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Redskins and rumors: Final pre-draft thoughts on 13, round one, NFL buzz
BY BEN STANDIG | APRIL 25, 2018
We’ve reached information overload time with the NFL Draft. The three-day extravaganza begins Thursday. The Washington Redskins enter the fray with eight selections over seven rounds, including the 13th and 44th overall picks. Here’s (almost) everything I’ve learned about the local team’s plans, what’s else is happening around the league, plus my thoughts on what could – and should – go down with the first pick just over 24 hours away. Also check out my thoughts on this week’s Doug Williams’ Q&A and my final two-round mock draft.
Since we stick to D.C. sports here on The Sports Capitol, we will begin with the locals. If the Redskins remain at 13, they will land an impressive talent. Not just because there are 256 selections and therefore 13 is rather high. The rush on quarterbacks will push back better players. Another player drops if the Raiders select Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey, as is rumored.
Much of the pre-draft focus with the Redskins centered on defensive tackles Vita Vea (Washington) or Da’Ron Payne (Alabama) and with good logic. The talent available simply may have Washington going elsewhere.
Projecting the top 10 this year is the messiest I’ve seen and it all starts with the Cleveland chaos with the first pick (more on that below). With the potential for numerous trades, nobody can guarantee which specific players will be available for Washington at 13. We can at least state one or two from this impressive group will be available: Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Florida State safety Derwin James, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Vea. It would be stunning if Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith fell to 13. Payne’s ceiling probably starts with the Redskins.
For the Redskins, as long as we’re not talking about an offensive tackle, wide receiver or (gulp) a quarterback, they will get their best player available who simultaneously fills a need. Don’t let anybody suggest there is a debate this year over those two philosophical paths. Those that do are wasting your time. Sometimes all interests align. That is how 2018 worked for the Redskins. No, this doesn’t guarantee the player selected turns into a Hall of Famer or even a starter. It just means all the draft graders will say Washington received great value if they select (insert one of those five names) at 13.
Based on multiple sources, the Redskins’ realistic top options at 13 are Fitzpatrick and James, if available. As for the defensive tackles, multiple sources state Washington prefers Payne over Vea.
Redskins president Bruce Allen is “enamored” with the savvy Fitzpatrick, per one source. The 6-foot junior with 4.46 speed is a slot corner option, but Washington views him at safety. That versatility is a blessing – and perhaps a draft day curse. Some teams may pass if unsure how best to deploy him, especially with Ward and the highly athletic James on the board. Fitzpatrick apparently prefers corner, meaning some potential pushback toward teams thinking safety. Not enough to pass on him if available, as Fitzpatrick’s on-field smarts separates him from others.
The Redskins are good at safety with D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson. Fitzpatrick and James are too good to ignore. Washington had big plans with Su’a Cravens in the hybrid linebacker-safety role. These two, especially the 6-foot-3 James, would let the defensive coaches use such schemes if interested.
The massive Vea (347 pounds) receives the most “wow” praise from the film crowd for his explosive playmaking. Based on pure talent, Vea is worthy of a top-5 selection. There are, however, inconsistency fears. Others question his future as a three-down lineman. That is what the Redskins need more than a pure nose tackle despite constant talk about that hole.
Payne, who is 36 pounds lighter than Vea, offers more three-down hope with plenty of upside based on his work in the college football playoffs. Several public mock drafts show him sliding into the second half of round one. One source ranked him among the 10 best players in the class. ESPN’s Mel Kiper is among the analysts preferring Payne over Vea. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock flips the order. Both would help a run defense that ranked last season. Payne is the preferred choice by the Redskins, according to multiple sources.
Some reports and mock drafts continue suggesting LSU running back Derrius Guice is in consideration for the Redskins at 13. I’ve been told by multiple sources, including one close to the situation, that is false. Based on what I’ve heard, Guice will not land in the first round of my final mock, though he could be the second RB off the board after Saquon Barkley with the Steelers at 29 or the Eagles at 32 possibilities. Best educated guess is a run on the runners begins either with Eagles ending round one, the Giants at 34 should they pass on Barkley or the Colts at 36. One trusted league source pegged that Indianapolis pick for Guice.
Where the RB run begins could determine the Redskins’ fate. The Giants, Colts, Broncos and Dolphins pick between 34-43 and all need backs. Guice, Michel and Nick Chubb (Georgia) consistently rank among the top 40 overall prospects. San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, the nation’s leading rusher in 2017, and Ronald Jones (USC) is the next tier. Washington met with at least Guice, Michel, Penny and Jones pre-draft, per reports. Many believe the Redskins want to select a running back in the second round. Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams repeatedly said this offseason a backfield upgrade is required. Who is on the board may determine if Washington goes that way. Indications are that is the ideal.
For those wondering about a trade up or down, here is what Williams said Tuesday. “Well, let me say this, the chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down, but at the same time, you’ve got to have somebody to trade with, and I don’t think you go into it saying, ‘I’m going to trade down.’ … If we [were] in the heavy quarterback business, we’d talk about moving up, but at this time, we just sit back and find out what’s going to come to us if we stay at 13. But if we move back, it’s because somebody called us to ask do we want to move back.”
If you hope somebody calls to ask if the Redskins want to move back, beyond any projected top 10 pick sliding, keep track of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (Louisville) offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore and pass rushers Marcus Davenport (UTSA) and Harold Landry (Boston College).
Jackson would likely represent the last of the top passer options and teams may want to jump Arizona at 15. McGlinchey projects as the first tackle off the board. Arizona, Baltimore (16), Los Angeles Chargers (17) and Seattle (18) have tackle issues.
Either Moore or Alabama’s Calvin Ridley will be the first receiver selected. Moore, whose stock rose dramatically after a dominant Combine performance, could hear his name off the board starting with the Packers at 14, according to a source close to the situation.
This draft is light with pass rushers. Davenport and Landry are the likely next names following top-10 selection Bradley Chubb.
Beyond Fitzpatrick and Guice, here are some names I’ve heard connected to them in the draft whether in the early, middle or late rounds.
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama (1st round) – It’s unlikely Payne is my final mock draft pick for the Redskins simply because odds are another talent drops and Washington pounces. Yet if asked to put fat stacks of cash on any one player being the choice at 13, it would be on the latest defensive line standout coming out of Alabama. “An incredibly underrated prospect,” DraftAnalyzer.com’s Tony Pauline said on the latest Breaking Burgundy podcast. “Teams are downgrading him because they think he’s a two-down player. I don’t agree.” (Pauline and I also get into the Payne vs. Vea debate, Fitzpatrick and James, running backs in the second round, offensive line, the Browns at 1 and which overall rumors we believe. Give a listen.)
Billy Price, C/G. Ohio State (2) – Two-time All-American who played the most games in Buckeyes history. Ironically, a pectoral injury at the Combine hurt his draft stock. Enough for the four-year starter to slip into Washington’s second-round range? Pauline also slotted Price to the Redskins and said this would be one of the best value plays should it happen.
Ronald Jones, RB, USC (2) — The Redskins met with the playmaking back at the Combine and team president Bruce Allen attended Jones’ Pro Day. There is interest. There is also some apparent dipping of the 205-pound back’s draft value. Numerous public big boards slot Jones beyond Washington’s pick in the second round.
Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State (4) — Seems unlikely Redskins would use one of their top three picks on an offensive tackle considering Trent Williams, Morgan Moses and Ty Nsekhe. Washington has shown interest.
Kevin Toliver, CB, LSU (4-5) – Ideal size for a corner, but injuries and suspensions history less than desired.
Wyatt Teller, G, Virginia Tech (4) – If the Redskins need to come away with any one position among their first three picks it’s an interior offensive lineman. Teller received first-team All-ACC honors last season.
Cole Madison, G/T, Washington State (4-5) – Had a private meeting in Ashburn. Right tackle in college would move inside on the NFL level.
Poona Ford, DT, Texas (5) – Great nickname and résumé. The notable Combine snub was named Big 12 defensive lineman of the Year. His limited size (5-foot-11) drops his perceived potential.
Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham (5-7)
Vyncint Smith, WR, Limestone (Day 3)
Aaron Stinnie, G, James Madison (Day 3)
Zaire Franklin, LB, Syracuse (6-7 round/priority free agent)
Javon Wims, WR, Georgia (7th/PFA)
McKay Murphy, DE, Weber State (7th/FA)
Raven Greene, FS, James Madison (7th/FA)
Jordan Veasy, WR, California (7th/FA)
Tre Herndon, CB, Vanderbilt (Late Day 3)
Chris Warren III, RB, Texas (7/FA)
Rico Gafford, CB, Wyoming (7/FA) – Ran somewhere between a 4.19-4.3 40-time at his Pro Day
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, DE, UCLA (7/FA)
NFL news and notes
In the last 48 hours various league sources suggested the No. 1 overall pick could be one of three quarterbacks: Josh Allen (Wyoming), Sam Darnold (USC) and Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma). That’s not breaking news. That nobody seems to know who goes first is the point. That there is no universal love for any of the passers is the other note. Some prefer UCLA’s Rosen above all. Others covet Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Mock draft chaos stems from there.
The Browns own the first and fourth picks. If they don’t see much separation among the top three quarterbacks, they should select Barkley or NC State pass rusher Bradley Chubb at one and then take whichever QB falls to four. Otherwise, they risk the Giants selecting Barkley or Chubb.
The safe assumption is Darnold at one. The wild card is Mayfield in part because Scot McCloughan, now a Browns consultant, is a known believer of the Heisman winner.
Totally get the Barkley infatuation and why the RB-needy Giants could select him with Dave Gettleman in charge, based on the general manager’s previous work. Barkley is a “clean” prospect on and off the field. That is highly appealing. New York truly needs a running back. So many boxes are checked here.
I maintain my stance that New York should go with a quarterback instead. The Giants have not picked this high since landing Eli Manning in 2004. Manning is now 37 and in clear decline. Sure, New York might be able to squeeze out another playoff season. Thinking this roster has Super Bowl upside is a stretch. The new coach and general manager combination eliminates win-now pressure. New York can grab one of the other RB prospects at 34, meaning help for the offense and the future with its first two picks. Perhaps the organization loves 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb. Gettleman did not make that selection and GMs like getting credit for quarterbacks.
As for the current buzz, it remains with the Giants selecting Barkley. However, one source Wednesday adamantly told The Sports Capitol that he sees New York going QB or a trade with Barkley slipping perhaps to six.
At the very least the Giants should bluff enough to force the Jets into a trade so New York’s other team can get the quarterback it desires. One league source thinks this is the mostly likely scenario with Mayfield the Jets’ target. The same source told The Sports Capitol that Mayfield remained in play for the Browns at one, but preferred that thought kept quiet. By the next morning ESPN’s Adam Schefter told the world Mayfield remained an option for Cleveland with the first selection.
The true trading madness may begin with the Broncos at five. Yes, Denver could select a quarterback – one source believes Mayfield’s floor is with the Broncos. For a team that, unlike the Giants, can realistically imagine a Super Bowl surge, going with a quarterback does not make tons of sense. Denver has Case Keenum for the next two seasons, meaning a rookie would not play until at least 2018. Barkley and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson would start from Day 1.
Mayock moved Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander ahead of Ward on his top 100 prospects list. Washington could justify selecting a CB since Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland won’t return. Based on league conversations my sense is Alexander’s range begins at 15 with the Cardinals. Most likely landing spot? The Panthers at 24 as Carolina continues its search for a Josh Norman replacement.
The Seahawks, despite moving on from Richard Sherman, are not in play for Alexander, per one source, and perhaps no cornerback at 18. Seattle has offensive tackle concerns. UCLA’s Kolton Miller is a name to watch if the Seahawks keep the pick.
Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.