The Washington Redskins' primary need this offseason matches up well with what they should be able to find in the NFL draft. And it should help them start to build a defense that continues to seek answers.
The Redskins want to build two strong lines and have invested a lot more on the offensive line than on defense. But that could change in this draft.
“Defensive line is the best it’s been since probably in my history of doing this, in terms of depth,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said in a conference call with NFL Nation reporters. “I don’t remember as many outstanding defensive ends, defensive tackles, combo guys, as there are this year. It’s loaded with elite guys in the first and second round. So if you need a defensive lineman -- end or tackle -- this is the year to get one.”
And the Redskins need one -- or two. A big goal for them is to get younger along the line, something they needed to do a year ago as well. But they also wanted to rebuild their offensive line, which is why they opted for Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick rather than end Leonard Williams (there were other concerns about Williams, such as medical).
But now the job is to find more linemen with three of their top six possibly going elsewhere next season: Terrance Knighton and Kedric Golston (free agency) and Jason Hatcher (possible retirement). As of now, they’d have no linemen under 28 next season. They will consider having Trent Murphy or Preston Smith bulk up and play end (in both cases, would need to add 20 pounds or so).
The other way to help is through the draft, of course. As Kiper points out -- and he’s not alone in feeling this way -- there will be plenty of options for Washington. Two Alabama defensive linemen, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, both have been projected to the Redskins in various mock drafts.
They’re two of five defensive linemen who are expected to be selected in the first round -- and a handful of others might go there as well. Among others likely to go in the first round: Baylor’s Andrew Billings, Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche and Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins. UCLA’s Kenny Clark, Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler and Penn State’s Austin Johnson will receive first-round consideration. And those are just players who likely would fit better as an end or nose in a 3-4.
But here’s another nugget from Kiper that bodes well for Washington: “Pass-rushers everywhere. You’re going to find three, four, five years down the road when we look back at the 2016 draft, you will look back [at the success]. This is a year where if you want a pass-rusher and you want to try to get that player at a bargain point because of the great depth at that spot, you certainly can.”
And, yes, the Redskins want to add another pass-rusher -- even if they’re able to re-sign Junior Galette. They want it for depth and versatility. And there’s the axiom of never having enough pass rushers, something the Redskins learned all too well when Galette was injured.