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Need to Know: Will the Norman deal affect the Redskins' draft strategy?

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Need to Know: Will the Norman deal affect the Redskins' draft strategy?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, April 26, two days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 107 days ago. It will be 139 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: 2016 NFL draft 2; Rookie minicamp 17; Redskins training camp starts 93

Hot topic

Scot McCloughan says that despite the $75 million acquisition of free agent cornerback Josh Norman the Redskins’ draft possibilities remain the same.
“It doesn’t really change. The thing that’s cool about it is that it gives us another good football player on the field. You can never have enough corners—ever . . . You can’t just say, ‘OK, we’re great there. Let’s just forget about it.’ No, I’ve been in situations like that. All of a sudden a guy gets hurt or two guys get hurt, and you’re like, ‘Son of a gun, we had that really good player that we passed on because of a need.’ We’re going to take a football player. A corner? We’d love to.”
It’s easy to dismiss what McCloughan said as typical GM speak a couple of days away from the draft. And it probably is when it comes to early picks. Even though some quality corners such as Eli Apple and William Jackson III could be available when the Redskins’ top pick at No. 21 overall is on the clock it’s hard to see McCloughan bypassing other areas on much greater need to take another corner.

But at almost any point on Saturday it’s certainly easy to see the Redskins dipping into the cornerback pool. As McCloughan noted and emphasized you can’t have enough good cornerbacks. The Redskins learned that the hard way last year when they suffered a rash of injuries in training camp and then saw both DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver miss significant time during the season due to injuries. They survived thanks to the early-season pickup of Will Blackmon and the emergence of rookie receiver turned corner Quinton Dunbar.

Like any team, they would rather rely on guys they drafted than guys they picked up off of the street. With Blackmon and Deshazor Everett likely to move to safety, the cornerback position may again be vulnerable to injuries.

Stat of the day

Since 2000 the Redskins have make six trades involving their first-round draft pick. Twice they moved up in the draft (2000, Chris Samuels and 2012, Robert Griffin III). They traded down in 2002 (2 times), 2008, and 2011.

In case you missed it

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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. 

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