5 Creative Moves the Washington Redskins Can Pull on Draft Day
General manager Bruce Allen could add an intimidating mammoth to the middle of an already imposing D-line. Alternatively, he could give up a few picks for a versatile blocker who would fix long-standing problems along the O-line.
If he doesn't fancy a trade, Allen could use his first pick to select a premier outside pass-rusher to gain leverage in a pending negotiation with a current star.
Here's how Washington can get really creative in the 2014 NFL draft.
Trade into the 1st Round for Louis Nix III
Since Mike Shanahan switched to a 3-4 in 2010, things have never been right on defense. The most consistent issue has been the absence of a big body anchoring the front.
Barry Cofield was a good signing in 2011, but his strength has been pressuring the pocket on passing downs from four-man front nickel schemes.
The run defense really struggled in 2013, ranking 17th overall and surrendering 110.6 yards per game. The main issue was how easy teams found it to get blockers to the linebacker level.
That was due to linemen not commanding double-teams, especially in the middle, a necessity when playing the 3-4.
Washington could solve its problems over center once and for all by trading into the first round to select Louis Nix III. The ex-Notre Dame star is easily the best true nose tackle in this draft class.
The 6'2", 331-pounder spent his collegiate career anchoring a 3-4 by absorbing blockers and letting others flourish. That makes him perfect for a Redskins system that expects its linemen to sacrifice themselves.
NFL.com draft pundit Nolan Nawrocki highlights Nix's suitability for the principles of a 3-4:
Outstanding size. Commands a double team and has two-gap ability. Good quickness off the snap. Has press strength and power to push blockers into the backfield. Shows disruptive ability when his battery is charged.
However, if the massive interior defender taps into his power more consistently, Nix has ample mass, strength and athleticism to anchor a "30" front as a space-eating, block-occupying run stuffer.
Nix is a projected late first-rounder, with NFL.com Media analyst Charles Davis predicting he'll come off the board at 27. NFL.com College Football 24/7 writer Mike Huguenin believes the San Diego Chargers will take Nix two picks earlier at 25.
The Redskins can put themselves in that conversation. Doing so would finally resolve any doubts about the most important position on the team's defensive front.
It would also allow Cofield to shift out to end and use his talent for disruption to split the guard-tackle gaps in tandem with new arrival Jason Hatcher.
Use the 1st Pick on Jeremiah Attaochu
Sooner or later, Allen is going to have to resolve the long-term future of outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. The player who has led the team in sacks in four of his five pro seasons was hit with the franchise tag.
But Orakpo is already making noises about wanting a more permanent resolution, per CSN Washington reporter Tarik El-Bashir. As good as he is, there are reasons to be skeptical about handing 2009's first-round pick a lengthy new deal.
He has had injury concerns, missing 14 games in 2012. Orakpo has also only hit double digits for sacks twice in his career.
If he can't replicate his brilliant form from late last season, the Redskins will have a tough decision to make. But that decision can be made easier by using a second-round pick to draft Jeremiah Attaochu.
At 6'3" and 252 pounds, he has decent size to play outside in a 3-4 along with credible pass-rushing skills. Attaochu tallied 12.5 sacks for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 2013, per cfbstats.com.
He's got the kind of versatility all 3-4 rush linebackers must possess, as CBS Sports scribe Dane Brugler notes:
Attaochu is an intriguing prospect who saw time at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and rushed from a three-point stance at the Senior Bowl. Not surprisingly, Attaochu showed his greatest comfort when rushing the quarterback, demonstrating burst, agility and a powerful slap-and-sidestep to get past would-be blockers, and will be appealing to defenses utilizing 3-4 schemes.
Washington has already met with Attaochu, according to ESPN.com reporter John Keim. Using the team's first pick to take him would give Orakpo all the motivation he needs to deliver another big season.
If not, the Redskins would have his replacement available to learn on the job. Either way, in an NFC East loaded with strong passing attacks, it wouldn't hurt to be well-stocked with destructive pass-rushers.
Trade Kirk Cousins and a Draft Pick to Cleveland Browns for Phil Taylor
Let's assume the Redskins don't want to move up for Nix. Let's also assume defensive coordinator Jim Haslett still isn't exactly satisfied with his options at nose tackle.
One possible solution would be putting together a trade package to convince the Cleveland Browns to deal Phil Taylor. A first-round pick in 2011, Taylor has never looked entirely comfortable in Cleveland.
He will now be experiencing a third scheme shift in as many seasons. Taylor has played in a 4-3 under Dick Jauron, a 2-gap 3-4 under Ray Horton and must now adjust to a hybrid, multiple-front system under new head coach Mike Pettine.
But the former Baylor behemoth is still best suited to absorbing blockers directly over a center. Washington could tempt the Browns into dealing away the 6'3", 335-pounder by offering Kirk Cousins.
The backup quarterback remains a possible trade target for the rebuilding AFC North club, according to Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Mary Kay Cabot. The Browns have an obvious need at the position, and Cousins is familiar with new Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
The Browns also have a decision to make regarding Taylor. The franchise has still not decided whether to exercise the fifth-year option on Taylor's rookie contract, per Akron Beacon Journal writer Nate Ulrich.
They could be tempted to avoid that decision altogether if it means earning a pro-ready quarterback this May. The Browns still have Ahtyba Rubin who can slide over the center and play nose tackle, so Taylor's loss wouldn't be keenly felt.
Washington could sweeten the pot by throwing a mid-round pick into the bargain. Cleveland has two picks in Round 4 but would certainly welcome another. It may even be tempted by a fifth-round selection, considering it owns just one pick at that stage.
The Redskins would get a player who would immediately improve the run defense. Taylor, who is familiar with quarterback Robert Griffin III from their time at Baylor, would complete a revamped defensive front.
Use the 1st Pick on Jace Amaro
With Jordan Reed on the books, many would be surprised to see Washington part with its primary draft pick to select another tight end. But there are many reasons why rolling the dice on a player like Jace Amaro actually makes a lot of sense.
For one thing, new head coach Jay Gruden likes to have multiple options at the position. As offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, Gruden had both Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.
The multiple-tight end offense has rightly gained in popularity during recent seasons, but the Redskins have been left behind. Adding another playmaker alongside Reed would prevent defenses from zeroing in on 2013's third-round pick.
Rather than drafting a classic in-line blocker, the Redskins should look for another roving "Joker." That makes Amaro a great fit.
The ex-Texan Tech standout is a unique specimen, standing 6'5" and weighing 265 pounds, but possessing the move skills to attack a defense from anywhere.
He is particularly dangerous from the slot. In the mold of the modern prototype at his position, Amaro is a glorified big wide receiver.
He racked up 106 receptions for 1,352 yards in 2013, per cfbstats.com, and would give Griffin another versatile target to aim for.
There are some concerns about Amaro's off-field antics, dating back to a 2012 arrest. But there is no doubting the player's ability and production as a modern "move" tight end.
Gruden and Allen have worked hard to bolster the receiving options around Griffin. With free agents DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts joining Pierre Garcon and Reed, adding Amaro would make the Washington passing game feared in 2014.
Trade into the 1st Round for Zack Martin
If there's one offensive lineman the Redskins could justify trading into Round 1 to select it's Zack Martin. The former Notre Dame ace could solve the team's issues at more than one position along its offensive front.
Martin could slide out to right tackle from the left side. That would mean no more holding your breath whenever Tyler Polumbus has to pass protect.
Another option would be for Martin to slide inside to guard. At 6'4" and 308 pounds, he has the right frame to handle that transition.
Best of all, Martin is a great fit for Washington's zone-based blocking schemes, as NFL.com pundit Nolan Nawrocki points out:
Engages quickly. Flexible and light on his feet. Can work his hips and maneuver. Good blocking posture -- bends his knees, sits in his stance and can shuffle, slide and mirror. Good hand placement (can pop and recoil). Seals running lanes. Can combo block and fit on linebackers. Athletic to pull and trap. Passes off stunts and is alert to blitzers.
Athletic, smart, competitive, dependable college left tackle whose length dictates a move inside, where he has plug-and-play ability in a zone-blocking scheme. One of the cleanest prospects in this year's draft.
NFL.com analysts Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Mike Huguenin all have Martin coming off the board with the 21st pick. But the Redskins could try to move ahead.
Back in February, WalterFootball.com writer Charlie Campbell suggested Washington is willing to move up:
According to sources, one team that could be on the move up this year is the Washington Redskins. Sources with the Redskins tell WalterFootball.com that they believe some good talents are going to fall to the Nos. 30-34 range. Washington's first selection is the second pick of the second round, so moving up into the Nos. 30-32 range could cost as little as a mid-level third-day pick.
It would obviously take more than that to move ahead of the Miami Dolphins to 20. But if Allen got really creative he could package Washington's selection at the top of Round 3 with either a fifth-round choice or one of his two sixth-round options.
Given the problems this team has experienced on the offensive line in recent seasons, such a deal would be worth it.