The Washington Redskins have been riding the quiet car in free agency. Even if the spending train picks up momentum, expect an emphasis on defense once we reach the 2016 NFL Draft. Specifically along the line. The question is which specific prospects fit the scheme best.
That's a question I posed to ESPN's Mel Kiper during a recent conference call with the national media and after Washington released defensive end Jason Hatcher and told nose tackle Terrance Knighton to seek a deal elsewhere.
Defensive line is considered a true strength in this draft in terms of talent and depth. If Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan wants one at 21, he'll have choices. As for the ideal choice, Kiper offered a 6-foot-4, 307-pound suggestion.
"For fit, I think if A'Shawn Robinson were there, " Kiper said of the Alabama interior lineman.
The All-American is a consensus first round selection and plays a position of need for the Redskins with Knighton apparently moving on. Kiper's latest mock draft posted earlier this month slotted the run-stuffer to the Detroit Lions at No. 16. However, apparently not all believe Robinson will go that early.
"It's possible," Kiper said of Robinson being available for the Redskins. "He's not a pass rusher. There are people that told me late first round for him, not where I had him. There isn't a consensus on A'Shawn Robinson."
According to NFL.com's scouting report, "Robinson is a projection-oriented two-gapper who can step in right away and help plug holes in a leaky run defense. If Robinson can improve his leverage issues and pass rushing, he has all-pro potential; however, he?s not a sure thing to become a star."
The Redskins, a 3-4 defense with plenty of 4-3 looks under coordinator Joe Barry, allowed 4.8 yards per carry last season, tied for 31st.
If Washington desires an end, Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche could be available. That's due in part to the talented lineman's off the field issues, which have lowered his projections after top-5 buzz during the college season. "I don't know if they really want to roll the dice there," Kiper said.
Yet the real beauty of this draft class involves the amount of intriguing prospects defensive line prospects outside of the first round, This is where draft strategy comes into play.
"If you look in the second round, there's a host of really good [options]. That's why they may want to pass [in the first round] if a Reggie Ragland were there," Kiper said, referring to the hard-hitting Alabama inside linebacker.
Washington retained Will Compton and Mason while adding free agent Terence Garvin, but none are likely a long-term answers at inside linebacker. The Redskins could also target other need areas including cornerback, wide receiver and running back at 21 while waiting for a lineman in the second round.
"Take the inside linebacker in the first," Kiper continued before running off the names of several prospects, "and then get a lineman like Kenny Clark from UCLA or Austin Johnson from Penn State or a Javon Hargrave from South Carolina State or a Vernon Butler from Louisiana Tech or Aldophus Washington from Ohio State.
"You could see 7-8 defensive tackle types going in the second round or early in the third round. Take advantage of the depth and maybe get an inside linebacker first."
Those who live by the overstated "best player available" ethos won't grasp the idea of waiting for a lineman. Those who understand strategy and the depth in this draft might see the world differently. Either way, the Redskins have big options.
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