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Need to Know: RB McCaffrey to visit Redskins but will he be there at No. 17 if they want him?

Need to Know: RB McCaffrey to visit Redskins but will he be there at No. 17 if they want him?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, April 7, 20 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 10
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 35
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 47
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 147

Friday three and out

1. It looks like Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey is going to be visiting the Redskins.

Rapoport is alluding to talk among some analysts that there is a growing belief that McCaffrey will be a top-10 draft pick. He reportedly has visited the Panthers, who pick at No. 8.

Carolina has been linked to LSU RB Leonard Fournette ever since the draft order was set in January. But the word is that may want to go with the more versatile McCaffery. If the Redskins do want to get one of the three top backs in this draft, they may have to take Dalvin Cook, who has explosive ability but some fumbling and off-field issues.

2. I still can’t shake the feeling that the Redskins might take a quarterback in the first, with the loss of Cousins as a free agent in 2018 looming. Some mock drafts have Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson going in the top 10. But this one by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Media has every quarterback in the draft available to the Redskins at No. 17.

The knocks against the quarterbacks in this class are that they will take at least a year to develop. To a team that needs an immediate starter they are not the answer. But could Watson or Trubisky get the job done after developing for a year behind Cousins? It’s something the organization must think about.

3. While drafting a quarterback in the first round might have some howling I don’t think anyone would object to an interior defensive lineman at No. 17. The problem is that when the Redskins are on the clock there might not be one on the board who is worth the 17th picks. Look at this prospect ranking on CBSSports.com. DT Jonathan Allen of Alabama is ranked fourth. Then you look down the list and there isn’t another interior defensive lineman until you get to Malik McDowell at No. 23.

Assuming Allen is gone, the solution for the Redskins may be to trade back. Per the draft trade value chart, they could pick up a third-round pick for moving back from No. 17 to No. 23. That would give them four of the top 81 picks. The obvious potential problem here is that you need to have a team that wants to trade up.

Of course, each team’s board is different and the Redskins may well have a higher grade on a given D-lineman than the outside analysts do. But the point is that there may well be a dry hole when it comes to the defensive line at No. 17 that could force the Redskins to reach, try to trade back, or go with another position.

 Out—By my count, 21 of the Redskins who are currently under contract are set to be unrestricted free agents in 2018. That’s a lot but it may not be as bad as it sounds. I count eight who are either on the bubble for making the roster this year, players like Phillip Taylor and Derek Carrier, or who are unlikely to be offered contracts next year, like Shawn Lauvao or DeAngelo Hall.

They should have some cap space to work with, especially if they aren’t paying a quarterback a lot of money (perhaps a good reason to draft their 2018 starting QB this year). Looking at how things stand currently and figuring in some for the draft picks who will be under contract in 2018 the Redskins should have in the neighborhood of $50-$55 million in salary cap space.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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