The Washington Redskins want defensive linemen. They shouldn’t have a problem finding one this offseason, especially in the NFL draft.
“The defensive line is the best it's been in my history doing [the draft] in terms of depth," ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper said recently.
The Redskins know this is a priority, just like it was last offseason, too.
Last spring, it was considered a deep class for linemen as well. General manager Scot McCloughan operates under the philosophy of taking the best available player -- a credo any wise GM should take. But the Redskins didn’t take a lineman until the fifth round (Matt Ioannidis). That wouldn’t have been so bad had they helped themselves in free agency; they didn’t.
This offseason, with a lot more cap space and nine draft picks, don’t be surprised if they find linemen in both free agency and the draft.
The tricky part will be finding a defensive lineman in the first round. While it’s considered an excellent draft for defensive players, it’s a few months too early to know whether one will be worth taking at 17, when the Redskins select.
Some played defensive end in college but would project to outside linebacker in a 3-4 (Tennessee’s Derek Barnett among others. Taco Charlton likely would play here in a 3-4, but given his size and length, he would best be used as an end in a four-man front). If McCloughan follows the best available player theory, that should be an option. After all, they need more pass rush help, and Preston Smith hasn’t shown in his first two years he can be a consistent player. Charlton might be there at 17, but the draft analysts have him as a hot riser.
But this isn’t just about finding pass rushers. The Redskins need to stop the run, something they haven’t done in a while -- and that’s true whether they’re in their base 3-4 or in their four-man nickel front.
Stanford's Solomon Thomas is a possibility -- he’s only 275 pounds, but played end in a 3-4, and evaluators say he could add another 15 pounds of weight with no issues.
One intriguing option will be Michigan State’s Malik McDowell, who did not play as well in 2016 as he did in ’15. But he could be a strong interior lineman.
“He’s an enigma,” Kiper said. “He has all the talent, and it showed two years ago, and this year was underwhelming. He should be top five based on talent. He’s an underachiever now.”
But if a team wants inside pressure? “He can provide that,” Kiper said.