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Jonathan Allen would be dream pick for Redskins, but reality likely different

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Jonathan Allen will bring versatility to a defense (0:39)

Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Jonathan Allen, the defensive end from Alabama, can thrive in either a 3-4 set or a four-man front. (0:39)

The Washington Redskins can't afford to fall in love with one player, or scenario, with the 17th pick. There will be players who fall to them that they didn't expect. There will be players they like who go higher than anticipated. One or two choices above them could throw the draft a big curve. With 10 picks, the Redskins are in good position to either add a lot of young talent, or package selections to trade for higher picks.

Here are some outcomes for them Thursday night:

Dream scenario

Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen falls. It’s hard to imagine the Alabama product slips all the way to the No. 17 pick, but what if there’s a small chance he slips out of the top 10? He’s a guy the Redskins, or anyone picking around where they are, would be interested in landing. Allen would provide the Redskins what they need: a damn good defensive lineman who can help versus the run and pass. Because Allen is a local kid -- he played high school ball at Stone Bridge in nearby Ashburn, Virginia -- Redskins broadcaster Chris Cooley knows him well and team officials apparently like him quite a bit.

But the chances of him falling to 17? Obviously remote, but all it takes is a couple crazy choices in the top five to send one player tumbling. However, if Allen falls out of the top 10 (there have been one or two mocks in which he does), perhaps the Redskins could trade up to get him. With 10 picks, they have some capital to do so, and they’d receive a young building block for the line. They would still need more help on defense, but he’d be a heck of a start. A dream.

Temptation

Running back Christian McCaffrey. The Redskins have been honest about their backs: They like Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson; that won’t stop them from finding a possible dynamic back. Washington wants to draft defense, but if McCaffrey -- or one of the other top backs, such as Leonard Fournette -- is available, there would be interest.

McCaffrey would provide the offense another weapon, and provide versatility. The Redskins could stay in a base look on offense, keeping the defense from using a nickel package. And then they could use the same personnel to spread the field with these players as receivers: McCaffrey, tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis and wideouts Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder. However, McCaffrey’s name keeps hovering in the top 10.

It’s really hard to imagine Fournette really falling that far, but if he did? Then you have a 240-pound back who runs a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash. A lot would have to happen for Fournette to be available at No. 17, but sometimes all it takes is one or two unexpected picks early. For what it’s worth: ESPN analyst Louis Riddick’s mock draft, in which he selected as if he were in charge, had the Redskins landing Fournette.

My sense has been that running back would be the one spot on offense that would tempt them. That means no quarterback in the early rounds, either.

Reality

The Redskins want defense, specifically pass-rushers. Or players who can affect third downs. Remember, on plays of third-and-7 or longer, the Redskins allowed 38.3 percent to be converted. They recorded sacks on just 10 percent of those plays and no interceptions. They need players who can force mistakes.

It will be the top priority entering the draft. The good news for Washington: The draft is full of good pass-rushers, and after the first round, too. It’s not just about sack totals, it’s about forcing turnovers or simply applying consistent pressure. So if they take another position in the first (hello, playmaking safety Malik Hooker?), they can find an edge rusher in the second.

In our NFL Nation mock draft, I projected Charles Harris to the Redskins. Why? Because the Missouri linebacker rushes the passer. He’ll need to improve against the run, but coaching can help in that area. There have been mixed opinions on him; some I’ve talked to love him and others place him late in the first. If, say, Haason Reddick falls to 17, the Temple linebacker is another player Washington likes. Reddick can have an impact as an edge rusher in nickel packages and in coverage. Think of him as a bigger version of Su'a Cravens.

Regardless, the Redskins want to exit this weekend with more defensive talent. The more young guys they add, the more energy they provide. And, in Reddick’s case, speed. All of that matters.