The Redskins brought back TE Fred Davis on Friday in a move that was largely expected. The Redskins gave him a nice one year deal given the circumstances. It's a significant pay cut from his franchise tender of last season, but Davis had the opportunity to lock in long term with the Redskins, and he -- likely with some culpability to agent Drew Rosenhaus -- did not do so. Davis will be 27 this year, and it's not out of the realm of expectation for a 28 year old tight end to get paid on the free agent market. It would not be shocking if Davis signed with the Redskins with a clause that forbids the use of the franchise tag for next season.
With Davis coming back, and with the Redskins doing whatever is in their power to get CB Antoine Winfield under the cap (they'll need to create room to pull that off), the focus will shortly shift to the NFL draft with all the major needs on the roster satisfied.
The fact that the Redskins have filled their needs through free agency does not mean the roster isn't obviously weak in some areas. The secondary is still one of those areas, as is inside linebacker and to some extent, defensive end as well. The right tackle position has been the same old story since Jon Jansen allowed a few sacks in 2008: it's gotten progressively worse each season. Many weaknesses are still on the roster.
But you can pretty much see that the advantages of the 2013 Redskins is that it's a team that likely will not be starting any rookies for 16 games. This means that its more important to get the best player available in the draft than it is to build around the current weaknesses.
There are some exceptions. Its a safe bet that the Redskins will draft someone in the secondary before the end of the fourth round. Its a safe bet they will take a running back late or as a priority UDFA to compete with Evan Royster for a roster spot (keep your eye on Jawaan Jamison of Rutgers). They will probably pick at least one offensive lineman. They will probably trade back in the second round. It's the fourth draft that Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan have been here for, and they've created very obvious trends in their years here that we can rely on with some confidence.
But beyond what has occured every draft to date, we can be reasonably confident that they will operate with a general strategy (last year: build depth on the offensive line, year before that: get offensive skill talent early and often), but that they will focus on adding the best player available.
Now, that idea could very easily have a second clause, namely, best player available in the secondary until the need is satisfied. That could mean two or three picks in the secondary between the second and fifth rounds. But I think the Redskins should go more global with their strategy and take the best player available at pretty much any position (not quarterback, not running back early, and not interior offensive line early). I think if the right wide receiver, offensive tackle, or tight end comes available in the second round, that's where you pull the trigger. The total defense statistic from last year needs to take a back seat to overall value on draft day. If by chance we get through seven rounds and the Redskins haven't adequately added enough defensive talent, then I would use Undrafted Free Agency to make a targeted attack in the secondary and on the defensive line. But before then, I'd focus on getting the players who can make the most plays for a playoff team in Burgundy and Gold.
Longtime RHH readers already know my longstanding affinity for Rutgers CB Logan Ryan. Here are a number of other players I have first round grades on that could be around when the Redskins bring up the card in the second round -- hopefully after a trade down (maybe even into the third round).
DEs Bjorn Werner and Tank Carradine, Florida State It's very possible that two of the top three pass rushers in this draft may have played football at the same school. They do not have the same skill set. Werner profiles as a physical force with a first round body who will need strong coaching at the next level to be able to beat the best pass protectors in the league. Is good against the run, with a lightning quick first step. Does lack a finishing quality against elite competition. I don't think this is because of a lack of effort, more because of a lack of technique. Doesn't lose often, but when he does, he doesn't always get back into the play. Carradine is a better pure pass rusher, and comes to the NFL relatively healthy after missing most of 2012 with a knee injury. As a rule of thumb, the players who are hurt the most in college tend to be so in the NFL. Carradine fits nicely as an OLB on the Redskins. Werner might play on the defensive line or stand-up, as his position in a 3-4 probably wouldn't be locked in officially until after his rookie year.
WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia Bailey played as well as any receiver in the country last year, probably winning off the line of scrimmage against a higher percentage of DBs and in total plays as any other reciever in this draft. Has deceptive deep speed, though he's most comparable to Brian Hartline or Jordy Nelson in that their deep ability is based less on raw speed and more on route running and the inate ability to get defensive backs to underestimate the deep threat he provides. Is difficult to overthrow, and having played in Dana Holgorsen's offense, runs a variety of routes.
WR Robert Woods, USC I have a top ten grade on Woods (higher than on Keenan Allen), and he may well be the best offensive player in this draft after Tavon Austin. He's the best pure receiver in this draft from a talent perspective, but as a rookie, his biggest impact will be on punt returns. Is a supremely talented athlete even by NFL standards, and is a very intelligent football player to boot. Was the centerpiece of USC's offense since the first snap of the Lane Kiffin era, and the only constant over that timeframe besides Matt Barkley.
DE/OLB Alex Okafor , Texas Going to try to get through this preview without mentioning Brian Orakpo. Ah hell, he reminds me a lot of Orakpo. But the comp I put on him in my draft analysis was: Jason Babin.
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson Clemson's top receiver this season simply took over the LSU defense in the fourth quarter of this years Chick-fil-A Bowl. It was very reminiscent of Anquan Boldin's run in the playoffs this year. He plays fast, although there will always be faster, stronger players at the next level, teams drool about getting a player who can take over games in the 4th quarter. Hopkins could be that guy.
NT Kawaan Short, Purdue A Vince Wilfork clone who spends less time on the ground than some safeties in this class. Has really great feet, but limited in pass rush (he's got quickness on par with Shariff Floyd, but lacks Wilfork's raw strength). Makes up for that with excellent hand work.
DL Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State An interior force, I think Hankins is best suited to play DE in the pros, which is probably the best situation for him. Based on film projection only, Hankins has an incredible amount of value in this draft as he might be its best pass rusher at the right end position, regardless of defensive scheme, as a 5, 7, or 9 tech he's the top rated player I have.
LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia Ogletree is the athletic linebacker type from a great defensive team, these players have a spotty history in the NFL. I want to focus on the fact that the Redskins linebackers must be able to rush the passer regularly, as well as cover tight ends one on one and play the run. That's three checks based on Ogletree's work at Georgia.
CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State A top tier cover corner who should be available at second tier prices around where the Skins pick in round two.
CB Darius Slay, Mississippi State Benefitted from the luxury of being the no. 2 corner in an SEC program, experienced in both man and zone coverages and during this season was a better player than teammate Jonathan Banks (who nursed an injury all year). I consider him to be the best SEC corner in the draft.
DE/OLB Demontre Moore, Texas A&M The young edge rusher comes with a strong pedigree out of a school with a strong recent track record for developing defensive players. He's not Von Miller. The two do not play similar games. Moore plays the kind of game that Aldon Smith does with the 49ers. He's not quite that explosive, but he's young with upside.
LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State This guy may be the best defensive athlete in the draft, which seems odd to say about a Kansas State Wildcat. Brother of Bryce Brown. Prefers to play the game down hill, which makes him a questionable asset in the passing game, all factors considered. Still: he's a much better player than Byron Westbrook was!