanksgiving and bolster the Redskins’ defense down the stretch.
Swearinger would represent true value with the pick, a player who would be among the very best available and who fills the team’s most pressing need. He should be there when the Redskins are on the clock and they shouldn’t waste too much time turning in the card with his name on it.