Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said they're OK with what they have at nose tackle right now. But right now is March 24 and the question really is: Would they be OK with what they have in September?
I don't think it would be a stretch to say: No, they wouldn't be. Kedric Golston is good to have on the roster and can play nose tackle -- he's terrific in short-yardage situations. Chris Baker can fill in, too, but he's also best at end and they really don't have a replacement for him.
Which is why I'd still expect the Redskins to draft a defensive lineman with their first pick (or, maybe better, one of their first couple picks. It's a deep draft at this spot). And that's why it makes sense when I see any mock that projects a defensive lineman to them at No. 21, as Todd McShay's latest did with Baylor nose tackle Andrew Billings.
Meanwhile, McShay's two-round mock for ESPN Insiders also delivered a player who would fit well, more so in the future than perhaps immediately: receiver Michael Thomas.
First, though, the nose tackle. You can add him to the list of players that make sense: Jarran Reed, A'Shawn Robinson, etc. If the Redskins like someone at a different position better there? OK. They need help in a few spots. But this is such a good draft where need matches talent. After the season I was told they wanted to get younger up front; all they've done thus far is sign Kendall Reyes (while still mulling over a position switch for Trent Murphy).
More is needed. Billings would represent more. And what I like about this group of linemen is their versatility; Billings excelled at nose and should have the athleticism to develop in nickel packages as well. The last part is important because, as Gruden reminded all on Wednesday, the Redskins only play their base 3-4 around 20-25 percent of the time. That means any lineman they draft must contribute in their nickel packages, too. Otherwise you drafted a part-time player with your first pick.
"We are kind of moving away from that," Gruden said of a true nose tackle, "but there are times in the game where you do need to have a stout big fella, especially in short yardage, teams are running the ball [to] save the game and four-minute drill and all that stuff. But I think Kedric right now is a good answer and those other guys filling in will be fine."
Billings is a still-developing player, having only played the position the past three seasons. ESPN's Insiders Scouting report on him suggests he's a good fit in a one-gap scheme because of his athleticism. There are concerns by draft experts over his age (he just turned 21) and his ability to change directions. But there's also a belief he could become an excellent defensive lineman.
Make no mistake, the Redskins still want to address this spot -- it's why re-signing Terrance Knighton has not been 100 percent ruled out (it will depend on what happens in the draft). McShay mentioned Alabama center Ryan Kelly as another option.
As far as Thomas, his lack of big plays downfield (not what he was always asked to do) has caused him to be viewed as a second- or third-rounder by some of the draft experts. But if he's available when the Redskins pick in the second round? It's a smart pick. Thomas would give them a bigger target (he's 6-foot-3; that would be their tallest receiving threat, including tight end Jordan Reed). Thomas has good feet and uses his size well and would be a good target over the middle. His run blocking was inconsistent.
Thomas would be helped going somewhere he can learn for a year and be a smaller part of a receiver rotation. With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon ahead of him on the outside, that would be the case. But with both players in the last year of their contract, the Redskins would be smart to draft someone who could be ready to start in 2017. Thomas could be that guy.