Hope springs eternal. The words, “With the 13th selection in the 2018 NFL Draft the Washington Redskins select …” have been ringing in our heads for weeks, if not months.
Free agency is ostensibly over and, yet again, the front office failed to fill every need by spending. Good. That was and is a failed strategy in the salary cap era. It is also why the draft is so critical to the attitude of fans. No matter how poorly the team performed the previous season it is forgotten once the roster turns over. The discussion is no longer of who did what last season. Some of the who’s have moved on to other teams. Some of the who’s have moved from other teams to the Redskins.
The most exciting time of year in the mind of a fan should always be right after the draft when the roster is the best it will be and the possibilities are endless. No cuts, no injuries, no growing pains, no hyper criticism of preseason performances. No judgements, no negativity. We are the 2018 Washington Redskins and we are here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. Since we’re fresh out of bubble gum …
Do Me A Solid
The NFL Draft, coincidentally, always takes place within a week of my birthday, which means I personally always hope the Skins will do me a solid by drafting the next perennial all pro at any position. There’s plenty of time for hindsight later. While it’s impossible to guess along with the Front Office in terms of how they rank prospects or whether they would elect to fill a need over taking a player not expected to be on the board at #13 it is possible to look at their draft history and make an educated guess.
Certainly there was no expectation Jonathan Allen would be on the board at #17 last season. He was. They selected him. That was undoubtedly based on both his grade being higher than a bottom half 1st round prospect and his filling a position of need. Who would they have selected had Allen been off the board? Hard to say. Let’s hope they weren’t looking at Reuben Foster. We can be relatively certain Josh Doctson was specifically targeted at #22. But he also filled a need. We can be almost positive Brandon Scherff was their highest-ranked player still on the board at #5. But he also filled a need. The strategy seems to be drafting the best player available at a position of need.
What To Do
This begs a few questions, namely one specifically regarding what happens if either Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick were still on the board at #13. James would be a candidate to fill the hybrid role Sua Cravens was supposed to fill. But the team doesn’t need a safety as much as it needs a NT to help with the run defense. So, would they elect to choose James over someone like Da’Ron Payne? Fitzpatrick is strictly a CB at the NFL level. Does his grade push him past other prospects if he is still available? To fans it might seem obvious the defense is the area of greatest need. Maybe the Skins place more value on a top prospect RB like a Derrius Guice. But do they grade Guice as being that much better a prospect than a Rashaad Penny or a Nick Chubb?
One thing that hurts every mock draft, and undoubtedly will affect the real one as well, is the lack of a third round selection. That pick was traded to Kansas City for Alex Smith. It would be helpful if they could package together some picks and move back up into the 3rd round. Most of the top DL and RB prospects are gone by the end of the third which means they either necessarily reach on a prospect out of necessity or they miss out on a prospect they had targeted who had no chance of falling to them in the fourth.
The following mock drafts will reflect this problem, because while it’s easy to talk about trading back or trading up it’s a lot harder to find a team willing to trade. While all mocks are fantasy there is at least some semblance of realism to a mock which involves no trades.
Keeping it Quiet
One other point of contention is that the Redskins rarely discuss prospects or positions they are genuinely discussing behind closed doors. They rarely sign prospects they have brought in for visits. In fact, based upon history, we could almost be dismissive of any prospect or position they’ve openly mentioned. Doug Williams has mentioned QB and RB so many times it seems those are not areas of need. There are those who would argue differently on RB but the offensive line was a shambles last season and the top two backs were injured. It’s hard to evaluate much of anything under those conditions.
While it’s not out of the question the Redskins would select a RB with the #13 pick it seems unlikely. They have more backs on the roster than they can keep. They have positions of need which are unlikely to be filled in free agency. Maybe Hankins signs and eliminates one need. Maybe they find a veteran stopgap guard or center after cuts. There are always linemen looking for jobs. They would have to value a line prospect considerably to take one over a skill position. But it is a position of need until it isn’t one.
After running simulations hundreds of times using a composite draft board and the difficult algorithm, most of the time the choices have been between Vea, Payne, and Guice. Of the three Payne seems like the choice because he is a three down player who fills a need. Vea could be a dominant run stopper, definitely a need, but he is graded as a two down player. Guice is nice but is he that much better than Chubb or Penny, both of whom are likely to be available in the second round? After Payne the DE prospects fall off a cliff. Yes, there has been some talk of Settle but if a team needs a DL once Payne is gone Settle could be next. It seems unlikely he would still be on the board three rounds later. And this is where the reaching comes in. If they pass on Payne or Guice in the first, and obviously they have to pass on one since they only have one first round pick, they are pretty much forced to reach on Penny, Chubb, or Settle in the second. They have got to get that third round pick back.
Having said that, I’ll be posting several mocks for people to discuss. I’ll try to explain the strategy behind each one as they are posted. Some will be strictly BPA. Others will be strictly need-based. Here is the first one: