5 Risky Picks the Redskins Must Consider in the 2014 NFL Draft
The further away an organization is from the No. 1 overall pick, the harder a general manager's job becomes. Suddenly, prospects with red flags or shortcomings are considered with less scrutiny because their upside is too tempting to pass up.
With the Redskins on the sideline for Day 1 of the draft, general manager Bruce Allen may be inclined to take some gambles if he thinks it'll pay future dividends in D.C.
Let's look at five players who present some level of unpredictability but still must be discussed in Washington's war room next month.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Risks: Maturity, age
Aside from landing DeSean Jackson, the biggest splash made by the Redskins in free agency was signing defensive end Jason Hatcher away from the Dallas Cowboys. Though with Hatcher being 31 years old, Washington must think about getting younger upfront sooner rather than later.
Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman is a mountain of a man whom Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compares to Hatcher in the video above. But the soon-to-be 24-year-old rookie would come with layers of uncertainty.
Hageman's NFL.com draft profile describes him as having "a 'wow' factor at his best" and "immense upside." It also notes that Hageman "would be best served landing in a structured environment with veteran mentorship" and that he's a "classic boom-or-bust prospect."
As USA Today's Tom Pelissero details, Hageman has lived a life of struggle, trouble and perseverance. He was found in a crack-house closet as a child. He was adopted at the age of seven and has never met his biological father. His biological mother struggled with drugs and alcohol. To say that he's beaten improbable odds is an enormous understatement.
With Hatcher and veteran leader Barry Cofield along the defensive line, the Redskins may decide that they have the necessary support system in place for a talent like Hageman. Regardless of where he lands next month, he's a player worth rooting for.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Risk: Injury and durability concerns
Once thought of as a surefire first-rounder, Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio put on an underwhelming performance at the NFL Scouting Combine all while a report from NFL media insider Ian Rapoport surfaced that Kouandjio failed several team physicals due to an arthritic knee.
Last month, Dr. James Andrews told CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora that there is no issue with Kouandjio's knee. Andrews also sent a medical update to all 32 NFL teams.
The Redskins were in attendance for Kouandjio's pro day last week in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the 6'7'', 322-pound All-American, whose knee held up just fine, seemed happy with his performance, via NFL.com's Chase Goodbread:
I just wanted to show them that I have pretty good stamina. That type of stuff, you can work on it, you know? On the field work, I think I showed I have talent and skill. I think it was a good workout today.
At the very least, Washington needs depth at right tackle. Of the 80 offensive tackles that Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded in 2012—the year the Redskins won the NFC East—Tyler Polumbus was No. 77.
Last season, Polumbus' improved play propelled him to PFF's No. 19 tackle, yet Washington was 3-13. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and the Redskins wouldn't have made an effort to sign Donald Penn this offseason, via The Washington Post's Mike Jones, if they didn't feel the position could be upgraded.
The risk involved in drafting Kouandjio cannot be ignored but neither can the potentially massive reward.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Risk: Not a hand-in-glove fit for the 3-4
There's very little not to like about Ohio State's Ryan Shazier. According to Mike Huguenin of NFL.com, he ran an unofficial 4.36 40-yard dash at his pro day. He led the Big Ten with 143 tackles last season, via OhioStateBuckeyes.com, and he possesses the versatility to rush the passer and drop back in coverage.
But is he ideal for a 3-4 defense? The results are mixed.
"He's a true 4-3 outside linebacker," said NFL media draft analyst Mike Mayock, via Huguenin.
In the video above, Miller thinks that Shazier is actually best suited as a 3-4 stand-up pass-rusher.
And then there's this from Shazier's National Football Post scouting report:
Overall, Shazier best fits a 4-3 team as a Will linebacker. In a Tampa-2 type scheme, he can be a future All Pro. He needs to gain some bulk and learn how to shed lineman a little better. At this time, I don't see him as a good fit to play in the 3-4. He just doesn't have the bulk that most 3-4 teams are looking for.
Shazier could provide value across the Redskins' linebacking corps if defensive coordinator Jim Haslett thinks there's a place for him.
Washington would be athletic but undersized on the inside if it paired the 6'1'', 237-pound Shazier with Perry Riley Jr. (6'0'', 238 lbs). Shazier may also be able to play on the outside, as Miller suggested, if anything were to happen to Brian Orakpo or Ryan Kerrigan.
The Redskins cannot put themselves in a square-peg, round-hole situation, but the front office must complete its due diligence before ruling out a player of Shazier's caliber.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Risks: Unpolished, wide receiver is no longer an immediate position of need
There is little chance the Redskins will draft a wide receiver at No. 34 overall, but one can imagine what head coach Jay Gruden's offense would look like with Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin in the mix.
With the recent acquisition of Jackson, none of the Redskins' top three receivers are taller than 6'0''. Benjamin (6'5'', 242 lbs) and tight end Jordan Reed would provide Robert Griffin III with two go-to red-zone targets to complement Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and the speedy Jackson.
Such a move, though, wouldn't come without extreme risk.
The Redskins are hardly in a position to make a luxury pick in the second round, and Benjamin, if he's even available, must improve his route running, keep his weight down and eliminate careless drops.
All that said, consider this financial side note:
Last year, the Tennessee Titans drafted wide receiver Justin Hunter No. 34 overall. According to Over the Cap, his four-year contract is worth an average of just $1,356,037 per season.
Hypothetically looking ahead to 2016—the year Griffin and others are due a big payday—Garcon's cap number will be $10,200,000 and Jackson's will be $9,250,000, as per Over the Cap. If by that time Benjamin is tearing up the league on a bargain contract, Washington would be in a much better position to restructure the deals of its highest-paid receivers.
The NFL is a passing league—the more explosive and diverse weapons an offense has, the better. I'm just not sure the Redskins can afford to ignore either the offensive line or the defense with its first pick in 2014.
Keith McGill, CB, Utah
Risk: Limited major college playing experience
The Redskins should contemplate drafting a young corner whom they can eventually start across from second-year man David Amerson. Utah's Keith McGill could be a viable option in the third round.
At 6'3'', 211 pounds, McGill fits the mold of the Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman, but his experience leaves much to be desired.
McGill played safety at Cerritos Junior College before transferring to Utah in 2011. A shoulder injury limited him to just one start that season, causing him to redshirt in 2012. Last season, he started 12 games at corner and was honorable mention All-Pac-12.
Thirteen starts in big-time college football is a small sample size for an NFL prospect, much less one expected to be a second-day pick. McGill's NFL.com draft profile lauds him as being "versatile and can play safety or corner," but it also notes that he "still has some junior-college habits" and his "footwork needs refinement."
With no first-round pick and depth issues, Washington will be counting on many of its draft picks to be instant contributors. If the Redskins draft McGill, it will be because his athleticism, unique size and overall potential trumped his lack of game tape.
All statistics and player information are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.