With the NFL's Underwear Olympics AKA the Scouting Combine on deck for this weekend, scouts, general managers and player personnel will be flocking to Indianapolis to excruciatingly pour over hundreds of NFL hopefuls. The Redskins, despite being fresh off a NFC East championship, have a roster with plenty of needs, on defense in particular. Rising and falling player stock will change prospect draft positions (as will free agency signings). But here is a preliminary pre-combine look at a Redskins mock draft.
TRADE: Washington sends 1-21 to Seattle for R1P27 & R3P2
Round 1 - Pick 26 (From Seattle): Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
The Redskins were exposed routinely along the defensive front in 2015, ranking 26th in rushing defense. Free agent signings Terrence Knighton and Stephen Paea didn't have the impact in the trenches as expected. Knighton and Kedric Golston are set to become free agents next month, while Jason Hatcher floated thoughts of retirement following the playoff loss to Green Bay. Even with the recent signing of former first round pick Ziggy Hood, the defensive line is long overdue for an infusion of talent and youth.
Drafting Andrew Billings at 26 would be a huge step towards fixing the Redskins most glaring defensive weakness. Unlike many of the players currently already on the roster, Billings is a 3-down player. His rare blend of mass and agility makes him a force against the run as well as against the pass. He lives in the opponent's backfield and is constantly disruptive. The senior from Baylor would be a day 1 starter for the Redskins
Round 2 - Pick 22: Nick Martin, LG/C, Notre Dame
Little brother of Cowboy's first round pick Zack, Notre Dame's Nick Martin would be a major upgrade in the trenches for the Redskins. Washington struggled at times running the ball in 2015, ranking 20th in the league. It can be attributed to several factors. In my opinion, the key factor was a combination of injuries at left guard and center, in addition to inconsistent play from the backups. Kory Lictensteiger and Shawn Lauvao both missed the majority of the season (and I would not be surprised to see them both gone in 2016). Josh LeRibeus and Spencer Long failed to seize opportunities when the starters went down.
Martin played both left guard and center at Notre Dame, paving the way for a rushing attack that ranked 8th in the country averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Martin would be an instant starter for Washington at either position.
Round 3 - Pick 22: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Washington need to prepare preemptively for a major wide receiver overhaul. DeSean Jackson & Pierre Garcon are still quality options, but are older and expensive. Andre Roberts never lived up to his contract and will likely be gone before long. Rashad Ross and Ryan Grant are adequate players, but are better suited as 4th/5th receiver options. Will Fuller has displayed game-changing speed and excellent ball tracking skills during his time at Notre Dame.
The junior averaged an astounding 20.3 yards per catch in 2015, scoring 14 touchdowns (14th & 5th in the country respectively). Over the past two seasons, only Baylor's Corey Coleman (31) has more receiving touchdowns than Fuller's 29. Fuller has had an issue with drops during his career, but his addition would add another much needed long ball threat to a Redskins offense that needs more speed on the edges.
Round 3 - Pick 27 (from Seatle): Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Scot McCloughan, the Senior Personnel executive that brought Kam Chancellor to the Seahawks, has a certain affinity for tough and physically imposing football players. So drafting West Virginia's Karl Joseph, a player built in Chancellor's mold, would be a natural fit for the safety-hunger Redskins. Joseph has been a feared hitter in Morgantown, delivering punishing thumps from his strong safety position.
The four year starter has the rare knack for being around the ball carrier, whether he is laying out an unsuspecting wide receiver or smacking a running back in run support. Joseph recorded five interceptions in four games before tearing his ACL in practice October 7th. If healthy, Joseph would be an immediate starter for the Redskins and help solidify a position that has been in flux since Sean Taylor's passing.
Round 4 - Pick 22: Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Missouri
Speaking on positions that are in flux, the Redskins have a dilemma at their inside linebacker position. Washington had four different players start there in 2015 (Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley Jr., Will Compton and Mason Foster) due to injuries and poor performance. Of those four, only Riley Jr. is under contract for 2016. In the very likely case that all four aren't back, it would behoove the team to add a young player for depth and special teams.
Brothers isn't considered a plus athlete, but did record 152 tackles last season, leading the country. His nose for the football and high football IQ should trump his less than impressive measurables. The first team All-SEC first team performed and second team All-American has more than enough positive tape, but he will be one to watch during this week's combine.
Round 5 - Pick 19: Harlan Miller, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
Once thought to be a position of strength last summer, the cornerback depth on this team must be addressed. Chris Culliver is coming off a poor season, major injury and is a dark horse candidate to be released this offseason. David Amerson is gone and DeAngelo Hall has made the permanent switch to free safety. I would expect the Redskins to add in free agency, but grooming a young corner would be wise.
Southeastern Louisiana's Harlan Miller could a sleeper pick in the fifth round. His long 6-1 frame is an ideal size for the position. He is an instinctive and fearless corner. The third team All-American earned the reputation as an aggressive tackler and a shut down cover man. Questions remain about his ability to add weight to his frame (only weights 180) and to adjust to a much higher level of receiver. But Miller projects as a solid rotational corner with high upside given the right situation.
Round 6 - Pick 12: Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
2015 draftee Matt Jones should be the lead back in 2016 for what will in all likelihood be a revamped Redskins run game. Chris Thompson finally broke through and became the dynamic third down back the team wanted when he was selected in 2013. However, Alfred Morris' play has been in decline since his rookie season and is likely on the outs.
Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon can fill a role that this backfield depresately needs; an explosive change-of-pace guy that, unlike Thompson, can play on all three downs. Drawing comparisons to Thomas Rawls, who went undrafted in 2015 only to become the feature back in Seattle, Dixon has a very unique blend of speed, elusiveness and power. He has the ability to juke and jump defenders into submission or to run through them all together. He also has a nose for the end zone, finding the end zone 39 times in the past two seasons. The Jones / Dixon / Thompson back trio would not only be the most talented backfield depth they've had in some time, but also would give the Redskins three runners whose strengths are perfect compliments of each other.
Round 7 - Pick 9: Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
When Scott McCloughan stated that he wanted to get tougher as a football team, in the trenches specifically, he had guys like Evan Boehm in mind. The four-year starter from Missouri is a mauler in the run game. He routinely drives defensive linemen off the ball with his squatty and powerful 6'2, 310 lbs. frame.
His brute strength makes nose tackles no match for him inside a phone booth, even against talent-laden SEC opponents. His shorter limbs and limitations blocking in space being the major knocks against him, the Redskins could have a steal late if they can swoop in and get Boehm.
Round 7 - Pick 21: Deiondre Hall, CB/S, Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa's Deiondre Hall is a very interesting prospect. The reigning Missouri Valley Defensive POY bounced back and forth between safety and cornerback in his four years at NIU, excelling at both. He have outstanding instincts and rarely is fooled by a quarterbacks eyes. He finished his career with 13 interceptions and four pick-sixes.
However, Hall had an up-and-down Senior Bowl week, facing many upper tier receivers from big time programs. Scouts have also expressed concerns about Hall's true position at the next level. Does he has the bulk to be an every down safety or the speed and technique to be a functional corner back? But Hall does have more than enough toughness and athleticism to be, at worst, a special teams contributor and long term project in the secondary. He reminds me of a young Antrel Rolle and believe he is more than worth a late round gamble.
See my Fan Speak Draft here: http://fanspeak.com/ontheclock/sharedraft.php?d=rnagno