NFL

Five First-Round Targets for the Redskins

The Redskins are coming off a disappointing 7-9 season, the final one for Kirk Cousins in Washington. After 3 straight seasons of Cousins, the Redskins will have a new face orchestrating their offense. The gunslinging Cousins heads west to Minnesota, game-manager Alex Smith travels to the capital via a trade with the Chiefs. Talented young prospect, Kendall Fuller, along with a 3rd round pick shift to Kansas, in exchange for the 34-year-old quarterback.

As for their 13th pick in the draft, the Redskins are faced with multiple needs, on both sides of the ball. Although they traded for Alex Smith, the Skins roster is quite clearly not in a ‘win now’ state, so pursuing a young, developmental QB will be in play come draft day. Staying on offense, Alex Smith needs some weapons. No 1,000-yard receiver or running back for the Redskins in 2017, so adding talent for Smith will be key.

Defensively, the Redskins have several gaps that need filling. With the trade of Kendall Fuller and the likely exit of Bashaud Breeland, the cornerback position looks thin in Washington. The Redskins struggled vs the run in 2017, allowing 4.5 yards per carry and a league-high 134 yards per game. Will they use the 13th pick to add a run-stuffer? Or potentially add a dominating linebacker- to sure up the holes in the defense.

Vita Vea – DT – Washington

The raw, but talented, interior lineman would instantly solve defensive issues for the Redskins. The powerfully built, 6’4 – 350 lb DT would bring a dominating presence to the Redskins line. Vea is first and foremost a nose tackle, who eats up blocks. Vea can use his athletic ability to get pressure on opposing QB’s, taking heat off Ryan Kerrigan Et Al.

In 2015, the New York Giants defense ranked dead last vs the run. That off-season, they went out and acquired run-stuffer; Damon Harrison. Their defense subsequently transformed into one of the better units against the run. A similar transition is required for the Redskins. As a general rule, a team that can’t defend against the run isn’t a very successful one.

Roquan Smith – LB – Georgia

The speedy inside linebacker from Georgia is another player with the potential to elevate the Redskins defense. His sideline to sideline speed is tremendous, with the ability to chase down almost anyone. Very intelligent football player, whose head coach has commended him as a leader. Smith has the pass coverage ability to play all three downs, which is rare among linebackers coming out of college.

Admittedly, the Redskins re-signed Zach Brown, who played at an elite level in 2017. This would leave many surprised to hear Smith’s name called with the 13th pick. But, adding Smith would form a formidable pairing with Brown, at a position that’s still thin for the Skins.

In any case, the 13th pick may end up being out of range for Roquan Smith and the Skins. With top-level linebackers being few and far between in the NFL, Smith’s draft stock will continue to rise and ultimately land him in the top 10.

Denzel Ward – CB – Ohio State

The Buckeye’s production of round 1 cornerbacks looks set to continue with Denzel Ward (Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Gonley in 2o17. Eli Apple in 2016. Bradley Roby in 2014). Ward possesses insane athletic ability and his combine performance didn’t disappoint. Running a 40-yard dash of 4.32. Although he has a lean figure and lacks the physicality often desired in cornerbacks, Ward’s footwork and ball-hawking talents make up for his shortcomings.

With Kendall Fuller traded and Bashaud Breeland likely leaving in free agency (although his contract was nullified by the Panthers for a failed physical), now would be the perfect time for the Redskins to bolster their cornerback position. Similar to Roquan Smith, there’s a chance Ward doesn’t last till the 13th pick on draft night, but if a QB frenzy occurs higher up, the dominoes may fall in favour of the Skins.

Derrius Guice – RB – LSU

As I alluded to earlier, the Skins had no 1,000-yard rusher or receiver. Truth be told they could go the WR route here at 13 and give Alex Smith a dangerous new weapon (Courtland Sutton or Calvin Ridley). But I feel the Redskins are desperately in need of an upgrade at the RB position. Kirk Cousins led the team with 4 rushing touchdowns and only Chris Thompson averaged over 4 yards per carry. So yeah- an upgrade is needed.

Enter Derrius Guice! What, I hear you say, there are other running backs other than Saquon Barkley? Yes. A few of them are very good, Guice being one of them. Guice’s scouting report is a tale of two tapes. His injury-riddled 2017 tape is underwhelming, to say the least. But stick some of his 2016 games on and you’ll witness some violent, explosive running. His combination of power, size, speed and vision is a scary one and the comparisons to Marshawn Lynch aren’t way off.

It could be argued that 13 is too high for Guice, but if a team truly believes he can get back to his 2016 running ability, then I would argue 13 is low. Alex Smith and the Chiefs thrived with Kareem Hunt last year and Guice could have that instant impact also.

Baker Mayfield – QB – Oklahoma

At 34 years old this May, it’s clear Alex Smith is not the future of this franchise. If things fall their way, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield might still be on the board at 13. It would make a lot of sense for the Skins to draft a talented signal thrower, to sit behind Smith.

Mayfield is one of the more polarising players in this year’s draft. Athletic, accurate, with a chip on his shoulder, Mayfield will be out to prove all his critics wrong from day 1 in the NFL. Baker Mayfield plays with his heart on his sleeve, a fire in his belly and a competitive edge that sets him apart from other QBs in this class. Will the Skins pull the trigger on Mayfield, as the long-term replacement for Alex Smith?

Image credit.

This article was originally published here at The Inside Zone. For more from Alex, follow him here

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