Could Jake Locker be a Redskin on draft day? Depends on their ability to trade down.
I've previously established that the Redskins will look to upgrade just two areas in this draft: the defensive front seven and the quarterback position. Specifically, their biggest need in the front seven is a pass rusher to play opposite Brian Orakpo in the 3-4. This is a good year for those positions, where the "money" round appears to be near the top of round two. And for once, the Redskins have a pick there. But to fill both needs, they need one more pick at the top of the second round than they have.
That really does make this a "trade down" year for the Redskins. It's not that every team doesn't try to trade down every year, but the Redskins have little to offer in order to get into position to fill needs besides the 10th overall pick.
There are fewer than 10 top-level talents in this draft, but the overall likelyhood that both Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton get selected in the top five picks are going to push that talent towards the Redskins' pick. If a team reaches on Julio Jones after AJ Green gets taken (or if the Bengals do it before Green goes), that's even better. It's the defensive stars of this draft that will be available when Washington picks, which is both good for the Redskins in terms of trading the pick, and to their needs if they have to keep it.
Let's say Mike Mayock is right about Robert Quinn getting pushed up and he goes second overall to Denver. Let's also say Carolina takes Blaine Gabbert. Then Patrick Peterson is picked by the Bills over Cam Newton. The Bengals select Cam Newton, while the Cardinals settle for Von Miller. Cleveland seems like the perfect landing spot for AJ Green. San Francisco holds a pretty interesting wild card, though I'm thinking it's Marcell Dareus there. Nick Fairley is Tennessee's kind of player, a big, nasty interior lineman.
This quick mock draft brings us to Dallas, who just like the Redskins, wouldn't have a schematic use for the consensus best remaining player Da'Quan Bowers. Also like the Redskins, Dallas' number one interest in the draft is to go downward. They need to get an offensive tackle, and would probably take one at no. 9 overall if they couldn't go down. Teams that want to get Bowers (or as it may be, Robert Quinn or Marcell Dareus) will be trying to get up into that 9-12 range. That means that if Bruce Allen wants to be able to trade down, he's going to have to make his pick available for cheaper than Jerry Jones is willing to make his.
The first round of the draft is a huge buyers market. The Redskins are only going to get market value to trade down. There's no such thing as "fair market" value when it comes to the draft. If the Redskins want better position, they need to make the best offer to get in such a position. And like the Cowboys, Texans, and Vikings, they sit right in the part of the draft where the elite level talent is going to be gone, and replaced by more standard level first round talent.
It makes more sense for the Cowboys and Redskins to go downwards than other teams. For the Cowboys, the position they are likely to address is offensive line, which should be in plentiful supply about six picks later.
The obvious trading partner would be the New England Patriots, who choose at 17, 28, 33, and 60. The only place the Patriots aren't picking in this draft is the top ten. Us fans will never know if the Patriots love any player in this draft enough to go up to get him (Jones, perhaps?), unless they make such a move. The Redskins simply need to make the best offer here. If the Cowboys want the 17th and the 33rd pick to have the Patriots move up, the Redskins could instead offer their pick for the 28th and the 33rd. The Cowboys may not be able to afford to drop out of the top 20, but the Redskins seemingly can afford to do such a thing.
If the Redskins traded down (as well as giving up one of their fifth rounders) for the 28th pick and 33rd pick, while maintaining the 31st pick, they might be able to address all the needs they came to address. The 28th pick would likely be the quarterback, be it Christian Ponder or Jake Locker. The 33rd pick would be a rising pass rusher, maybe Justin Houston, Jabbaal Sheard, or Brooks Reed. And then they have their own second round pick available to use on that defensive line help they need so badly. That's Stephen Paea or Phil Taylor at the nose, with any remaining first round talents (Corey Liuget?) who could make a questionable transition to RDE.
If the Redskins can't make the best deal in a buyer's market, that 10th overall pick becomes a best player available type thing, since the Redskins will only be able to solve one need in the second round. Then the Redskins might as well grab Dareus or Cameron Jordan to fit at RDE in their defense, since that's the position that won't be available for them later on. The inability to trade down is going to leave the Redskins with unfilled needs coming out of the draft, but that's the lasting effect of the McNabb trade for ya.
In this scenario, I might choose to pass on quarterback in the second round to later, and get the pass rusher in the deep class. I'd feel pretty confident about trying to move up at the very beginning of day three to target the top QB on the Redskins board, be it Ricky Stanzi, Greg McElroy, Scott Tolzien, Pat Devlin, or whoever it is. More confident than I'd feel in trying to find the next Elvis Dumerville down there. This group of decision makers have made magic there before, but I think the best case scenario in this draft is that trade down to a willing suitor.
And I mean that in a way that wouldn't qualify as an annual "trade down for more picks" strategy. The Redskins need to find a way to pick as many times in that 17th-45th range as possible. The more times they pick in that range, ultimately, the more successful this draft will be for them.
Programming Note: My mega-post listing of all prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft and my draft ratings on them can now be found over at LiveBall Sports.