While much of the draft is understandably focused on the first four rounds, hitting on a higher percentage of late round picks picks can really help a team become a top contender. This is especially true for the Redskins given that they are without a first round pick the next two years (and have traded away numerous high picks in recent years) and are dealing with the salary cap penalty. The Redskins need to find as many cheap contributors and key back-ups as possible. While they could add key back-ups at positions like the offensive line, corner and safety (and very well may need to), I’m going to focus on positions that can be addressed in the 5th round or later than can possibly contribute this year.
The Redskins are a run first team, rushing about 53% of the time last season. Even with the emergence of rookie sensation Alfred Morris, running back is a serious need as he can’t be expected to carry the RB/FB load 89% of the time like he did last year. Also running back is one of the highest injured positions in football. Whether it is for 1-3 games or a significant injury that could knock him out for longer, the Redskins need depth here. The good news is it is a deeper RB draft and since they don’t need a starter they can easily find good number 2 or change of pace backs (some could handle both roles) in the 5th-7th rounds.
The Redskins only have one tight end on their roster and it’s conversion WR Niles Paul. So far Paul has proved himself to be a valuable member of the Redskins on Special Teams, but has yet to make significant contributions on offense. Logan Paulsen is also likely to return as a restricted free agent, but he’s been a little streaky and he would be set to be an unrestricted free agent next season. The Redskins need to find a tight end who can at least be a decent number two TE. Given how much they run they use a lot of two tight end sets. The Redskins could also target a movement TE to try to create mismatches in their offense, and to replace the potential that Fred Davis brought to the team. Whether the Redskins are targeting a two way TE, a blocking tight end or a movement tight end, there should be a number if interesting ideas late in the draft. These are guys who should be able to see 350-500 snaps as a rookie (plus special teams work).
Receiver is an interesting case because it’s not really a need this year. Even if Santana Moss were to be cut and a need would arise for a slot receiver, it likely won’t get filled by the draft. Except for elite receivers and a few other exceptions, receivers typically don’t offer much early impact. So whether the Redskins draft a receiver in the 2nd or 3rd round or wait until the 6th round won’t have much impact on this season. With a depth chart featuring Garcon, Moss, Morgan, Hankerson, A. Robinson and Briscoe, the Redskins don’t have a great need for receiver this year. Next year though is a different story as Moss, Morgan, and Briscoe are all free agents. Whether the Redskins want a smaller quicker receiver who could be a slot option in 2014 or a bigger more physical receiver to play on the outside, they will have options in the late round. Again outside of special teams work they aren’t likely to offer much of an impact, but since the same is true of all receivers that is why they are listed here.
The Redskins are likely to keep 6-7 defensive linemen, and while the starters are pretty well set, depth is always an issue. The defensive line position has one of the highest levels of rotation among any position in the NFL. Even premier starters don’t play much more than 75% of the snaps, even when they are fully healthy. The Redskins could use some better depth here, and while they may not be the top back-up or two a 6th or 7th defensive lineman could still see 150-200 snaps, even if there aren’t any major injuries. Washington could also look for a guy who specializes in rushing the passer given their weakness as a whole there.
Last year when Brian Orakpo went down with injury the Redskins pass rush became non-existent. Rob Jackson filled in well as a whole, but saw most of his impact come from dropping into coverage or run defense, the two lesser responsibilities of his role. Orakpo should be back fully healthy and Jackson will be there for depth as a restricted free agent, but he will likely be gone after next year. Even with Orakpo fully healthy the Redskins could use a back-up rush linebacker who can specialize at rushing the passer. Both Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan could use some plays off to help keep them fresh late in the games and season. Also the team could find ways to have all three on the field together in certain pass situations.
Sav Rocca is a free agent and the Redskins can’t afford to spend much money here. They would also be wise to find a punter who can handle kick-off duties given that it is not Kai Forbath‘s specialty. For all the talent that we think about when it comes to football, it really comes down to a game of field position. It doesn’t matter how good your offense or defense is, your chances for a score dramatically increase as you move the starting position down the field. This is especially key for the Redskins to be good at given that their defense is their biggest weakness. If the Redskins can land a cheap young punter in the late rounds, particularly one who can kick-off it should be a no-brainer.