Mark Bacon—Main Event Sports DC
The NFL draft is three weeks away and the Redskins are in position to grab a Day 1 starter with the No. 13 pick. Four quarterbacks are expected to go early, which could push significant talent down to Washington and there should be top-end options at multiple positions of need.
Here’s what I know, having suffered through Dan Snyder’s entire pathetic inept regime: He doesn’t like prolonged losing or an angry (or, even worse, apathetic) fan base. I don’t buy that team president Bruce Allen is in this job for life; Vinny Cerrato wasn’t and he was a favorite of Snyder’s parents. My understanding is that Allen and coach Jay Gruden are well aware of the situation — a third season out of the playoffs is bad for job security. Real bad. Keep in mind that Gruden is entering his fifth year — no other coach has lasted more than four since Snyder took over in 1999.
Cerrato was fired late in the 2009 season after 10 years. But after two years of Jim Zorn and with fans staying away and posting signs at the stadium, Snyder responded with a move many said he’d never make. Snyder also had his replacements ready in Allen and Mike Shanahan.
Nor do I have any true and meaningful insight into what the franchise will actually do. Scott McCloughan is considered one of the best GMs in the League, and the Skins weirdly canned him. In a pathetic, shameful way, too. Anyway, here goes…
Washington needs a running back immediately and hasn’t been shy about saying so. Derrius Guice falls into the second-tier of backs behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley — who IS the top tier — and would have the chance to start from Day 1. The Redskins were the 28th-ranked rush offense in 2017 and Doug Williams, senior vice president of player personnel, has repeatedly spoken about addressing the running back position. The organization did not sign a back in free agency. No. 13 may be a little early for Guice, but he might not be around in the second round at No. 44 overall.
The 5-10, 212-pounder led LSU with 1,251 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns despite a lingering knee injury throughout the season. His 104.25 rushing yards per game ranked No. 2 in the SEC. He also caught 18 balls for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Guice’s 4.49 40-yard dash was the fifth-best among running backs at the NFL combine. In 2016, he ran for an SEC-best 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns. There was little drop-off in production from the LSU run game after Leonard Fournette became the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Southern Cal running back Ronald Jones will visit the Redskins this Monday, per source. Redskins president Bruce Allen attended a makeup pro day for Jones Thursday. Allen also had dinner with LSU running back Derrius Guice the night before his pro day. The Redskins clearly have interest in upgrading at running back. Jones is not a “thumper” type back, something coach Jay Gruden has said he would like. But Jones also can hit home runs and his ability to make jump cuts and then use his speed could energize an offense. The hard part for Washington could be landing either one of these backs; both could go between when the Redskins pick in the first round at 13 and in the second at 44.
The Skins are likely to add secondary help during the NFL draft later this month, following the offseason departures of Kendall Fuller, Bashaud Breeland and Su’a Cravens. The team, however, has multiple needs that could be addressed in the first two rounds, including defensive line and running back. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State? The Redskins would be getting the best cover player in this draft if they were to land Ward.
Florida State safety Derwin James and Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick could both be in play with the Redskins’ No. 13 pick, although both players could easily be taken before then. The Redskins don’t have a third-round pick, which was packaged with Fuller in the trade for quarterback Alex Smith. They hold one fourth rounder (No. 109 overall), two fifth-round picks (Nos. 142 and 163) one sixth-round selection (No. 188) and two seventh rounders (231 and 241).
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. pointed to West Virginia’s Kyzir White, Penn State’s Marcus Allen and Northwestern’s Godwin Igwebuike as three strong late-round safeties with potential.
“Depending upon whether you view them as cornerbacks or safeties,” Kiper said. “Kyzir White, West Virginia, he could go third or fourth round. Marcus Allen, Penn State, could go fourth or fifth round. Godwin Igwebuike from Northwestern could go four to six, in that area.
“There’s going to be some guys that drop down a little bit at that spot that have a lot of ability. Igwebuike tested off the charts at the combine.”
White (6-foot-2, 219 pounds) is the brother of wide receiver Kevin White, who was selected by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2015 draft. He was second on the team with 94 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, and tied for a team-high with three interceptions. White was named to the All-Big 12 second team.
Allen was second on the Nittany Lions with 72 tackles in 2017, including 4.0 for loss, and also had a sack and an interception. His two forced fumbles tied for a team high. Allen was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and his 321 career tackles rank No. 5 in Penn State history.
Igwebuike (6-0, 205) flirted with entering the 2017 draft, but decided to return for his senior season. He was a second team All-Big Ten selection and ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the combine, the fifth-fastest time among safeties. Igwebuike ranked third for the Wildcats with 78 tackles and added two interceptions. His nine pass breakups tied for a team-high. Igwebuike also sings lead vocals in a band.
The Redskins’ pass defense ranked No. 9 in the league in 2017, allowing 213.8 yards per game. The unit, however, lost two starters in Fuller and Breeland. D.J. Swearinger and Deshazor Everett are back at safety, but depth needs to be added.
The Redskins trading for Kevin Hogan suggests they won’t draft a quarterback late in the draft and now have one they could perhaps develop into a backup. Their main backup to starter Alex Smith had been Colt McCoy, who is entering the last year of his contract. Hogan, reared in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, has appeared in only eight games with 60 pass attempts. Hogan also is only signed through this season. Coach Jay Gruden is comfortable with only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but Hogan now gives Washington options. Hogan also is familiar with Smith, having been drafted in the fifth round by Kansas City in 2016. He was cut before the season started.
The Washington Redskins will continue to solidify their defensive line, and UWashington DT Vita Vea makes sense for what the Redskins need and want.
Even after re-signing Phil Taylor, Vea makes all the sense in the world. Taylor is coming off three years of missed time because of injuries. There are many who think Vea will be gone before the Redskins pick at No. 13; if teams view him as a three-down player, he could sneak into the top 10. Vea offers versatility, having played all three line spots at Washington. He rushed best, it seemed, when over the nose. But he can stop the run and he would give the Redskins another young piece to build around up front, paired with Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis. Another bonus to picking a defensive linemen in the first round: His contract would not be up at the same time as Allen. If they pick a guy in the second round, they’d enter free agency at the same time as Allen, assuming the Redskins pick up his fifth-year option. My guess is that if Vea is gone, they’d look at a different position for No. 13. Yes, trading back always remains an option.