As seen on Bleacher Report
New head coach Jay Gruden and the Washington Redskins will have their hands full come draft weekend, when they enter Radio City Music Hall with six draft picks, none of which come in the top 32.
Given their early draft position in Rounds 2-6, the Redskins will have tough decisions to make in terms of their best-case and worst-case selection options. For a roster with plenty to improve on, Gruden and the Redskins front office will to have to fight the urge to reach for a prospect simply to fill a need, and instead opt to land the most value at a different, perhaps less critical position.
Here’s a look at the best prospects the Redskins could see with their top-three picks, and the others they should try to avoid.
Second Round (34th-Overall)
Best-Case: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG
The unfortunate news for the Redskins is that they’re without a first-round pick. The better news, however, is that their second pick of the second round is early enough on Day 2 to land a player who unexpectedly falls out of the first round.
Although many have UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo as this year’s top-rated offensive guard, we’ve seen wilder things happen come draft day.
Wishful thinking for the Redskins at No. 34? Probably. But if the 304-pound athlete with impressive speed and hips is still there, it’s a quick pull of the trigger for Washington, as Su’a-Filo would likely be the best player available, and fill a need along the Redskins’ interior offensive line.
A few other candidates for best-case top pick: Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama, Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer, Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses and offensive guard Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State.
Worst-Case: Allen Robinson, WR
As one of the more talked about receivers in this class, expect the buzz surrounding Allen Robinson to increase leading up to draft weekend following a strong Penn State pro day last week.
But for the Redskins, Robinson—even with his stock hovering around the top 35—isn’t a guy who’d now fit Washington’s receiving arsenal after the team signed both Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson in free agency to join holdover Pierre Garcon.
If Robinson played to his listed 6’3″ height, then he’s a serious consideration for the Redskins at 34. But instead, Robinson is a superb athlete who plays to other strengths, such as toughness, speed and field vision.
In a draft class deep at wide receiver, the Redskins shouldn’t take a pass-catcher who resembles a weapon already on the roster.
Third Round (66th-Overall)
Best-Case: Troy Niklas, TE
New Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is not only a fan of the passing game, but if his time in Cincinnati with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert is any indication, he’s also a proponent of having two capable, athletic tight ends.
Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas is a big (6’7″, 250 lbs) tight end with strong blocking ability and underrated hands. With his frame, Niklas would immediately become the Redskins’ most physically formidable receiving option, he’d provide the offense with flexibility every play he’s on the field and he’d help round out Washington’s receiving group as a legitimately lethal fantasy football threat.
Niklas is a definite second-round talent but is also a guy who has a chance to drop a few spots because of the depth at wide receiver. If he’s still hanging around by the top of the third round, the Redskins can feel good making the pick, improving both their receiving and blocking talent.
Worst-Case: Antonio Richardson, OT
Based on need, looking at offensive tackles early in the third round would make sense for Washington.
However, despite Tennessee bookend Antonio Richardson’s size and skill set to play on the right, the Redskins would be reaching for him at No. 66.
At 6’6″, 336 pounds, Richardson certainly looks the part, yet his overall athleticism can sometimes lead you to forget about his tight(er) hips and raw hands. While he has the quickness and strength to start in the NFL, Richardson needs plenty of refining.
In the third round, the Redskins can find starters at a number of positions. In addition to a guy like Niklas, some others to keep an eye on are Florida State safety Terrence Brooks, North Dakota State offensive guard Billy Turner and Brooks’ Seminole teammate, linebacker Telvin Smith.
Fourth Round (102nd-Overall)
Best-Case: Christian Jones, ILB
This Christian Jones train still doesn’t seem to have the backing it should, so I’ll continue to push.
At the top of the fourth round, the Redskins could have the option for an inside linebacker in Jones who plays with good instincts, speed and athleticism. During his time at Florida State, Jones played multiple linebacker positions, sometimes with his hand in the dirt, other times dropping into coverage and demonstrating his sideline-to-sideline range.
Although the Redskins signed a handful of inside ‘backers during free agency (and the team’s fingers remained crossed regarding Keenan Robinson and his potential), adding a natural football player like Jones could help the entire defense. If Perry Riley can be the thumper in the middle, Jones would be an ideal complement.
Worst-Case: Ahmad Dixon, S
Here again we could see the Redskins contemplating need at a specific position (in this case, safety) but getting jumpy with a prospect because of where he fits on the field.
Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon has talent as a hard hitter and downhill-playing safety, but his lack of awareness and sometimes iffy play recognition doesn’t warrant a fourth-round pick. Despite their desperate need at safety, the Redskins can find better value elsewhere at 102.
Gruden and the Redskins could face a few situations like this come draft weekend, where they need to control their craving at a specific spot and instead pursue better value at a different, less extreme area of need.