Washington Redskins: Potential First-Round Defense in 2011 NFL Draft
Landry showed his worth in a 3-4 scheme, who will join him?
On Thursday, April 28th, the Washington Redskins will take part in one of the most significant NFL Drafts in the team’s not-so-rich history. ( Check out my Mock Draft )
Since taking ownership of the team in 1999, Dan Snyder has earned the title of “Worst Owner in Football”. Even worse than Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, Snyder has given Redskins Nation nothing more than repetitive seasons of frustration and offseason fraud. For the last decade, the Washington Redskins were known as a team that would overpay for free agents and run their football operations like it was a fantasy team.
Now, with competence in the front office and on the sidelines, the Redskins are looking in a new direction for a brighter future. Following his first year as Washington’s head coach, Mike Shanahan will approach the 2011 NFL Draft with all intentions of building a legitimate and contending team within the next 3-5 seasons.
Focusing solely on the Redskins’ No. 10 overall pick in the first-round, I’ve attempted to throw together a few potential players that we may see suit-up in the burgundy and gold next season. In addition, I’ll forecast the player’s performance and try to gauge a time in which Redskins Nation can see some solid contribution.
Here goes nothin’…
Potential Defense ( not in order of probability )
Marcell Dareus (DL, Alabama, Jr.) – Arguably this Draft’s best combination of speed, size, and power, Dareus is a very serious talent at the next level. Besides his lack of experience at Alabama, Dareus has everything needed to excel in the NFL.
Size + speed + strength
Dareus can play defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or defensive end in a 3-4, making him a top-priority for the Washington Redskins. Weighing in at over 300 pounds, Dareus can lock-down the run from the end position and he has enough speed to pursue the quarterback.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the Redskins will have a chance to select Dareus, as he has been deemed an almost guaranteed top-five pick. The Bills (No. 3) will take a long look at Dareus, as will Cincinnati (No. 4), Arizona (No. 5), Cleveland (No. 6), San Francisco (No. 7), Tennessee (No. 8), and Dallas (No. 9).
With Albert Haynesworth on the bubble ( rumors have started that he may remain in Washington ) and no real serious threat on the defensive line, Shanahan would almost certainly select Dareus if he somehow fell to No. 10. The front office will also evaluate players who started to come around late in the season like nose tackle Anthony Bryant and defensive end Adam Carriker.
Robert Quinn (DE/LB, North Carolina, Jr.) – During this past season, the North Carolina football program was somewhat forgotten after a majority of the team’s best players were suspended following NCAA rule violations. Because a majority of those suspended players were on the defensive side of the ball, people forgot about their talent and watched the team finish the season on a mediocre note.
Can Quinn learn the OLB position?
Quinn lit it up as a sophomore and almost earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors that year. At 6’5, Quinn has a great frame to play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4. In the Redskins scheme, Quinn would be a close duplicate to Brian Orakpo on the opposite side.
In the case that Quinn falls to the Redskins at No. 10 ( he’s projected to be a top-seven pick ), the team will strongly consider drafting him and he’d come into camp competing with Lorenzo Alexander at the outside linebacker position.
The main question regarding Quinn is his character. After being part of the original group of players that was suspended by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits, Quinn contested the ruling and was able to return to the team. However, NFL scouts have made it clear that they will place a ton of emphasis on Quinn’s interviews and they will certainly not forget about the suspension or noise in Chapel Hill.
From a positional standpoint, two primary questions regarding Quinn are his size and ability to cover. At North Carolina, Quinn played right defensive end and very rarely dropped into coverage. Weighing in at around 275 pounds, many teams would like Quinn to bulk-up if he were to play defensive end. In the Redskins scheme, Quinn would need to learn coverage packages, improve his instincts, and get used to playing on the left side ( assuming Orakpo stays on the right ).
Prototype of a shutdown corner
Patrick Peterson (CB, Louisiana State, Jr.) – Peterson is arguably the best player out of any position in this year’s NFL Draft. Not only is he the best lockdown corner in college football, Peterson is also a superb and threatening return man.
Like most offenses do when facing a shutdown corner, Peterson was often avoided by quarterbacks due to the blanket he formed on anyone he lined up against. Peterson’s speed is top-notch, his size (6’1) is outstanding for a corner, and he appears to be born with every football instinct imaginable for his position.
Looking back on Shanahan’s draft history, I wouldn’t count out Peterson as the Redskins No. 10 pick. With Carlos Rogers turning 30 this season and DeAngelo Hall not really being the shutdown corner that a secondary desires, Peterson would fill an immediate hole on the Redskins defense.
Like many of the top defensive prospects in this draft, Peterson looks to be long gone by the time the Redskins hit the clock. Peterson could go as high as No. 2 to Denver and I can’t see him falling past Dallas at No. 9. But, one can wish and if he falls to Shanahan at No. 10, consider Peterson a lock for the burgundy and gold.
Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska, Sr.) – The reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is another outstanding secondary prospect that will probably not fall to the Redskins at No. 10, but he’s definitely high on the team’s Big Board.
Not far behind...
Amukamara had a relatively quiet senior season but the Nebraska defense was lights out, in large part because of Amukamara’s presence. Similar to Peterson in size (6’1) and dominance, Amukamara is extremely athletic and he really came on the scene as a junior ( he wasn’t given much playing time as an underclassman ).
Going into the Combine, Amukamara and Peterson will battle for the title of the Draft’s top cornerback prospect and it’s due to be a close race. Peterson does offer returning abilities that Amukamara doesn’t and the LSU junior appears to get the edge in terms of natural instincts.
Assuming that Peterson is off the board and somehow both San Francisco and Dallas pass on him, the Redskins will strongly consider taking Amukamara for the same reasons listed in the above-listed Peterson detail. Amukamara would create an interesting competition in camp and he would definitely see the field often in his rookie season.
Akeem Ayers (LB, UCLA, Jr.) – Finally, a defensive prospect with a real chance of falling to the Redskins at No. 10. Ayers is one of the most versatile defensive players in this Draft and Shanahan should already be in love with this kid.
Ayers has a great body (6’4, 255) and naturally plays the outside linebacker position. Thanks to his freakish athletic ability and superb football knowledge, Ayers can also blitz off the end with a hand in the ground or play the inside linebacker position in a 3-4 scheme.
Climbing the Boards fast
Going into his junior year at UCLA, Ayers was the only returning starter within the team’s defensive front seven. Ayers was a do-it-all player that ended the season with tackles-for-loss, sacks, and interceptions.
After redshirting in 2007 and seeing limited action in 2008, my main concern is Ayers experience. Although he appears to have that natural feel, there were games throughout the season where Ayers seemed to become absent. However, NFL scouts are very impressed with Ayers ability and many coaches believe that he has so much more to learn with good coaching.
The Redskins have a solid shot at landing Ayers in this Draft and he’d have a real opportunity to play a bunch of downs in his rookie season. Because of his ability to play so many positions, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett could plug Ayers into different packages at different positions. This would be a pick that Redskins Nation could get excited about.
Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue, Sr.) – From what I’ve read, almost every NFL scout is intrigued by Kerrigan and his potential at the next level. With great size at 6’4 and 263 pounds, Kerrigan has the potential to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or defensive end in either the 4-3 or 3-4.
Potential + upside + motor
By the time the Redskins hit the clock with the No. 10 pick, I would assume that Kerrigan has already impressed teams with his Combine workout and his interviews. Kerrigan is a very coachable player with an amazing motor and strength. Throughout his collegiate career, Kerrigan has developed some impressive pass-rushing moves that really helped to get through offensive lines.
Blessed with a great combination of speed and strength, Kerrigan isn’t exactly the superb athlete that you may find with other defensive prospects. Not that I’m bashing the guy or saying he’s just a body on the line, but this wouldn’t be the first time that a team questions the transition from a Big Ten athlete to an NFL athlete.
At this point, you may see Kerrigan’s name as a mid-first-rounder. But after a predicted solid performance at the Combine and consistent rave of character, I think Kerrigan makes his way into the top-10 without problem. If Dallas decides to pass on a cornerback, Kerrigan will be a player they’d focus on. In a Redskins uniform, Kerrigan would see the field often in his rookie season but he seems to have a bit of learning/growing to do.
Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M, Sr.) – At this point, Miller appears to be an attainable prospect for the Redskins at No. 10, but that could certainly change before April.
Miller is an explosive pass-rusher that showed the ability to be a game-changer in college. He first came into his own as a junior at College Station and Miller decided to return for a senior season in order to prove his worth. At 6’3, 240 pounds, Miller has a nice NFL-ready frame with good speed and the ability to drop back into coverage.
One of Miller’s greatest strengths is his experience and the fact that he played the outside linebacker position for a 3-4 defense at Texas A&M. Typically, college defenses won’t run a 3-4 but the Aggies do and Miller blossomed.
If Miller falls past the Cowboys at No. 9, the Redskins may look to put Miller on the opposite side of Orakpo and form one of hell of a pass-rush. Because of his experience in the 3-4 defense, Miller could battle with Lorenzo Alexander as the starting left outside linebacker for the Redskins in just his rookie season. My only question with Miller is his injury history, but scouts do not feel it’s that big of a deal.
Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State, Sr.) – This young man is one of the more interesting prospects in this year’s Draft. Paea is a big force to deal with on the defensive line but he seems to possess more raw talent than actual football talent.
Not quite the nose tackle we'd hope for...
Paea has only six years of football experience but he has been an athlete since his days as a rugby player in his hometown of Tonga. Paea is extremely strong and has a great burst off the line that is likely most effective in a 4-3 scheme.
The Redskins will remain committed to their newly adopted 3-4 defensive scheme and the main question regarding Paea will be whether or not he can play the nose tackle position. From a personal standpoint, I think Paea is solely a 4-3 defensive tackle and that Anthony Bryant is a better prospect for the team’s nose tackle position.
My guess would be that Paea’s workouts propel him a little higher than where he should actually be selected but there’s no denying his burst and entertainment value. In my opinion, Paea would face a learning curve at the next level and the Redskins probably won’t be convinced with the young man’s ability to play in the 3-4. A fun name nonetheless.
Cameron Jordan (DL, California, Sr.) – After, what I assume to be, impressive workouts and more detailed scouting, Jordan may be one of the quickest risers on this year’s draft boards.
Making his way through the Board
Jordan has spent much of his collegiate career under the radar but it’s hard to deny him a first-round selection come April. As an underclassman at Cal, Jordan showed tons of potential and an unreachable ceiling. He progressed throughout his time in college and his experience coming into this draft is extremely valuable.
Like Von Miller at Texas A&M, Jordan has experience playing the defensive end position in the 3-4, the defensive scheme ran at Cal. Jordan has great athleticism coming off the end and his presence alone has helped a normally inconsistent Cal team. Showing an awesome ability to use his hands in shedding pass-blockers and a physicality that is rarely seen amongst college athletes, Jordan is a guy that could really shock people in the NFL.
Cameron Jordan, barring a 4.2 forty-yard-dash at the Combine, is a prospect that the Redskins will have a clean shot at with the No. 10 pick. The Dallas Cowboys will look at Jordan with the No. 9 pick but he actually seems like a better fit in Washington. In terms of immediate contribution, I think Jordan will need a little time to learn the NFL game but his experience in the 3-4 defense will help to speed that up.
Brandon Harris (CB, Miami, Jr.) – After Peterson and Amukamara, there is a young man named Brandon Harris that really seems to be going unnoticed as of late. After originally leaning towards heading back to Miami for his senior season, Harris decided to forgo and enter this Draft as the clear No. 3 corner.
Harris comes with Prime Time swagger
Miami wasted no time with Harris, as he was thrown to the wolves in his freshman season. As games were played and Harris gained experience at the cornerback position, it was clear to see that he had all the tools and potential to become a solid corner at the NFL level.
Harris has blazing speed that is unlikely to be surpassed by opposing receivers and he has gained a toughness over the years that comes with a respectful side of attitude. Looking back on Harris’ numbers, one may not be sold on the fact that he’s a first-round pick. However, because of what you see on tape and the physical attributes he has, Harris is a very good prospect in this Draft and deserving of a top-20 selection.
If Harris blows away his Pro Day and posts great numbers at the Combine, he could very well make his way into the top-13 picks. With Peterson and Amukamara likely off the board by the time the Redskins select at No. 10, Harris could find his way to Ashburn. Shanahan likes cornerbacks and he knows how important they are for a defense. Harris would need some time to learn the game before taking the field, as a coach would not want to burn him out by making him solely rely on his speed and athleticism to cover opposing receivers.
Thanks to Getty Images, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated for awesome photos.