With an active free agency period where the Redskins brought in 12 free agents with NFL experience and re-signed 7 of their own free agents, Washington has a much deeper roster than what took the field a year ago. While the majority of the signings and re-signings were for short 1 or 2 year contracts, the Redskins ensured they would have better depth competing for roster spots and starting roles this year. The signings had another effect on the Redskins roster as it ensured the Redskins had a legitimate option for every position. This will allow the Redskins to approach the draft with the long term future in mind. Instead of focusing their draft picks (particularly their 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounders) on dire needs, the Redskins can take the guys the make the most sense long term for them.
Now this is not to suggest that the Redskins are truly “set” at many positions, as most of these options are average players at best, and many will probably end up being below average. What they are though are an upgrade over what the Redskins had previously, and guys who can man a position for a year or two, while the Redskins search for a long term solution. With the exception of wide receiver and quarterback (outside linebacker would be there as well if Orakpo is signed long term), the Redskins can justify an early round pick at any position. This allows the Redskins to take the guy who best fits what they are trying to do and offer them the most total value.
This is a good place for the Redskins to be, and something that hasn’t been seen in Washington in some time. Too often of late the Redskins have been desperate for help at certain positions and they were locked into those needs regardless of what else happened in the draft. This led to a number of trade ups over the years, and passing on more talented players at other positions. The Redskins were shortsighted in their draft approach and for the most part it cost them considerably. Even when the Redskins have had good teams in recent years, they just weren’t deep enough and well-rounded to compete with the big boys of the league.
Now this doesn’t mean that the Redskins are going to instantly become top contenders after this year’s draft, but what it does mean is the Redskins will be in a better position, both this season and going forward to build a team that can rise to the top of the NFL and have staying power. The way they do that is by being smart in the draft and continue to build up the overall depth and talent of this roster. For that to happen the Redskins have to be smart in the draft and take what the draft gives them. If they are in a position to trade back and stockpile picks and depth, that is a smart play in a deep draft like this.
This is different than just taking a best player available approach as the Redskins need to make sure they have a game plan to utilize their picks and ensure they are getting the most out of them. For the early round picks, the question has to be what will this player’s role be by 2015? If they draft someone in the 2nd or 3rd round who doesn’t start as a rookie, that is fine, but they better be ready to play a significant role by year two. If not it’s really going to be hard for the Redskins to get value out of that draft pick. That is why set positions like wide receiver and quarterback shouldn’t be considered in those rounds and nearly set positions like running back and outside linebacker should probably not be options as well.
Though initially this draft will be judged by what these players do as rookies, the real key is what happens in 2015 and 2016. Those are the key years for the Redskins as they create a game plan for their draft board and weigh their potential options. That game plan is how the top teams in the NFL draft each year and it’s been something that has been lacking in D.C. This can be the year that the Redskins change their way of looking at the draft and finally get serious about building a quality organization in Washington.