Washington Redskins' Top Needs and Fits in the 2014 Draft
Both positions are in equal need of a major rebuild. But they are not the beginning and end of Gruden and Allen's problems. New recruits at inside linebacker and tight end would certainly be welcome.
Even without a first-round selection, Allen and Gruden have enough picks to target all of the team's biggest needs. Here are the best fits for those needs.
The need to fortify a revolving door of an offensive line is obvious. The Redskins surrendered 43 sacks in 2013 and have question marks at almost every position along the front.
If it is down to a decision between guard, center or right tackle, the Redskins should focus on finding a guard first. Current starters Kory Lichtensteiger and Chris Chester were bullied throughout last season. Their inability to win the physical battles consistently derailed the running game and undermined the pass pocket.
Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
Gabe Jackson is a dream pick to beef up a suspect interior. He is a man mountain at 6'3" and 339 pounds, but while he doesn't possess a dancer's grace, he is surprisingly mobile.
He can engulf front-line defenders in the trenches or obliterate those on the second level on the move.
Jackson is rising up draft boards, according to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin:
Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson was called "a brawler and a mauler" Wednesday at the Reese's Senior Bowl. And that's a good thing.
After redshirting as a true freshman in 2009, Jackson, who is 6-foot-3 and 339 pounds, started all 52 games in his Bulldogs career. Along the way, he became one of the best guards in the nation, and he has a chance to be the first guard selected in the 2014 draft.
Even a late rise may not put Jackson out of Washington's reach. As the Redskins own the second pick of the second round, they could be perfectly placed to nab him.
Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Cyril Richardson is another behemoth who is a lot more nimble than any 6'5", 348-pounder should be. He saw time outside at tackle back when Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III ran the Baylor offense.
As a force on the inside, Richardson is an imposing giant with the skills that would suit the zone-based schemes the Redskins run.
Recent mock drafts have him hearing his name called during the second round. Bleacher Report writer Matt Miller has Richardson tabbed as the 21st pick of the second round. Meanwhile, the latest offering from WalterFootball.com has him as the final selection of the same round.
Gruden could easily justify making the call on Richardson a little earlier.
The Redskins need size, physicality and a touch of nastiness along next season's O-line. Bulky road graders like Jackson and Richardson should command most of their attention.
Safety is the weakest position on the roster and the chief reason this team ranked 20th against the pass in 2013. Of the veterans, Brandon Meriweather is reckless and Reed Doughty is one-dimensional.
Young upstarts like Bacarri Rambo and Jose Gumbs both struggle mightily to diagnose plays and take proper angles in deep coverage.
Dion Bailey, USC
Regular readers will have to indulge me as I once again champion the idea of Washington taking Dion Bailey with its first pick. The versatile safety has the skills to instantly become the focal point of a new-look secondary.
His experience at outside linebacker, coupled with natural speed, range and big-play instincts, make Bailey the logical choice to solve a long-standing team issue.
Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
According to CSN Washington reporter Tarik EL-Bashir, Jimmie Ward is firmly on the Redskins' radar:
Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward interviewed with most, if not every, NFL team during a blur of a week here at the Senior Bowl. But his meeting with the Redskins was memorable, he said, because of its thoroughness and the number of team personnel in the room.
It could mean the Redskins will target a veteran safety in free agency. It could also mean they’ll be on the lookout for one in the draft, where the team holds picks in rounds 2-7. NFLdraftscout.com projects Ward as a third round selection.
Using a third-round pick on a player who plundered seven interceptions, per CFBStats.com, would represent excellent value.
The Redskins have four cornerbacks headed to free agency this offseason, including nominal starters DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson.
Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
WalterFootball.com has the Redskins using their primary draft pick to take Loucheiz Purifoy. At 6'1" and 190 pounds, he certainly has the size the secondary needs at the position.
But he just endured a mediocre final season at the collegiate level, as noted by Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. Still, Purifoy could yet appeal to a team that needs more talent at the position alongside last season's second-round pick, David Amerson.
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller may have had his stock damaged by a persistent sports hernia injury. The ailment meant he only made eight starts in his final year at Virginia Tech.
Despite limited action, Fuller still impressed for the Hokies. Like Purifoy, he boasts the height the Washington defensive backfield needs most.
Both Fuller and Purifoy should be available in the second round, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. They each represent smart solutions to an obvious weakness.
Struggling starter Tyler Polumbus was toyed with for most of 2013. He was pretty effective in the running game but remained a major liability against any pass-rusher who knows his trade.
If Gruden ignores the position in free agency he must find an upgrade on Polumbus from the collegiate ranks.
Joel Bitonio, Nevada
Nevada mainstay Joel Bitonio should be snapped up instantly if he happens to fall the way of the Redskins. A naturally smooth pass-blocker, Bitonio could easily manage the switch from left tackle to right.
He thrived against some of the nation's most dangerous pass-rushers, according to NFL.com writer Dan Greenspan:
Bitonio started 38 consecutive games for the Wolf Pack, including marquee games against UCLA, Florida State and BYU this season. The Bruins have a top-10 pick in outside linebacker Anthony Barr, while Cougars outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy could also be selected in the first round.
And while Barr and Van Noy combined for 14 sacks this season, Bitonio did not concede a sack to either one.
WalterFootball.com has Bitonio ticketed for the Houston Texans as the top pick of the third round. But if he is still available after the Texans make their choice, Washington would be wise to take him.
Like the guards on either side of him, center Will Montgomery was too easily swatted aside last season. His struggles identifying the blitz, as well as holding up in the running game, make a new starter necessary.
Tyler Larsen, C, Utah State
The Redskins could bide their time until the fifth round before finding an ideal replacement for Montgomery. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Utah State pivot Tyler Larsen as the team's selection in Round 5.
That is a good value pick that would give the team a scrappy, more physically imposing player capable of anchoring the offensive front.
London Fletcher's retirement, coupled with an absence of quality depth, makes inside linebacker an obvious draft need.
Shayne Skov, Stanford
Matt Miller has Stanford ace Shayne Skov heading to Washington at the top of the second round. It is a smart pick given Skov's experience in a 3-4 defense.
The Redskins are retaining their linebacker-led scheme, according to Zac Boyer of The Washington Times. Skov fits perfectly after acting as the mainstay of the Cardinal defense.
He has size and competency in every phase of defense. If plugged in next to Perry Riley Jr., Skov would soon become an active playmaker in D.C.
Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Given their more pressing needs along the O-line and defensive backfield, the Redskins may wait a little longer to draft an inside 'backer. If so, Wisconsin's Chris Borland fits well.
The ex-Badgers star is tabbed as the first pick of the fourth round by Matt Miller. While he would suit the Texans' 3-4 scheme, if they pass on him, he may be too good for Washington to resist.
Borland is a short and stout hitter. The 6'0", 245-pounder was in on 111 tackles in 2013, per CFBStats.com. He would give coordinator Jim Haslett's defense another active body in the middle.
After a season confined to the fringes, Fred Davis may soon be ticketed for the exit door. Last year's third-round pick, Jordan Reed, is a potential star. But his struggles with injury, particularly concussions, cast obvious doubt on his durability.
That should prompt Gruden to select another credible tight end in this draft. If he follows the formula he deployed with the Cincinnati Bengals, he will choose one who contrasts in style with Reed.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
With the Bengals, Gruden used veteran Jermaine Gresham for short-range work, while Tyler Eifert stretched the field. In Washington, Gruden can count on Reed to pose a big-play, vertical threat.
An effective contrast would be provided by big-bodied bruiser C.J. Fiedorowicz. At 6'6" and 262 pounds, Fiedorowicz is a more classic in-line tight end than Reed.
He is a formidable blocker, but he's a much better receiver than veteran Logan Paulsen. CBS Sports projects him as a third- or a fourth-round pick.
The Redskins have greater needs at that stage, but a versatile safety valve like Fiedorowicz would have tremendous long-term value.
All of these prospects should be prominently on the radar for Washington this April.