The popular narrative these days in the NFL mock draft universe has the Redskins taking a running back at 17. As somebody who is part of that circuit, allow me to offer a reason why.
Anybody and everybody who ponders team needs should and presumably does recognize Washington needs defensive linemen above all. Sure, the Redskins added two new guys, but they basically just replaced the departing Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois. Dismal up front last year in nearly every fascet, the Redskins need more than just a wash on the DL. They truly need a nose tackle.
Problem: The 2017 draft board really just doesn't fit. There might not be a true NT selected in round one. Michigan State's Malik McDowell, a 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle, *might* land in the 15-25 range. Otherwise...?
The mock drafters recognize this issue and seek alternatives for the Redskins.
Inside linebacker, guard and, yes, running back are need areas.
There are a couple if ILB types, but Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick might be gone before 17 and Jarryd Davis isn't a first round lock.
If you recall Jay Gruden's season-ending press conference, he made the idea of taking guard in the first round sound like a NSFW four-letter word.
That leaves the backfield. This does mesh with how analysts view this class. Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey are often considered top 10-15 prospects. The issue is teams in this era less inclined to take RB in round one. This is why the Redskins' scenario is ideal for the mock drafters. Give them either Cook or McCaffrey, thus avoiding a slide outside the top 20.
Maybe it happens for real. Both are playmakers and the Redskins can use more of that, though the run blocking let Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson down more than the other way around last year.
It's also much easier finding RB help on Day 2-3 than front-7 contributors. That's a main reason why teams often wait on runners.
In terms of 2017, Washington needs more defense. That doesn't mean the front office should reach. But all things being equal, they should lean toward adding tacklers. The thing is, the mock drafters don't care about such matters. They need to put their top prospects somewhere.
For now, that means Cook or McCaffery to the Redskins. Those guys would help. For now, slotting them at 17 helps their mocks most of all.