The 2017 NFL draft won't start until April 27. Four months is a long time away, but it is always fun to think about how teams can improve in the future. It's also clear right now which areas a certain Ashburn-based team need fixing,
For the Washington Redskins, how about Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell? That's how Breaking Burgundy's Ben Standig, a prominent NFL mock draft analyst, says in his first projection with the Redskins at 21.
"Stop us if you've heard this before, but the Redskins need defensive line help above and beyond everything else, especially with Su'a Cravens headed to safety in 2017. The 280-pound McDowell isn't a nose tackle, but the athletic presence could be a force as a 3-4 end or inside in 4-3 looks. He recorded 34 tackles -- seven for loss -- and 1.5 sacks in nine games before missing the last three games with an ankle injury."
The only defensive linemen the Redskins have under contract next season are Ricky Jean Francois and Anthony Lanier. Chris Baker headlines the pending free agents on the defensive side of the ball along with Ziggy Hood, Cullen Jenkins, and others. It is reasonable to expect Washington to spend money at quarterback and wide receiver, defensive line may be a spot that falls short on the offseason task list.
Even if Washington were to bring back Baker and others, there is still a significant upgrade needed in order to improve a rather poor run defense.
There are several linemen and edge rushers in round one of Ben's mock. McDowell may or may not be the Redskins selection at No. 21, a position that will change based on Week 17 results and beyond, but drafting of a defensive lineman in the first round may show general manager Scot McCloughan drafting for need instead of best pick available. Or maybe if Washington is lucky, they will align perfectly.
As for the rest of the NFC East in Ben's mock:
* While the world waits on DeSean Jackson's future plans, how about a wide receiver for the Eagles? In this case, John Ross out of Washington with the 15th overall pick.
* Giants add an offensive playmaker in Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey with the 23rd overall pick. Lack of a running game has hampered New York's offense this season.
* Cowboys selected defensive lineman Chris Wormley out of Michigan with the 32nd overall pick.
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.
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