By Steve Shoup, special to Breaking Burgundy
MOBILE, AL -- Here are fve Senior Bowl prospects that could be targets of the Redskins come April's NFL Draft.This isn’t a comprehensive list as there are plenty of other prospects that could interest them, just a snapshot of five who really stood out and that make sense for the Redskins.
FS Darian Thompson, Boise State, projected round- late 1st/early 2nd:
With the Redskins likely to move on from Dashon Goldson in 2016, free safety should be high on their list this coming season. That would put Darian Thompson well on their radar as he’s one of the top free safeties in the country and coming off an incredible Senior Bowl week.
Thompson has fantastic range, cover and ball skills. He had seven interceptions this past season and was one of the toughest safeties to face this season. He has excellent instincts and reads the quarterback well. Thompson has excellent game speed, and showed natural fluidity in drills this week. While he’s a solid tackler and he’s not afraid to make a tackle at times he gets too aggressive in run support and will over run the play. That is really the one weakness that he needs to work on. Other than that he has all the makings of a good starting free safety at the next level.
DL Sheldon Rankins, Louisville, projected round late- 1st/early 2nd:
Rankins who left the week early with an injury still did enough to be considered the most dominant defensive tackle down here in Mobile this week. Given how many talented defensive tackles were at the Senior Bowl, that is saying something.
Rankins had a fantastic week, as he was basically unblockable 1-on-1. Even versus double teams he won his share of battles, with his tremendous first step quickness and natural power. He’s a great size and has all the tools to be a 1 gap DE in the Redskins system and would pair with Chris Baker in the nickel defense. With Rankins big week the Redskins would likely need to take him in the first round, but if they want to improve their defense in 2016 he would be a smart pick.
[RELATED - Film review on Sheldon Rankins]
DL Sheldon Day, Notre Dame, projected round- late 2nd/early 3rd:
The Redskins need to get younger and more talent along the defensive line. There is a chance that Jason Hatcher retires, and even if he doesn’t the Redskins need to think about the future. So expect DL to be one of the first positions addressed.
Day is a bit smaller than what you typically look for in a 5-tech DE, but he’s such a disruptive force that he’s still got to be on the radar. Day is really quick off the snap and had offensive linemen on skates all week in pass protection (and that is when they got a hand on him). He uses his hands well to keep offensive linemen from controlling him, and still has decent power. Day would add another quality pass rusher to a group that includes Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Chris Baker.
C Nick Martin, Notre Dame, projected round- late 2nd/early 3rd:
As the Redskins saw this year they are pretty woefully thin at the center position, and it nearly cost them the division title when Kory Lichtensteiger went down with an injury. Even if Lichtensteiger is back, he’s an average center at best and the Redskins can improve on the position.
Martin is the younger brother of Cowboys guard Zack Martin, and should follow his brother’s footsteps as a quality starting offensive lineman. Nick Martin has experience at both guard and center and projects as a starter at either position, but center is probably his better spot. He has good size, and plays with a nice base that allows him to anchor down vs bigger defensive linemen. He’s a smart offensive lineman who got high praise from coaches this week during practice. He would be an excellent addition to the Redskins line going forward, even if he doesn’t start right away.
NT D.J. Reader, Clemson, projected round- 5th/6th
If the Redskins let Terrance Knighton walk in free agency they could use a true NT type for running downs. Guys like Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francios can play the position some, but the Redskins could use a young option which will allow them to keep a key player like Baker fresh (and playing outside more often).
Reader at 6’3”, 340 lbs is the perfect size to fill that role for the Redskins, and after a strong week down at the Senior Bowl he should be on their radar. Reader for his size moves pretty well and shows some nice quickness and power in drills. His technique needs refinement as he won’t always play with the best leverage, but that is something that can be worked on. Reader would be a nice cheap addition to a defensive line that could definitely use his size, power, and youth.
Steve is the founder of Fanspeak.com. Click here for the Fanspeak Mock Draft Simulator